The Sistine Chapel Of The Palaeolithic Age – ALTAMIRA CAVES

Amazing Europe | | June 30, 2010 at 4:07 am




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Altamira is, in today’s date, called the Sistine Chapel of the Palaeolithic Art. The reason why it’s given this name is due to its appearance and the immaculate beauty of the paintings found herein.

The Discovery Of Altamira:

A hunter called Modesto Cubillas was the first one to chance upon this cave. He had, all excited, entered the cave in the hope of chancing upon a lion or a bear; or some sort of wild animal. When he found nothing there, he continued on his hunt.

Years later, Marcelino Sanz de Santuola, a nobleman from Santander, who considered himself as an amateur anthropologist, reached the caves with his daughter. His 8 year old daughter, Maria, is supposed to be called the real ‘discoverer’ of this fine piece of history that had been embalmed her for years together.

The father-daughter duo had lit their charcoal lamps as they climbed in to explore the cave. The father got down to scouring the floor in the hope of finding some bones or arrowheads; or anything that could throw some light on which age this cave belonged to. The daughter, however, was the one who lifted her lamp up high, and noticed the paintings on the ceilings and she exclaimed in delight, “Mira, Papa, son bueyes”; which translates to “Look Dad, they’re cows!”

Altamira Caves – A brief insight:

The discovery of a few cows on the walls of an old cave may not have seemed like too much at first. But what the father-daughter duo discovered that day has turned out to be one of the most integral parts of the world culture; and Spanish culture too. The Altamira caves are one of the biggest and greatest collection of cave paintings that were ever discovered.

Altamira

How Were They Saved Until Now?

The only viable explanation for why the paintings have remained untouched and unspoilt by climatic and human conditions is that the entire cave had been embalmed by a previous landslide; which had almost acted as a tomb for the cave. This is what helped preserve the paintings.

The Paintings:

The main paintings in these caves are that of bison, deer, boars and horses. These are the most commonly seen figures. They date back to around 14,000 years ago. The uneven surface of the cave walls are used by the artists to their advantage. Given the fact that the surface is not even, it was used to make the figures look more life-like. The technology used by them is a little akin to modern day – 3D technology. The best part about this is that the effects have been achieved by using just three colors – ochre, red and black.

Altamira painting

The bisons that have been popularized by the Altamira cave paintings have become so much a part of Spanish iconography that it now features on a popular brand of cigarettes called ‘bisonte’.

Replica Of The Cave:

If you wish to visit the cave in today’s date, it may be quite a difficult task. The carbon-dioxide that was being released by the number of visitors was causing damage to the paintings; and for this very reason, they closed down for public viewing. An exact replica of the cave has now been created, so that people can (almost) have the real deal. They even hold exciting workshops here, which are aimed at children and adults who want to learn more about how these paintings were created a long time ago.

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7 Comments

  1. vareeja says:

    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.

    Sautuola was ridiculed by the Scientific society..
    However, in 1902, Emile Cartailhac emphatically admitted his mistake in his famous article..

    He admitted he was deeply wrong, emphasized the importance of Altamira, accused himself of holding back the progress of his science, and harshly criticised himself for doing an injustice to an honest man and rejecting a thing without any investigation..

    But Sautuola had died 18 years earlier..

    There are also recent discoveries about the Altamira caves that suggest some of the paintings were completed over thousands of years, not just by individual artists in their own lifetime..!

  2. nichole says:

    Sautuola was ridiculed by the Scientific society..
    However, in 1902, Emile Cartailhac emphatically admitted his mistake in his famous article..His 8 year old daughter, Maria, is supposed to be the real ‘discoverer’ of this fine piece of history.

    The main paintings in these caves are that of bison, deer, boars and horses. These are the most commonly seen figures.The Altamira caves are one of the biggest and greatest collection of cave paintings that were ever discovered.

    The technology used by them is a little akin to modern day – 3D technology. The best part about this is that the effects have been achieved by using just three colors – ochre, red and black.

  3. Daphny says:

    Hey vareeja,

    That’s an interesting piece of information you’ve shared here..
    That the discoverer of the paintings int he cave was never given credit for his discovery and only after he died 18 years later, the Scientific society who’d accused Sautuola of lying took back their words and asked for justice for a man who had already lost his life!

    Really interesting! Thanks for the post!

  4. Alden says:

    It also is a fact that many modern painters regarded high in our era of Art were influenced a lot by the Altamira cave paintings. Picasso has been found to quote many a time “after Altamira, all is decadence”.

    Many polychrome paintings at Altamira Cave are famous in Spanish popular culture!

  5. Joey says:

    Hey Alden,

    If I’m not wrong, the Spanish comic character Altamiro de la Cueva, created in the 1960′s is an evidence to the fame of Altamira caves..

    The Spanish comic series is a series of adventures by a group of cavemen dressed as modern people with bits and pieces of fur clanging to their bodies to show that they are pre-historic, similar to flintstones..

    It was in the era when our parents were young..

  6. Jackson says:

    Altamira caves are so famous that even a jazz-rock song “The Caves of Altamira” from the album ‘The Royal Scam’ written by Steely Dan gained a lot of popularity!

    The song goes this way….

    “Before the fall, when they wrote it on the wall, when there wasn’t even any Hollywood; they heard the call and they wrote it on the wall, for you and me and we understood.”

    Too good…! :-)

    Thanks for the post!

  7. I think its made before thousand years before. This is most oldest cave i have heard about. I dont think so caves are accedently happe. It just creates by local kings. Thanks for this post.

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