Museo Altamira

Art at Altamira

Art is a heritage that is exclusive to our species, Homo sapiens, endowed with neurobiological abilities that make symbolic creation possible.

Based on our current knowledge, we can assume that the art at Altamira corresponds to the same timeframe as the archaeological site (i.e. 22,00014,000 before the present).

The oldest representations are on the right side of the polychrome roof: large, red horses 150180 cm long, one positive image of a hand and two negative ones, and a series of points.

There are other figures in black, drawn using charcoal, which have been dated to the Lower Magdalenian period using Carbon 14 dating. At present they correspond to quadrangular signs, and the masks formed by the natural shapes of the walls, which have been humanised with eyes or a mouth.

The deer is the most common species. The majority are figures drawn during the Lower Magdalenian age, 14,80014,400 before the present, contemporaneous with the polychromes.

The 25 large polychromes are representations of horses and bison, measuring 125170 cm, as well as the deer, measuring more than 2 meters. First the outline was engraved and then a black line was drawn with charcoal. The shape was then filled with red or yellow paint. The change in colour on the stomach of some bison was marked using black paint and the charcoal pencil was used to detail the hair or the hump. In addition to this, engraving was used for parts such as the eyes, horns, and neck hair.

The classification of the polychromes is not exact since they only use two pigments: the black from the charcoal and the oxide from brown or red iron, directly applied or dissolved in water. The polychrome effect was created by the incorporation of the colour of the rock to ensure the red and black colours did not clash. Natural bumps in the ceiling and cracks were used to give volume or mark the outline of the figures.

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