Les Grottes Petrifiantes de Savonnieres in France

At These French Caves, Everyday Objects Turn to Stone

At These French Caves, Everyday Objects Turn to Stone

Atlas Obscura
Your Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders
Dec. 18 2014 2:24 PM

The Petrifying Grottoes, Where Everyday Objects Turn to Stone

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At these limestone caverns in central France, everyday objects turn to stone.

Items left for six months to a year under the mineral-rich springs of Les Grottes Pétrifiantes de Savonnières—the petrifying grottoes of Savonnières—emerge coated in a perfectly pure white layer of limestone.

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The owners of the adjacent Museum of Petrifaction have capitalized on this natural phenomenon by placing rubber molds in the caves and retrieving them two years later, when calcite deposits have collected in the molds to form intricate bas reliefs. These beautiful petrified objects are presented for public display and offered for sale at the grotto gift shop.

It's not just rubber molds that get calcified: gnomes, vegetables, Buddha statues, and pine cones are among the objects that have been placed in the caves. The longer they stay, the more amorphous they become. Some have been getting dripped on for a decade. In order to ensure even distribution of the limestone layers, the museum owners must turn each object regularly.

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Ella Morton is a writer working on The Atlas Obscura, a book about global wonders, curiosities, and esoterica adapted from Atlas Obscura. Follow her on Twitter.