The first visits to have left traces in the Grotte de Niaux date from the beginning of the XNUMXth century, the walls with several hundred graffiti from this period.
During the XIXth century, Niaux will be the object of a tourist exploitation in particular to satisfy the curists of the thermal spa of Ussat-les-Bains. The Salon Noir then contained many graffiti which were recently erased, except that of a 1660th century visitor, Ruben de la Vialle, who left his name in XNUMX alongside prehistoric works.
In 1866, an archaeologist from Ariège, Félix Garrigou, visited the cave but was unable to
interpret the paintings. On April 7, he noted in his notebook "Walls with funny drawings of oxen and horses" and on June 16 "amateur artists who have drawn animals. Why that ? ". Like many archaeologists of this time, he does not make the connection between Magdalenian objects engraved with animals and the cave. The existence of prehistoric cave art was not officially accepted by the scientific world until 1902.
It was not until September 1906 and the records of Commander Molard and his two sons that the age of the paintings in the Salon Noir was revealed.
The commander and his sons then warn Émile Cartailhac, professor at the University of Toulouse and great prehistorian of the time, of their discovery. The latter authenticates the paintings and undertakes their study with the young Abbot Henri Breuil. They made the first publication in 1908 in the journal L'Anthropologie.
In 1925, Joseph Mandement, curator of the Mas-d'Azil cave, discovered new paintings in a small gallery which he called Galerie Cartailhac.
In 1949, a series of footprints left by two children aged 9 to 12 was revealed in a diverticulum.
Twenty years later, after having crossed a lake and a major chaos of collapsed boulders, two remarkable horses from “the abyss of Martel” are discovered in the scree of the Grand Dome.
The cave of Niaux also has the largest number of engravings on the floors, a very rare technique specific to the Pyrenees.
Present on the floor of the Salon Noir as on that of other galleries, these engravings feature bison, horses, ibex and aurochs but also more famous works such as the two salmon or the “bison with cupules” traced around natural holes. These engravings, particularly fragile, cannot be approached.
The major discovery in 1970 remained that of the Clastres Network, a gallery over a kilometer long ...