In class we learned about ancient cave paintings, and focused on the Lascaux Cave in France. This got me wondering about cave discoveries and the artwork that was done in other parts of the world. Another equally renowned cave finding is the Spanish site of Altamira. This site is located northern Spain, and was initially discovered accidently in 1868 by a hunter who wandered into them. The caves were not studied further until 1875 when a nobleman named Marcellino Sanz de Santuola wanted to explore the caves. He was interested in the caves, but his daughter was the one who discovered the paintings in the cave in 1879. These paintings were so well preserved that experts first thought that they were not authentic. It was not until later in the 1900s that other similar findings from the same era as the Altamira cave paintings were discovered and the cave paintings were finally accepted as genuine.
After being studied, it was determined that there were paintings from two different eras. These eras were the Upper Solutrean period which was about 18,500 years ago, and the Magdalenian era, which was between 16,500 – 14,000 years ago. Humans inhabited the cave during these separate eras with an absence in between. The paintings in the cave were so well preserved because it is believed that a rock fall sealed off the entrance to humans around 13,000 years ago. The paintings from the later Magdalenian era depict a herd of bison, as well as other animals including horses and what is believed to be a boar. These are some of the best representations of artwork from this time period. The paintings form the earlier Upper Solutrean period include pictures of horses, goats, and many human handprints.
The paintings in the Altamira caves are in color, which is unusual for the time period they were created. The people used charcoal, and dyes such as ochre and hematite to create colors that were orange and red. In addition to the colors, the painters also used the natural shapes of the rocks in the cave to help create the illusion of animals that were more dimensional. These effects in combination with the cave being sealed for so long is why the Altamira cave paintings are considered to be some of the best examples of artwork from the Magdalenian era. Using these paintings, researchers can create a better idea of what the people of this time experienced during their lives. The fact that they used creativity to depict their world shows just how similar we were to these ancient humans.
To learn more about the Altamira Cave Paintings I used the sites below