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Friday, July 4, 2008

Praileaitz, Paleolithic art in danger

I have been writting in Archaeo Forums on this issue. Please take a look.

Briefly: the cave of Praileaitz is a very original Paleolithic (probably Magdalenian) site in the Western Basque Country (Deba, Gipuzkoa), where unusual portable art and some abstract mural art has been found. It is believed that some sort of witch or shaman lived there and has been therefore nicknamed "the Shaman's Cave".

Unusual large bead that has been suggested to be an abstract "Venus"

The cave (as well as other caves in the same hill, some of which of archaeological value) are in extreme danger because of the activities of a quarry. The autonomous government has issued a very limited protection decree that only forbids quarry activities in 50 m. around the cave and explossions in 100 m. Enviromentalists, expert prehistorians and other sensible people have asked repeatedly to expand this protection area or even forbid the quarry completely. But, on mere economic grounds, the government has been extremely reluctant to act in this sense.

Cave entrance

The mural art is placed on very delicate geological formations that vibrations could destroy or damage easily. The very enviroment of the cave has already been severely damaged by the activities of the quarry and another prehistoric cave in the same hill was totally destroyed decades ago by it (only an emergency dig was allowed then).

Some of the mural art

Today it has been known that prehistoric art expert Jean Clottes has asked for a protection area of 500 m.


Tim Jones said...

Hi Maju - very interesting post, and after watching the video, I was wondering if you knew whether it's possible for the public, i.e. me, to visit the cave, (probably not, I imagine) or at least its immediate surroundings, just to get an idea of the situation regarding the quarrying activities etc. I can get to Deba from Bilbao on the train, but can't see where the actual site is, or indeed how to get there from the town.

If you're able to reply, my email address is available via my blogger profile - all the best, Tim

Maju said...

I am pretty sure that visiting the cave is not really possible for the public: it is inside a quarry area where explossions happen every day. Maybe on sunday, illegally... I don't really know.

Getting to the quarry area though is not difficult, I think, it's like 500 m. east of Deba by the old coastal road to Donostia (San Sebastian). And you may even find people-modified signs pointing you to it.

I can't be of more help, I fear. I'm just mirroring and translating pieces of the information that is being published elsewhere. Much better contact are surely the Praileaitz Friends' association ( Diego of Stone Pages commented he had also got a lot of info from the director of the archaeological team, Xabier Peñalver (Aranzadi S.o.C. -

Are you in Bilbao right now? If so, feel free to send me an email to lialdamiz -at- euskalnet -dot- net.