Le Musée de l'Ours de Cavernes

Cave Bear Museum - Musée de l'Ours des Cavernes en Chartreuse

Useful Information

Location: 97 Allée du Musée - Epernay, 73670 Entremont-le-Vieux (Savoy).
(45.451794, 5.882041)
Open: MAY to JUN daily 14-18.
JUL to AUG daily 10-12:30, 14-18.
SEP daily 14-18.
OCT to APR during School Holidays Mon-Fri 14-18.
Closed 25-DEC, 01-JAN.
Last entry 30 min before closing.
Fee: Adults EUR 6, Children (6-16) EUR 4, Children (0-5) free, Students EUR 5, Disabled EUR 5, Unemployed EUR 5, Family (2+2) EUR 18.
Groups (20+): Adults EUR 5, Children (6-16) EUR 3.
Groups with guided tour: Adults EUR 7, Children (6-16) EUR 5.
Classification: SubterraneaCave and Karst Museum BiologyCave Bear (Ursus spelaeus)
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Guided tours: self guided, D=45 min.
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: full accessibility for disabled
Bibliography: M. Philippe, F. Ballet (2002): Un Musée pour l'ours des cavernes à Entremont-le-Vieux (Savoie), Spelunca (Ve série), 88, 4e trimestre 2002: 8-11.
Address: Musée de l'ours des cavernes en Chartreuse, 97 Allée du Musée - Epernay, 73670 Entremont-le-Vieux, Tel: +33-479-26-29-87. E-mail: contact
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.


13-NOV-1988 bear bones in Balme à Collomb discovered.
1989 beginning of excavations.
1994 end of excavations.
05-JUL-2002 museum inaugurated.
SEP-2003 museum hosts the 9th International Symposium of the Cave Bear.


More than 20,000 years ago, in the cave Balme à Collomb at Entremont-le-Vieux in the chartreuse, the cave bear roamed. The cave revealed its secret on 13-NOV-1988, when Pierre Guichebaron and Marc Papet, two speleologists from the Spéléo club de Savoie, discovered the cave bear bones.

Immediately the responisble governmental bodies, the Conservation Départementale du Patrimoine de la Savoie (Departmental Conservation of Savoyan Heritage) and the Muséum d'histoire Naturelle (Museum of Natural History) in Lyon, protected the site and started the excavations. The excavations started in 1989 and were continued for six consecutive years. The director of the excavation was Michel Philippe, paleontologist and chief curator of the Natural History Museum in Lyon. About 10% of the cave floor, some 300m², were excavated, and revealed about 12.000 cave bear bones.

This place is a unique site for the study of cave bears. Most cave bear sites have been disturbed over the centuries, the bones were removed, used as fertilizer and for medicine. This site is undisturbed, which allowed detailed scientific evaluation of the different layers. Together with carbon 14 dating of several bones, this allowed reconstructing the history of the cave bear in this area. They occupied this cave more than 21,000 years, between 45,000 BP and 24,000 BP.

The bears used the cave only during winter for hibernation. Under rare circumstances one of the bears died in the cave, because of old age or some illness, which made hibernation too strenuous. Those few deaths were never removed, so they accumulated over the millennia. The result are the vast bone deposits, which can be seen in the cave today.

The museum is a simulated cave, the walls look like the rock walls of a cave. The atmosphere is dark and cool, but the equipment is modern, 14 multimedia kiosks explain various aspects of the scientific research. Highlight is a 3D presentation. One cave bear skeleton was reconstructed, and is named "Collombine".

The Balme to Collomb is located on the western flank of the Massif du Granier (1,933 m a.s.l.) in the Nature Reserve Hauts de Chartreuse. It lies 1,700 m a.s.l. and is now closed to the public, to protect the bones for further research.

An unusual museum opened its doors on the 5th July 2002 in Entremont-le-Vieux (Savoy) in the Chartreuse Mountains: a museum entirely devoted to the Cave Bear. Ursus speleus was one of those rare mammals which seems exclusively European, formerly populating the forests in moderate climates as well as the cold steppe zones. The Cave Bear was an enormous animal, much larger than our current Brown Bears, which only appeared in the last glaciation. It even seems that our ancestors reserved a certain admiration to him if one judges some by the preferential treatment give to the Cave Bear bones discovered in the famous Chauvet Cave or by as depicted in cave paintings. The museum is situated at the foot of the Granier mountain which contains a well-known site called, the Grotte de la Balme à Collomb, which was discovered in 1988 and produced 12 000 bones of the Cave Bear between 1989 and 1994. These date back to 40,000 to 21,000 BC.

The locations of over 2000 Cave Bear underground hibernating quarters are displayed to the visitors in the form of a computer print out. A 3D animated film, describes the life and times of the Cave Bear and is a highlight of the tour.

In September 2003, the Museum will host the 9th International Symposium of the Cave Bear.

Text by Tony Oldham (2003). With kind permission.