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Prehistoric Caves

Palaeolithic art

Cantabria is one of the world centres of Palaeolithic art. The region has over 60 caves with Palaeolithic cave art, forming one of the greatest concentrations in the world, only comparable, inside Europe, to the French Dorfogne and Pyrenees regions.

But this is not a question of quantity: Altamira, the caves of Monte Castillo, La Garma, Covalanas, El Pendo, Hornos de la Peña, Cufin…are among the most noteworthy sites known, either for the quality of their art, in some cases, for their extensive chronological sequence in others, or for both aspects combined.

In the last ice age

We must explain the environmental context that existed in the region between 36.000 and 10.000 years ago, as the planet was going through the last ice age (Würm).

The land scope in Cantabria changed over those 26.000 years. During the cold periods, the climate was harsh, cold and dry. The sea level was lower and the coastline was about five kilometres further north than now. Conifers abounded in the forest and, among the fauna, there were a number of species such as a bison, mammoths, reindeer and cave bears.

During other milder periods, Cantabria presented similar features to those found today.

The thousands of natural caves that existed in Cantabria in those days offered excellent refuge.

Cantabria, and its caves, are home of part of our origins, of our ancestral way of reasoning.

World Heritage

The UNESCO, during the 32nd meeting of the World Heritage Committee held in Canada, added nine Cantabrian caves that feature cave art to the World Heritage List.

These caves added to the select group of locations declared as World Heritage Sites are:

  • Altamira
  • El Castillo
  • La Pasiega
  • La Garma
  • Covalanas
  • La Monedas
  • El Pendo
  • Hornos de la Peña
  • Sopeña
  • Santián
  • Chufín

Cantabria is, therefore, a privileged region thanks to the Works of these talented artists from the past. It is a singular Museum of World Prehistory, an example of History. The thousands of figures form an underground path to the origins of symbolic and abstract reasoning and artistic expression.


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