Grotte de la Baumelle

Useful Information

Location: La Viale, 48150 Saint-Pierre-des-Tripiers.
A75 exit 44, D94 to Boyne, D907 to Beauregard, right on D996 to the turnoff Saint-Pierre-des-Tripiers, towards Saint-Pierre-des-Tripiers. Parking lot Randonnée des Arcs at the road, near La Viale. 1 km, 20 minutes walk.
(44.2214927, 3.2615853)
Open: no restrictions.
Fee: free.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst Cave GeologyNatural Bridge
Light: bring torch
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Address: Grotte de la Baumelle, La Viale, 48150 Saint-Pierre-des-Tripiers.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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The Grotte de la Baumelle is located on a limestone hill west of the village La Viale, south of Saint-Pierre-des-Tripiers. There is a parking lot at the road which is the trailhead for the walking trails across the hill. There are numerous interesting karst related sites, we listed it under the cave which is the most spectacular. There are also numerous small natural bridges of karstic origin, which are called Les arcs de Saint-Pierre. Nearby, about 50 m to the south, is the Grotte de l'Homme mort. There is a marked trail, a round trip which leads to all the sites and takes about 1.5 hours. Numerous cave entrances and shelters were used by humans during the Neolithic, and there is also a Gallo-Roman site.

The Grotte de la Baumelle (Cave of La Baumelle) has a huge entrance portal which is quite spectacular because the limestone in front of the cave form a huge natural staircase leading to the cave entrance. The shelter is 15 m deep, high enough to stand upright, and about 30 m wide. It is easy to understand why it was used as a shelter during the stone age. like the other sites her it was also used until the recent past for various purposes, mostly as a stable for sheep. There are remains of walls, some are interpreted as prehistoric walls, others were built for the stable. Baumelle is the French name derived from the Occitan word Baumèla which means small cave. The terms balma and bauma are used in many areas of France and Switzerland for cave. In other words, the name means "Cave of Cave", which is nonsense. Nevertheless, it is widely used and there are probably half a dozen caves of this name in France. Unfortunately this makes the research on the web quite difficult.

The Grotte de l'Homme mort (Cave of the Dead Man) is a circular hole in the cliff face with a diameter of 2 m, less than 10 m deep. It's a through-cave with a smaller entrance on the other side of the rock. The excavations carried out in this cave led to the discovery of 50 human skeletons, hence the name. The remains of Cro-Magnon men are dated to approximately 35,000 years. A strange detail is the fact that most of the skulls had been trepanned. Trepanation is a medical treatment, where the head is opened to release internal pressure. It is known that this operation was mastered by Paleolithic and Neolithic man, which is quite exceptional. In other words, it was not deadly, the patients actually recovered and the hole in the head was healed when they died much later. Nevertheless, this kind of operation is rarely needed, so there is the possibility that it was actually made as a religious rite, and not for the cure of an illness.

Its definitely woth to walk the whole trail as there are numerous shelters, remains of ancient walls, and strange rock formations. The three natural bridges are of different size, and also have ruined walls. And there is a fantastic pilar which is circular with a diameter of 3 m.