The caves of Altamira, Spain

Posted by on May 24, 2012

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Altamira is a cave that became known for its prehistoric paintings and etches. It is located exactly in the North of Spain just in the west of Santander. The caves of Altamira were discovered by Marcelino de Sautuola. At first the hunter only saw animal bones and other antiquities. He returned in 1879 with his daughter who noticed art in the walls. In 1880, he published his discoveries but experts dismissed them thinking that they were just forgeries. It was only during the 20th century when historians accepted the paintings as authentic. According to history, the whole 270 metres belong to Aurignacian, upper Solutrean, and Magdalenian periods. The great area that contains most paintings measures about 18 to 19 metres.  The ceilings are covered with bison in red, black and violet colors. There are also boars, horses and other figures in simpler tones.

Aside from animals, there are also human figures and handprints on the wall. There are also other areas with black colored figures. In a lot of cases, the drawing utilizes the color of rock surface. Bison is the primary focus of the paintings. This is due to the fact that they considered the animal to be important especially for hunting purposes. They were being hunted for different purposes like food and warmth. Everything that can be extracted from the bison is useful. The paintings are only animals.

Replica of the roof of Altamira cave
Replica of the roof of Altamira cave

What were the substances that they used when painting the walls? The material that was used for creating them is made of natural elements like ochre and zinc. The paintings on the wall of Altamira are beautifuly crafted. It shows the technical skills of the people who had done the art. The said skills are reflected on the accuracy and the proportions of the drawings. Another advanced aspect that is showcased on the paintings is the fact that it only concentrates on one dimension. It ignores the character of the surface. If you compare Altamira paintings to other cave paintings, it is very unique in a lot of ways. This is due to the technical skills of Magdalenian people.

They use different colors instead of only using one. They use the characteristics of the animal to complement their drawings. They also utilized various lighting approaches. The paintings on the caves are remote so their work and creativity have been preserved for centuries and centuries. The said artworks are utilized by historians, sociologists and students in order to learn about ancient people. Since the 50’s, there is a serious deterioration of the painting due to the moisture coming from the breath of people visiting the place. It is now closed to prevent more damage. A museum is found beside the site where you can find replicas of the caves.

Altamira cave photo: theadventurouseye

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