The Cosquer Cave is a Palaeolithic decorated cave, located in France, that contains numerous cave drawings dating back as far as 27,000 years BP. The cave has more than 200 parietal figures and is also the only decorated cave whose entrance opens under the sea.
The Cosquer Cave is located in the Calanque de Morgiou in Marseille, France, near Cap Morgiou. The entrance to the cave is located 37 m (121 ft) underwater, due to the Holocene sea level rise. The cave contains various prehistoric rock art engravings. Its submarine entrance was discovered in 1985 by Henri Cosquer, a professional diver. The underwater passage leading to the cave was progressively explored until 1990 by cave divers without the divers being aware of the archaeological character of the cave. It is only in the last period (1990-1991) of the progressive underwater explorations that the cave divers emerged in the non-submerged part of the cave. The prehistoric paintings were not immediately discovered by the divers to first emerge from the other side of the sump. The cave was named after Henri Cosquer, when its existence was made public in 1991, after three divers became lost in the cave and died.
The cave can now be accessed by divers through a 175 m (574 ft) long tunnel; the entrance is located 37 m (121 ft) below sea level, which has risen since the cave was inhabited. During the glacial periods of the Pleistocene, the shore of the Mediterranean was several kilometers to the south and the sea level up to 100 m (330 ft) below the entrance of the cave.
Four fifths of the cave, including any cave wall art, were permanently or periodically submerged and destroyed by sea water. Nearly 500 instances of cave art remain which date back to two distinct periods during the Upper Paleolithic. The first phase, from around 27,000 years BP (the Gravettian Era), is represented by art consisting of 65 hand stencils, 44 in black and 21 in red. Art from the more recent period dates to 19,000 years BP (the Solutrean Era) and features much more complex depictions of various animals and human figures. In total there are 177 animals drawings found in the cave these include 63 horses, 28 ibex, 17 deer, 10 bison, and 7 aurochs. There is also the more unusual depiction of 16 marine animals including 9 seals and 3 great auks as well as some jellyfish and various figures which could be either fish or cetaceans. Of the human figures there are numerous sexual symbols but also one example of “the killed man” motif which can be seen in other caves such as at Lascaux.