The wandering interests of JamaOwl

Pech Merle

Pech Merle is in Lot, France.  This 29,000 year old cave still allows people in it: 200 people per day where as Font de Gaume only allowed 56 per day.  Pech Merle has a huge volume of natural air flow through the cave which helps to protect it from the volume of people.

There are so many interesting things from Pech Merle that it is hard to make choices.  Probably the best known is the horse frieze.  There are 2 horses facing opposite directions.  They are dotted with black and red dots.  The horses are outlined by the artist taking some red or black pigment in the mouth and spitting it on the wall.  The width of the line is determined by how far the arms or hands are apart when they are placed on the wall.  The legs are made by holding the elbows together and the wrists apart and spitting the pigment following the line they make.  Surrounding the horses are 6 outlines of hands (called negative hands) made by the spitting method.

This is the first cave we have visited that has mammoth drawings in it.  I think we saw 5 or 6, some that overlapped or intersected with other animals, some by theirself.  One striking one was a mammoth with several charging bulls around it.

A very unusual find is several foot prints and partial prints in the bottom of a dry pool.  There are 12 prints from an adolescent boy.  This area dried out and, after the prints were made, the calcite floor hardened and preserved the footprints.  During the last ice age the entrance to this area of the cave was blocked indicating that these prints are at least 12, 000 years old.

One of the geological formations I found very interesting was the pearls and spinning top.  The pearls or little balls are created when water comes into the cave through an intermittent waterfall.  Specks of gravel or grains of sand are caught in indentations in the pool.  They are coated with calcite and polished by the action of the water spinning them around.  The ‘top’ was originally a tiny spec trapped in a hole.  It was set spinning while in water supersaturated with  calcium carbonate.   The calcite accumulated around its rim resulting in a top.  It has been inverted next to the hole it made showing the bottom of the top.

As we walked through the cave we passed by the end of the tunnel used by the three boys who found Pech Merle.  From the place where they entered the tunnel to the point where they came to a larger gallery, the tunnel is 140 metres!


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