A landscape similar to that of today...
The landscape contemporary to the Aurignacians was largely similar to that of today, with the exception of the period's vegetation and climate. The major aspects of the relief were already in place: the vast limestone plateaus deeply cut by the gorges of the Ardèche, the natural arch of the Pont d'Arc, the cut-off meander of the Combe d'Arc, the Cirque d'Estre, surrounded by the high Urgonian cliffs. These structural relief elements are the expression of the slow work of erosion which, over 6 million years, has flattened the plateaus, formed the line of the Ardèche, hollowed its valley into gorges and excavated the numerous caves in the region. Palaeolithic humans saw a relief similar to the one that we observe today but...
...With one major difference
One major element has today disappeared from the relief, which changes our perception of the landscape of our ancestors: the prehistoric entrance of the cave. This entrance occupied a strategic place in the landscape with its position on a ledge above the Combe d'Arc. A connection between the valley and the plateau, the prehistoric porch was located on a natural corridor used by both prehistoric humans and animals.
When nature creates lines of passage
This corridor corresponds to a specific rocky layer within the planes of the limestone: the Orbitoline layer. During the cold episodes of the Quaternary, this frost-sensitive layer was progressively hollowed out, creating an opening. As a result of the orientation of the geological layers, this hollowed out layer naturally connected the valley bottom with the limestone plateau, thus creating a favoured route. The entrance into the gorges of the Ardèche, marked by the Pont d'Arc, led through this layer to the cave and the plateaus where movement was easier than in the gorges.