Altamira…One of the most famous caves. There is a wonderful museum and a reconstructed cave (opened in 2001) to visit. Both are wonderfully done. Altamira is famous for the paintings on the roof of the cave. The floor as found in 1868 was so high that an adult had to stoop to move through the cave. Don Marcelino Sanz de Sautuola was looking for bones and other artifacts on the floor accompanied by his 8-year old daughter. As you can guess, the child did not have to stoop and was looking around when she found the paintings on the roof. The roof is covered with a herd of bison in various positions that use the bumps and lumps of the ceiling to shape and define the animals. The floor has been lowered and is so depicted in the reconstruction of the cave so that people can get a good view of the ceiling. There are also depictions of horses, deer, and lines or figures. There is a long, narrow section known as the Horse’s Tail. When you are leaving the Horse’s Tail, you can see an area where the natural rock shapes where turned into “masks” by adding eyes and a few other details.
The earliest work at Altamira has been dated to 36,000 BCE, while some of the latest on the painted ceiling have been radiocarbon dated from 14,820 to 13,130 years ago. It is believed that the cave was blocked shortly after this period.