Rue de la Falaise 21, 5660 Couvin.
|Light:||Incandescent Electric Light System Son et Lumière|
|Guided tours:||D=45 min.|
Camille Daujeard, Grégory Abrams, Mietje Germonpre, Jeanne-Marie Le Pape, Alicia Wampach, Kévin Di Modica, Marie-Hélène Moncel (2016):
Neanderthal and animal karstic occupations from southern Belgium and south-eastern France: Regional or common features?,
Quaternary International, 411, May 2016.
Michel Toussaint, Stéphane Pirson (2006): Neandertal Studies in Belgium: 2000-2005 Periodicum biologorum, Vol.108 No.3 October 2006. pdf
|Address:||Cavernes préhistoriques de l'Abîme, Rue de la Falaise 21, 5660 Couvin, Tel: +32-60-311954, Fax: +32-60-399771.|
|As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.
|1887||first excavation at the site.|
|1905||excavation of reworked sediments from the earlier excavations.|
|07-JUL-1976||declared patrimoine culturel immobilier de la Wallonie (Wallonia's immovable cultural heritage).|
|1985||milk tooth of an Neandertal child found.|
|15-AUG-2017||site closed to the public.|
The Cavernes préhistoriques de l'Abîme is a so called abri (rock shelter), a shelter below an overhanging cliff face. This kind of shelters were preferred by prehistoric man, as they provide shelter against bad weather, but they are well lighted by daylight, which "real" caves are not. This Abime was shelter to Neandertal Man during the Mousterian (-300,000 to -10,000 BC). It was excavated since the 19th century, but the excavated items of the early excavations are mostly lost. Some remaining items from the 1905 excavation were found in debris which was thrown out during the earlier excavation, and thus has no context. The important remains are from an excavation in the years 1984 to 1986.
The upper shelter is large enough to host an exhibition about the Stone Age containing typical artefacts and fauna of the paleolithic. There are remains of mammoth and bear, various carved stone and bone tools, and a milk tooth of an Neandertal child, which was found on site in 1985. When it was excavated it was not possible to determine if it was Homo sapiens or Neanderthal. In a 2009 study it was identified as belonging to a Neanderthal child, and it was dated through the surrounding soil to be between 42,000 and 40,000 years old.
This is not a show cave with speleothems, it is an archaeological exhibition located right on the site of the discoveries. Notable is also the view on Eau Noire Valley and Couvin from this place. The lower cave is used for a sound and light show. Unfortunately it was closed to the public in 2017. The attempt by the municipal council to buy the site and reopen it, which would have cost € 250,000, failed unfortunately, and so they are still closed.
The site is known as Cavernes préhistoriques de l'Abîme (Prehistoric caves of the Abyss) and Trou de l'Abîme (Hole of the Abyss). Both names are more or less meaningless. The most uncommon name is Couvin Cave, which at least tells where it is located. The entrance is in Rue de la Falaise 21 in the middle of the village Couvin, there is a gap between two houses which was closed by a wall made of rough rocks. There is an entrance door and an exit door, so it actually looks a little like a cuckoo clock.