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Neanderthal Art?

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Cosquer Cave - An Historical Enigma

By James Donahue

There is an underwater cave in Southern France that can only be entered by experienced divers that houses ancient charcoal drawings in its upper chambers. Everything about this place, known as Cosquer Cave, is an enigma to contemporary historians and archaeologists because it defies everything currently believed about the distant history of the human race.

This is because the entrance to this cave is 121 feet below sea level. Anyone entering the cave must swim through a 574-foot-long tunnel before reaching the pitch black chambers above the water. And it is within these chambers that are found some 65 charcoal stencils of human hands and 187 drawings of animals and various geometric forms. The drawings depict various land animals but also seals and auks. There also is found what is said to be a representation of "a slain man."

Although simplistic in form, the artwork in Cosquer Cave was clearly made by humans who were there at some distant time in the ancient past. But how could this be? The cave is so difficult to enter that only the most experienced divers are allowed to go in. Two divers became lost and perished in the cave since it was discovered by Henri Cosquer in 1985.

The most common theory is that humans were living in this part of France, along the Mediterranean Sea, at Cape Morqiou near what is now Marseilles, at a time when the sea level was more than 121 feet lower than it is today. And this strongly suggests one of two things happened. Either the artists were using the cave during the ice age, when sea levels were an estimated 360 to 390-feet lower than they are today, or something extraordinary occurred to cause a major drop of land levels in that part of Europe.

If the drawings date back to a time during or before the glacial period it means they are made during the Upper Paleolithic Period, or at least 20,000 BC or earlier. This is believed to be a time when the Neanderthals were still roaming Europe, but it was a time when modern homo Sapiens were only beginning to make an appearance.

Thus we are left with the possibility that this ancient cave art, and similar drawings found in the El Castillo subterranean cave along the Cantabrian Sea in Spain, may have been the work of Neanderthals rather than modern humans.