It is surprising that the cave paintings are not only discovered in France and Spain but also in Brazil and Australia. How human beings who were scattered throughout the globe without any contact with each other and having no communication, adopted paintings as a tool to express their feelings? They selected caves because they could climatically preserve colors of paintings.
These caves remained without any interference from outside. That is why these paintings survived initially for thousands of years. After the discovery of cave paintings in France, Spanish cave paintings were also discovered incidentally, and no one believed in their legitimacy. However, later on it was proved that they were genuine.
The second discovery of Cave Paintings in Spanish
These same words aren’t often applied to caves, but it was in dark, cramped subterranean caverns that early humans may have showcased some of their finest artwork. Cave art has fascinated us for a long time, but we didn’t always have a good idea just how ancient this tradition was. The cave, discovered by a hunter in 1868, was visited in 1876 by Marcelino Sanz de Sautuola, a local nobleman.
He returned in 1879, to excavate the floor of the cave’s entrance chamber, unearthing animal bones and stone tools, he realized that it was something special. On one visit in the late summer, he was accompanied by his eight years old daughter, Maria, who first noticed the paintings of bison on the ceiling of a side chamber, the antiquity of the paintings and the objects.
Altamira was the first of the great treasures of prehistoric art to be discovered, and despite other exciting finds in Cantabria and South France, Altamira’s paintings of bisons and other wild mammals are still the most vividly coloured and visually powerful examples of Paleolithic art and culture to be found on the continent of Europe. As usual, archeologists remain undecided about when Altamira’s parietal art was first created. The general style at Altamira remains that of Franco- Cantabrian cave art, as characterized by the pronounced realism of the figures represented.
The Altamira cave is 971 feet (296 metres) long. In the vestibule numerous archaeological remains from two main Paleolithic occupations- the Solutrean (about 21,000 to 17,000 years ago) and the Magdalenian ( about 17,000 to 11,000 years ago) were found. Including among these remains were engraved animal shoulder blades, one of which has been directly dated by radiocarbon 14,480 years ago. Indeed, Altamira’s artists are renowned for how they used the natural contours of the cave to make their animal figures seem extra-real. The actual subterranean complex itself consists of a 270-metre long series of twisting passages ranging from 2-6 meters ( about 7-20 feet) in height, in which more than 100 animal figures are depicted. Unlike most other decorated rock shelters of the upper Paleolithic, Altamira cave was a place of domestic human habitation. This was limited to the cave mouth and lobby area, although paintings and petroglyphs were created throughout the length of the cave.
The roof of the chamber is covered with paintings and engravings, often in combination. For example, the bison figures that dominate were first engraved and then painted. These images were executed in a vivid bicolored red and black, and some also have violet tones. Other featured animals include horses and doe ( biggest figure on the ceiling), as well as other creatures rendered in a simpler style. Numerous additional art in this chamber include eight anthropomorphic figures, some handprints and hand stencils.
The black paint used in the drawings was determined to be composed largely of charcoal, which can be radiocarbon dated. This method has been applied to several images on the Altamira ceiling. Scientists now believe the ceiling paintings date from C. 14,820 to 13,130 years. The most famous paintings in the cave are probably the 25 coloured paintings of bison, deer and horses etched and then painted on the roof of the cave. Impressively, one female deer measures over 6.5 feet. In terms of material, charcoal was used to make black lines, while they ground hematite to create the red ochre used to fill in shapes.
Older paintings in the caves include positive and negative images of hands, many depictions of deer, and “ masks” created by strategically drawing eyes and a mouth around bumps in the stone. In fact, this technique was used throughout the history of the Altamira cave paintings, as the three dimensional quality of the rocks were used to give volume to figures. Though the individual paintings don’t necessarily have a relationship or compositional tie between them, there is a sophistication in how volume, expressions, and perspective were shown that make them the high point of prehistoric art.
Altamira has three types of art: Coloured paintings, black drawings and rock art. As mentioned above, subjects are mostly animals, although there are eight idiomatic figures and a large amount of abstract art, geometric signs and symbols. Other animals are also sketched in detail, down to the texture of their fur and manes. They include a number of unusual club-shaped images and tectiforms ( images shaped like an upward-pointing wedge or arrow), drawn and engraved in the most remote part of the cave. Lastly, there is a quantity of finger marks and finger fluting.
Muriel Mauriac, the curator of Lascaux, said that “ we feel our cave is much too fragile to think beyond strict conversation, like for an old lady who is recovering from an illness”. She said she was following developments at Altamira. “ I trust the Spanish authorities will ultimately take the right decision,” she said.
Mr. Lasheras also noted that “ the caves that have been discovered in the last 40 years have not been opened to the public.” Before that he added, nobody really considered the damage that visitors could inflict on a cave, just as “ nobody worried about putting a glass cover on the Mona Lisa”.
These cave paintings show the inventiveness and creativity of the human mind comparative to the modern age. Therefore, we have to redefine civilization of prehistoric time and of modern period.