Karst Memories Above and Beneath the Sea: Marseilles and Its Continental Shelf During the Cosquer Cave Occupation

  • Jacques Collina-GirardEmail author
Part of the World Geomorphological Landscapes book series (WGLC)


In the south of France, the Cosquer Cave with its famous prehistoric paintings is located in a karstic area located between Marseilles and Cassis. This emerged and submerged karst is typical of karstic coasts submerged after the Late-Glacial Maximum. All the forms observed in the hinterland can be observed directly by scuba divers and indirectly on bathymetric charts: lapiaz, karstic archs, sinkholes, uvala and polje. The emerged and submerged landscapes are mainly the heritage of specific lithological conditions (Urgonian limestones) and tectonic conditions (vertical faulting network leading to coastal collapse in the Mediterranean Sea). Other elements of this submerged landscape are given by the traces of the last sea level rise (palaeo-shorelines and erosion platforms and notches). All the area between Marseilles and La Ciotat is now established as the Calanques National Park, including the Cosquer Cave with its upper Palaeolithic rock art paintings, which adds an international archaeological interest to this exceptional natural area.


Continental shelf Karst Prehistory Cosquer Cave Marseilles 


  1. Blanc JJ, Monteau R (1988) Le karst du Massif des Calanques (Marseille-Cassis). Karstologia 11–12:17–24Google Scholar
  2. Cavalera TH, Gilli E, Mamindy-Pajany Y, Marmier N (2010) Mechanism of salt contamination of karstic springs related to the Messinian Deep Stage. The speleological model of Port Miou (France). Geodinamica Acta 23(1–3):15–28CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Clottes J, Courtin J (1996) The cave beneath the sea: paleolithic images at Cosquer. Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York (English translation by Marilyn Garner)Google Scholar
  4. Clottes J, Courtin J, Vanrel L (2005) Cosquer redécouvert. Le Seuil, ParisGoogle Scholar
  5. Collina-Girard J (1992) Présentation d’une carte bathymétrique au 1/25 000 du Précontinent marseillais (au large de la zone limitée par la grotte Cosquer et l’habitat préhistorique de Carry-le-Rouet). Géol Méditerr XIX(1):77–87Google Scholar
  6. Collina-Girard J (1996) Bassin de Marseille, topographie du plateau continental. ANDRA-UNESCO, IUGS, EPGC (eds). I.G.N., Aix-en-Provence/ParisGoogle Scholar
  7. Collina-Girard J (2002) Underwater mapping of Late Quaternary submerged shorelines in the Western Mediterranean Sea and the Caribbean Sea. Quat Int 92:63–72CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Collina-Girard J (2004) Prehistory and coastal karstic area: Cosquer Cave and the “calanques” of Marseilles. Speleogenesis, The Virtual Sci J, pp 1–13.
  9. Collina-Girard J (2012) La Provence immergée, Plongées à Marseille et ses abordsGoogle Scholar
  10. Dupire S (1985) Etude cartographique au 1/25 000° de la zone sud du Bassin de Marseille: les travertins de Marseille. Aperçu géomorphologique et néotectonique, Thèse Université de Provence (Aix-Marseille 1), 104 pGoogle Scholar
  11. Julian M, Nicod J (1989) Les karsts des Alpes du Sud et de Provence. Z Geomorph NF Suppl Bd 75:1–48Google Scholar
  12. Lambeck K, Bard E (2000) Sea-level change along the French Mediterranean coast for the past 30 000 years. Earth Planet Sci Lett 175:203–222CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Mocochain L, Clauzon, G (2010) Spéléogenèse et crise de salinité messinienne de Mediterranée. In: Audra PH (ed) Grottes et karsts de France, vol 19, Karstologia Mémoires. Association française de karstologie, Nimes, pp 52–53. ISBN: 2-9504222-55Google Scholar
  14. Morhange C, Laborel J, Hesnard A (2001) Changes of relative sea level during the past 5000 years in the ancient harbor of Marseilles, Southern France. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 166:319–329CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Nicod J (1967) Recherches morphologiques en Basse-Provence calcaire. Editions Ophrys, Gap, 557 pGoogle Scholar
  16. Sartoretto S, Collina-Girard J, Laborel J, Mohrange C (1995) Quand la grotte Cosquer a-t-elle été fermée par la montée des eaux? Méditerranée 3–4:21–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Sartoretto S, Verlaque M, Laborel J (1996) Age of settlement and accumulation rate of submarine coralligene (−10m to −60m) of the northwestern Mediterranean sea, relation to Holocene rise in sea level. Mar Geol 10:317–331CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Weiss P, Gardette B, Chirié B, Collina-Girard J, Delauze H-G (2012) Simulation and preparation of surface EVA in reduced gravity at the Marseilles Bay subsea analogue sites. Planet Space Sci t. 74(1):121–134CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Géologie quaternaire et préhistoire LAMPEA, MMSH, UMR7269 du CNRSAix-en-Provence, Cedex 2France

Personalised recommendations