LIST OF CAVES OF ALTAMIR
In 1879, wall paintings from the Paleolithic era were first discovered in the Altamira cave in northern Spain, in the province of Santander. Scientists have found that on the stone walls of the cave there are several archaeological layers. The earliest drawings were made more than 18 thousand years ago!
Cantabria. The Altamira Cave On the ceiling of the Altamira Cave more than 15 thousand years ago, primitive artists depicted more than 150 drawings: bison, horses, deer, wild boars and sorcerers of a half-human, half-animal appearance. At the same time, each animal is painted perfectly, with the necessary expression: for example, the bison are depicted as grazing, running, lying or wounded. But there is no general composition, so many images overlap one another. Rock paintings were also found in other parts of the cave, which stretches underground for almost 380 m. Some of the drawings left on the ceilings of its low corridors are more conveniently viewed lying on your back (as the guidebooks say). Unlike the older cave paintings made in the simplest contour manner, the images in Altamir have a dark outline and are painted with red and yellow colors with different tonal strengths, which gives the figures volume.
The palette of primitive man was poor: it has four basic colors – black, white, red and yellow. Chalk and chalky limestones were used to obtain white images; black – charcoal and manganese oxides; red and yellow – minerals hematite, pyrolusite and natural dyes – ocher, which is a mixture of hydroxides of iron (limonite), manganese (psilomelan) and clay particles. In the caves and grottoes of France, stone slabs were found on which ocher was rubbed, as well as pieces of dark red manganese dioxide. Judging by the painting technique, the pieces of paint were rubbed, bred on bone marrow, animal fat or blood. Chemical and X-ray diffraction analysis of paints from Lasko Cave showed that not only natural dyes were used, mixtures of which give different shades of the primary colors, but also rather complex compounds obtained by firing them and adding other components (kaolinite and aluminum oxides).
Murals of the Altamira cave are a striking example of monumental primitive realism. For a long time, many regarded Altamira’s cave art as a fake, but at the beginning of the 20th century. its authenticity was finally proved.
The history of the scientific discovery of Paleolithic painting is dramatic. In 1868, a dog fell into a narrow crack on the side of Altamira Hill. To rescue her, the owner had to throw a lot of stones, opening the entrance to the mysterious dungeon. The owner of the dog, lawyer Marcelino Sautuola began his research and soon discovered rough stone and bone axes, knives, hammers. But only in 1879, his six-year-old daughter Maria saw drawings on the plane of the overhanging arch. Prominent archaeologists of that time did not recognize the authenticity of Sautuola’s findings, and in 1888, ridiculed and forgotten, Sautuola passed away. Only in 1902 his discovery was recognized and publicly apologized.
The recognition of Altamira triggered a “chain reaction of discovery.” In 1901, the Combarel cave was discovered with engraved figures of animals (14 mammoths, 3 reindeer, 2 bison, 90 other animals) and Font de Gaume (engraving and multi-color images of two-meter bison, mammoths, reindeer). In 1912, in the cave of “Three Brothers” (sons of the French archaeologist Beguin) – drawings of deer and a man in a mask. In 1940 – the unsurpassed Lasko with monochrome and polychrome painting of images of wild horses, bulls, deer, mountain goats, a man with a bird’s head lying in front of the bison he had killed.
In France alone, more than 130 caves with late Paleolithic painting are now known. They are also open in other countries: Spain (Gibraltar), Greece (Levkad), Italy (Basua), Romania (Padur), Russia (Kapova, Ignatieff, M. Sya), Mongolia (Gurvan Tsengher), India (Bimbetka, Krishna) and others. Striking the proximity of the dating of drawings: 35-10 thousand years BC. e. True, there are sometimes incomprehensible exceptions. In 1971, a much more ancient Late Paleolithic painting (60-40 thousand years) was discovered in Western Iran. The data presented convincingly indicate the absence of one center for the formation of the culture of primitive man. “School of painting” was not only in the vicinity of the Pyrenees. It had “branches” in the Cantabrian and Dinar mountains, in the Urals and in the spurs of the Himalayas, in the Caucasus, Elbrus … In 1985, the diver A. Koske made a sensational discovery on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. At a depth of 36 m, he found a gap in the rock framed by corals and algae. An inclined tunnel through 150 m brought him to a large hall. In 1990-1991, images of human hands, dozens of drawings of horses, bisons, seals were found on its walls …