Cave of Altamira – Camino Norte

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The Camino encourages a Spirit of Discovery.  Experiencing any of the Camino trails to Santiago de Compostela one is immersed in culture, history and traditions that leads us on a continued journey of discovery.  It is exciting and magical to learn more whether your pilgrimage travel interest includes history, art, architecture, gastronomy, festivals, wine or more you will enjoy many of your own new discoveries while Celebrating the Camino Spirit!

“In 1879, amateur archaeologist Marcelino Sanz de Sautuola was led by his eight year-old daughter María to discover the cave’s drawings. The cave was excavated by Sautuola and archaeologist Juan Vilanova y Piera from the University of Madrid, resulting in a much acclaimed publication in 1880 which interpreted the paintings as Paleolithic in origin. The French specialists, led by Gabriel de Mortillet andEmile Cartailhac, were particularly adamant in rejecting the hypothesis of Sautuola and Piera, and their findings were loudly ridiculed at the 1880 Prehistorical Congress in Lisbon. Due to the supreme artistic quality, and the exceptional state of conservation of the paintings, Sautuola was even accused of forgery. A fellow countryman maintained that the paintings had been produced by a contemporary artist, on Sautuola’s orders.”

“Altamira (Spanish for ‘high views’) is a cave in Spain famous for its Upper Paleolithic cave paintings featuring drawings and polychrome rock paintings of wild mammals and human hands.

Its special relevance comes from the fact that it was the first cave in which prehistoric cave paintings were discovered. When the discovery was first made public in 1880, it led to a bitter public controversy between experts which continued into the early 20th century, as many of them did not believe prehistoric man had the intellectual capacity to produce any kind of artistic expression. The acknowledgement of the authenticity of the paintings, which finally came in 1902, changed forever the perception of prehistoric human beings.

It is located near the town of Santillana del Mar in CantabriaSpain, 30 km west of the city ofSantander. The cave with its paintings has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

The cave is approximately 300 meters long and consists of a series of twisting passages and chambers. The main passage varies from two to six meters in height. The cave was formed through collapses following early karstic phenomena in the calcerous rock of Mount Vispieres.

Archaeological excavations in the cave floor found rich deposits of artifacts from the UpperSolutrean (c. 18,500 years ago) and Lower Magdalenean (between c. 16,500 and 14,000 years ago). Both periods belong to the Paleolithic or Old Stone Age. In the millennia between these two occupations, the cave was evidently inhabited only by wild animals. Human occupants of the site were well-positioned to take advantage of the rich wildlife that grazed in the valleys of the surrounding mountains as well as the marine life available in nearby coastal areas. Around 13,000 years ago a rockfall sealed the cave’s entrance, preserving its contents until its eventual discovery, which occurred after a nearby tree fell and disturbed the fallen rocks.

Human occupation was limited to the cave mouth, although paintings were created throughout the length of the cave. The artists used charcoal and ochre or haematite 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 in the cave walls to give their subjects a three-dimensional effect. The Polychrome Ceiling is the most impressive feature of the cave, depicting a herd of extinct steppe bison (Bison priscus) in different poses, two horses, a large doe, and possibly a wild boar.

Dated to the Magdelenean occupation, these paintings include abstract shapes in addition to animal subjects. Solutrean paintings include images of horses and goats, as well as handprints that were created when artists placed their hands on the cave wall and blew pigment over them to leave a negative image. Numerous other caves in northern Spain contain Paleolithic art, but none is as complex or well-populated as Altamira.” – WIKIPEDIA

For more information please visit WIKIPEDIA: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cave_of_Altamira

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