Altamira Cave the Sistine Chapel the Stone Age
Spanish nobleman called Don Marcelino de Sautuola lived in the late 1800s. He liked to search clues to the lives of people who lived thousands of years ago. Don Marcelino knew that prehistoric homes had been found in caves nearby. He also knew of a cave called Altamira close to his farm. He began to visit the cave and dig through the deep soil on the cave floor. Over the centuries, this soil had piled up, raising the floor and making the cave dark and narrow. Don Marcelino finally succeeded in finding some ancient spearheads. He brought them home to show his family and friends. And his young daughter, Maria, asked him to take her with him the next time. It was hard to refuse her anything and he agreed. 9-year-old Maria promised not to disturb her father at his work. In the cave the girl couldn’t find anything that was fun to do. After a time, with a candle in her hand, she crept into the low passage. Soon the little corridor grew wider. Looking up at the ceiling, Maria stopped still. All around her there seemed to be animals.
“Father!” Maria cried. “Bulls! Bulls!”
Don Marcelino came to his daughter and saw that some of the shapes on the celling looked like bulls – huge animals with horns. Don Marcelino looked in amazement from one picture to another. Who had made them? And when?
As he studied the animals more carefully, he began to see that the ones that looked like bulls were not really bulls at all. They were actually bison, horned and humped creatures that had disappeared from Europe thousands of years before.
Don Marcelino realized that the other figures on the ceiling were prehistoric animals, too. There were wild horses, long-antlered reindeer, and huge wild boars.
He wrote a long letter about the cave paintings to scientists in Madrid. Pictures had been painted by the same people who hunted those bison – by the cave dwellers of prehistoric times.
Today, the Altamira cave is one of the most famous places in the world. People go there to study and admire the pictures little Maria first saw by the light of her candle.
The cave is 296 metres long!
The paintings are so impressive that they have been called ‘the Sistine Chapel of the Stone Age.’ They were made about 15.000 years ago!
When Pablo Picasso visited the Altamira Cave, he exclaimed, “After Altamira, all is decadence!”
Since 1985 the cave is UNESCO World Heritage Site.