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Les Tempories Phosphate Cave

This site allows you to get up close to a phosphate cave which was active during the phosphate craze which struck Quercy in the late 19th century. Although the forest is now taking it over, you can still see the various traces left behind by mining activities.

Located in Escamps, on Route de Bach (D22 road): 44° 21’ 38” N 1° 38’ 59” E.

Free access to the public.


“Phosphate caves”?

Phosphate caves (phosphatières in French) are caverns which were filled with phosphate-rich clay between 50 and 20 million years ago. Many animal remains and plant debris – and sometimes even live animals – were dragged in there and fossilized. Each phosphate cave filled up in just a few centuries or millennia (a very short period in geological time), each independently from the others.

The “phosphate holes” were discovered and began to be mined in the 1870s, launching a real fervour for phosphate which took hold of Quercy. Their operation, intended to supply agricultural enrichments, would last for 30 years. The exploitation of the phosphate caves unintentionally revealed their incredible wealth of fossils. Quercy’s phosphate caves are a fantastic revealer of how life and landscapes evolved over the space of nearly 30 million years.


A model palaeontological site

Les Tempories Phosphate Cave is a model palaeontological site. The deposits extracted from the cave were dated to 34.44 million years ago, right before the “Grande Coupure”. Over the course of this event, which marked the transition between the Eocene and Oligocene periods, many species became extinct on a global scale, and major climate changes (widespread cooling) occurred.

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