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Caves and chasms

The "underground world" forms a still little-known part of the Park's varied heritage.

 On the Causses du Quercy, over geological time, the work of water has hollowed out the many "igues" (local word for potholes) and underground water courses, caves and rock shelters.

Certain caves contain palaeontological deposits which are out of the ordinary, like the Phosphatières du Quercy.

In the 19th C., Quercy was well-known for its phosphate production from these deposits, taken out of what became proper mines dug into the sediments that had filled up ancient chasms. The phosphates were used as agricultural fertiliser.

The phosphate workings are also "pay dirt" for palaeontologists, as they make extremely productive fossil traps enabling the scientists to understand how climates and species evolved over several million years.

Other caves/shelters were lived in or used in prehistoric times. 28 caves and rock shelters with prehistoric paintings or engravings have been identified in this area. This high density, as high as in the Dordogne, is concentrated around the large Pech-Merle cave, near the confluence of the Lot and the Célé.

With the oldest dating back about 25 000 years, these representations are found on the rock walls of the caves and display an original artistic style peculiar to Quercy. To explore these sacred places of prehistoric times, two painted caves are open for you to visit : the Pech Merle cave in Cabrerets, and the "Merveilles" cave in Rocamadour.

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