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The Cave of Altamira - rock gallery of the stone age


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The Cave of Altamira - rock gallery of the stone age


Time travel for a modern person is still a dream, but there are places on the planet that allow you to literally plunge into the atmosphere of a certain era and even an era. Altamira Cave is a unique find of archaeologists of the 19th century, taking us to the times of the Stone Age and setting the beginning of a long journey of studying prehistoric rock paintings. The cave is located in the small town of Spain Santillana del Mar and has recently been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

History of the discovery and study of Altamira

The territory on which the Cave of Altamira is located was owned by Count Marcelino de Sautola, a great lover of archaeological excavations. The inhabitants of the settlement knew about the existence of the underground space, but it became famous in 1868, when a local hunter, returning home, was forced to rescue his dog stuck in a crevice - in the process, a grassy entrance was found. The count was told about the find, but he began to study it only 10 years later.

In 1879, Marcelino began to explore the cave and immediately found many ancient artifacts, tools and everyday life of the Stone Age. Soon, the count began to take his nine-year-old daughter Maria with him, prompting the girl to explore narrow passages and places inaccessible to an adult. Having made her way into the depths of the cave, the girl with admiration told her father about her discovery - a huge number of various drawings of animals on the walls. It is believed that it was Maria Sanz de Sautuola who discovered the greatest value of the Cave of Altamira. The trick is that the vaults of the cave were not high enough, so the count moved with his head bowed and not looking up - and the nine-year-old girl could look in all eyes and in all directions, which is why she noticed the drawings on the walls and ceiling.

The images found have turned archaeologists' views on the life and skills of primitive people. At first, scientists refused to believe in the reliability of the found drawings, believing them to be fake, and who found them to Southwola a deceiver. Checks and research lasted for many years, and the count received recognition only after his death, when similar paintings were found all over the planet.

What's inside

The Cave of Altamire occupies about 300 meters underground and has several "halls" in which the walls and ceilings are completely filled with images of various animals - horses, lynxes, wild boars, bison, oxen. The frescoes are made with natural dyes - manganese, coal, ocher - which are mixed with water. Despite the small amount of materials, the artists reproduced many shades; most of the drawings show no traces of corrections or redrawings, which indicates the high skill of the work and the firm hand of the authors. The embossed surface of the walls allows you to achieve the effect of a three-dimensional drawing, and with a burning fire it begins to seem as if animals are moving.

The conclusion was made about the age of the images - it is believed that the first drawings were made in 35,000 BC. e., and the youngest of them date back to about 13,000 BC. e. Around this time, a landslide sealed the entrance to the grotto and preserving the drawings for posterity.

Endless lines and Altamira Museum

Since the recognition of the drawings as authentic, a huge number of people wishing to see the masterpieces of ancient painting have appeared. At the beginning of the opening of the cave for excursions, more than one and a half thousand people visited it per day, which led to a change in the climate inside and moldy images.

After the restoration, the flow of visitors was reduced to two dozen people a day, but this did not help either. Therefore, today it is difficult to get to Altamira, but there is an opportunity (however, the queues are scheduled for months in advance).

At the beginning of the XXI century. The eponymous museum and research center were built, open year-round to all visitors wishing to learn about the culture and painting of the Stone Age. They contain:

  • Installations that tell about the life and traditions of the tribes that once inhabited Europe
  • Rooms where you can spend many hours looking at exact copies of Altamira's rock paintings, reproduced using similar materials and techniques as in the originals
  • Children's exhibition and interactive platforms underground, in one of which children try on the role of our ancestors who lived many centuries ago.

The object belongs to caves.

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