Cave of Altamira, Cantabria, Spain

The Cave of Altamira is the most famous prehistoric painted cave studied in art history. It is mentioned in every book of art history. It is situated in Cantabria the coastal region in North of Spain facing Biscay Gulf, close to the little town of Santillana. All the coastal line from Pays Basco till Galicia is dotted with prehistoric painted caves. It has been a great surprise to find out that I am so closed.

It is renowned for prehistoric cave art featuring charcoal drawings and polychrome paintings of contemporary local fauna and human hands. The earliest paintings were applied during the Upper Paleolithic, around 36,000 years ago. The site was discovered in Modesto Cubillas and subsequently studied by Marcelino Sanz de Sautuola.[2] ( Wikipedia). The cave remain hidden for millenia because the entrance collapsed 13000 years ago. The artifacts founded in the escavations of the cave floor are dated from 18500 to 16000 years ago

At the time of discovery nobody believed that was so ancient. Nobody could believe that men at that age could painting in this detailed and realistic way.

The cave was open to the visitors until 1977 and then open with limited access, definitely closed in 2002 to avoid further damages caused by the affluence of people.
In 2000 started the construction of a copy, an exact reproduction of the original completed in 2001. What we can visit now is the perfect reproduction.

The magic of this site is the impression of movement of the painted animals on the shapes of the rock. The guide show you thin line and suddenly animals and shapes appear.

The entrance of the cave.
The museum and the Documentation center. The recostruction is inside.
The old entrance as it was before the rockfallen.
“The artists used charcoal and ochre or hematite to create the images, often diluting these pigments to produce variations in intensity and creating an impression of chiaroscuro. They also exploited the natural contours of the cave walls to give their subjects a three-dimensional effect.”

To avoid smoke inside the cave during the painting , the artists used bone marrow with a short line.

Beside animals there are other marks.
In this case the shape of the rock is used as a face or profile.


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