Altamira Cave

The video about Chauvet peaked my interest about discoveries of other caves. The cave I decided to find out about is Altamira.  The cave is located in Cantabria Spain. Nearby are more caves that contain Palaeolithic art. A detachment left the cave sealed for thirteen thousand years. It was discovered by Modesto Cubillas in 1868. The discovery was published in a pamphlet in 1880 called Brief notes on certain prehistoric objects in the province of Santander. Unfortunately, many people did not accept his theories and Altamira was forgotten. The French historian Emile Cartailhac, in 1902, published a book about the cave. From this point on the cave of Altamira has been recognized. The book caused the visitors a year to increase to the point that they had to restrict access and adopt a conservation program.

The cave of Altamira was the first cave where rock art from the Upper Palaeolithic was discovered. When it was discovered it constituted a giant leap forward for science.  Horses, bison, deer and hands were painted or engraved all over the walls. These pictures extend more than two hundred and seventy meters throughout the cave. Preserving these paintings is a challenge and has become a priority of the Museum of Altamira.

The people that lived in the cave of Altamira left many objects behind. Objects made of silex, bone, and shells were discovered in 1879 by Marcelino Sanz de Sautuola. Between 2008 and 2010 a shoulder blade engraved with deer’s head was discovered in the cave. The walls also have many paintings. The most recent art is a few bison’s that date to 13,500 BP. Many deer were engraved between 14,400 and 14,800 BP. Some of the older paintings include a hind and a few signs that date between 15,050 and 15,400 BP. The oldest figures in the cave, painted in red, aren’t able to be carbon dated because they lack organic materials. The style of the paintings though suggest they are from the Gravettian period.

When the cave was discovered the air entering the cave started to take a toll on the art. Between 1997 and 2001 preventive measures were taken to control the risks of pollution. Land around the cave that could influence it was acquired. The road leading to the cave was also removed. These steps prevented contaminants from water from entering the cave through the ground and atmosphere. The cave is still currently closed to the public.