Secret of Altamira Cave , Santillana del Mar in Cantabria – Spain

Incredible things about the Prehistoric Altamira Cave Paintings

The discovery of the Altamira Cave at the end of the XNUMXth century meant a turning point for the knowledge that prehistoric man had to date: from being considered a wild creature, he came to be seen as able to shape his universe with sensitivity seen. Amazing technology. It is one of the greatest and oldest exponents of human creativity.

The Altamira Caves, located in Cantabria, are recognized as the first sites in the world where cave art from the Upper Palaeolithic was identified. Next, we get to know one of the best preserved frescoes in Spain.

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History of a discovery

The caves of Altamira were discovered by chance in 1868, by a dog that was hunting with its owner, Modesto Cubillas. While chasing a prey, they found a small opening that led into the cave and on the way Cubillus informed this news to his neighbors who did not attach much importance to it, as they believed it was just another cave. There was a hut.

Among those to whom the hunter conveyed this news was Marcelino Sanz de Sautuola, a wealthy owner of Cantabrian high society considered a scholar of the region and an avid paleontologist.

It was not until 1879 when Sautuola, accompanied by his eight-year-old daughter Maria, discovered some paintings on the ceiling when they went into the caves with the intention of collecting some remains of bones and flint. He was so excited about discovering the pictures of those animals that the following year he published a short scientific treatise on Altamira.

However, it was believed at the time that the paintings were not that old and that they had been made by some mediocre painter, especially in France being viewed with skepticism.

Sautola’s death seemed to condemn the Caves of Altamira to oblivion, but their value was gradually eroded by the findings of other similar pieces of art in various caves on the continent.

Features of Altamira Caves

The caves were used during various periods, mainly for the Magdalenian and Solutrean. In this way, it can be said that it adds about 22.000 years of occupation within the Upper Paleolithic. His style is reflected in the so-called Franco-Cambrian school, which is characterized by the realism of animal figures and anthropological figures, although there are also abstract images.

It has relatively small dimensions, as it is only 270 meters long. Within it, several areas are defined, the most important of which are the lobby and the polychrome room. Its inhabitants spent most of the day near the entrance as it was the only place illuminated by the sun and there they made their daily lives while inside the cave, where it can only be accessed by artificial light where the paintings appear. Since the interior of the cave is completely dark, to be able to paint it is believed that they used marrow lamps that they made with fat extracted from animal bones.

The most important room of all is called the Polychrome Room, in which the bison is the main animal. Prehistoric men were intimately familiar with the animals they depicted on the walls of the Altamira cave, as they lived by hunting and spent much time contemplating them. Furthermore, they knew techniques to reproduce them with greater realism, such as taking advantage of areas that protruded from the ceiling and walls in order to paint over them to achieve a more realistic effect. For this reason it is nicknamed the Sistine Chapel of Rock Art.

Conservation of the Altamira Caves

At the beginning of the seventies of the last century, more than 173.000 people visited the Altamira cave, which dangerously changed the environmental conditions that protected it throughout history. Due to the deterioration of the paintings, it was decided to close the caves for a few years until they were reopened to the public with some restrictions.

This measure lasted until the beginning of the XNUMXth century, when Neoquée was finished, an exact replica of the Altamira cave, using painting methods similar to those of the ancient inhabitants.

Currently, only five people can enter the Altamira caves by drawing once a week, for half an hour and always with two guides with the intention of preserving them as much as possible.

More Read: Secret of Altamira Cave , Santillana del Mar in Cantabria – Spain

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