Fontanet Cave

Grotte de Fontanet from the Ariège évasion

Path which runs alongside the campsite on the left

The Ariège évasion campsite has its address at 2 chemin de Fontanet…Fontanet? Why is this name so famous for prehistorians?

You go along the campsite going up the Ariege. After the campsite, no more houses, nature and calm welcome you. The road runs along the Ariege river on the right bank. On the other bank, through the trees, the cliffs reveal the fortified caves of Bouan, the Soulgas.

A spulga, pronounced and also written spoulga, (old Occitan, from Latin spelunca, cave, lair, cave) is a fortified cave. This term refers more particularly to the fortified caves of the Pyrenees and in particular our department of Ariège. The Tarasconnais historian Adolphe Garrigou (1802-1893) studied the fortified caves from the first half of the 19th century.

The bitumen stops shortly after an often dry stream. On the left, just after a small bridge, a discreet path begins. This path goes up along the bed of this small stream. A sharp turn takes you out of the forest cover. A beautiful terrace offers you a beautiful view of the limestone cliffs and the valley.

The path, still as discreet as ever, climbs towards the canyon. It runs along the edge of the stream. A small steep path and it turns right. The slope becomes gentler and goes south. A low wall supports the path passing under a small cliff. The Fontanet cave is less than a minute away now yet it seems to have disappeared!

The porch is quite large! Judge for yourself: 70m wide and more than 30m high.

The entrance welcomed the herds of the valley for many decades.

Sharpen your eyes, under the roof of the climbing anchors to welcome climbers.

Let's go back to our cave! The inventory of the presence of Magdalenian man is impressive:

Cave plan

12 bison, 3 horses, 4 ibexes, 2 deer, 6 anthropomorphs, signs, punctuations, cups, claviforms,…

Luc Wahl, a family friend of David Marfaing, the director of the Ariège évasion , is president of the Caving Club of Haut Sabarthes . Luc is a caving enthusiast. In addition to his work as a technician at the National Forestry Office, he is a judo and diving instructor in Tarascon sur Ariège.

In 1972, Luc Wahl found prehistoric drawings in a gallery. The cave reveals hand and foot prints in clay, drawings, engravings and paintings on the walls, which analyzes link to the Magdalenian period.

Fontanet ibex

The paintings dominate the first part of the network, in particular on a large panel with signs reminiscent of those of the Niaux cave (dots, lines, claviforms) and which faces a large bichrome bison, preceded by a horse and two caprines.

40 m from the entrance, a recess (the niche or Alcove) contains two horses, an engraved deer's head, two bison, indeterminate lines, punctuations and anthropomorphic figures. An engraved panel (the engraving panel) succeeds it on the left wall; it contains several bison (some with arrows), a horse's head, the forequarters of an ibex and an anthropomorphic hindquarters. Some of these figures show red or black marks.

You can enter the porch. There is no trap, no pit to fall into. Be careful though, the ground is not flat! Far from there ! Your eyes gradually get used to the darkness and you arrive at a gate which protects access to the cave. The prehistoric antiquities department had two gates installed to prevent access to this fragile Magdalenian treasure.

Cave Porch

The cave's porch welcomed prehistoric men 15,000 years ago. The glaciers were not far away, the tundra landscapes change from the almost Mediterranean vegetation of the current valley...The animals of the time were ibexes and bison!

The return to the campsite is via the same route. The temperature contrast in the Fontanet cave is striking!