Since immemorial times, the history of Gaougnas has been connected with the history of men of La Clamoux. Vestiges discovered in the first chambers of the subterranean network are the evidence of settlements of the caves dating back to the Bronze Age. At first the excavations of the rocky shelter of Gaougnas were not always led by scientific minds, however these excavations allowed to unearth a significant number of materials.
Serious studies, started by Doctor Cannac in 1934 and then conducted by Jean Guilaine, resulted in numerous discoveries.
Early documents, dated in 1570, show that, during the month of May of that year, millers of Villeneuve Minervois and other downstream villages gathered and bought part of the meadow adjoining the locality called Gaougnas, with the declared purpose of diverting the bed of the river Clamoux and therefore preventing it from getting lost into the “Reboul”, a whirlpool in which waters penetrated at the entrance to the cave.
It was only under Napoleon III that the famous hole called ‘Reboul’ was blocked up with the construction of the present-day road linking Villeneuve to Cabrespine.
These arrangements fulfill the known loss of the river, but won’t prevent it from finding a new passageway to its underground bed. As a result of these works, the entrance of the Gaougnas river is also blocked, and nothing more will be heard about the Grotto for many years.
It was only in 1880 that the cave came back to the memory of Clamoux men, through a tragic incident: during the month of June of that year, Baleste Pierre, an habitant of the village, fell badly and died in the “Barrenc”. The country guard brought up the injured body of the poor man and he became therefore, despite him,the first speleologist who entered the open-air chamber which was both deep (about 150m) and spacious. A few years later the same Barrenc, from which can be seen large curls of water vapour evidentiating the arrival of winter, will be the scene of another less tragic incident. In 1927, a dog which was thrown out into the Aven river, came back to its owner by getting out of the Gaougnas, therefore demonstrating the link between both caves.
The following year, the continuous action of waters caused the roadside lands to crumble at the entrance to the village. Mr Bordel, who was the owner of the land in those days, enlarged the cavern excavations, explored a few galleries and found the path to the Gaougnas.
After 20 years in 1959, the hard work and the determination of a handful of speleologists that lasted 2 months resulted in the junction of the Gaougnas and the Barrenc. On that occasion a few meters of an underground river were uncovered.
Three years later, in 1961, a tint appearing in the water of La Clamoux confirms the legend according to which, ducks who disappeared into the “ Reboul ” near Gaougnas would pop up alive in the water currents close to the four Cathar Castles of Lastours.
From that moment, the existence of a large subterranean network between Lastours and Cabrespine was demonstrated.
Dozens of unsuccessful explorations were carried out in order to find a way to break into the underground network.
It was only during the summer of 1968 that two speleologists managed, after many efforts, to follow the pathway of the river, and then to come across the fascinating chamber of the Gouffre Géant de Cabrespine.