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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Some good news for Basque Paleolithic art

First, three Basque caves have been nominated to become Wolrd Heritage sites via UNESCO. They will be (almost naturally, I think), Santimamiñe and Ekain, plus a maybe arguable choice: Altxerri. The nomination of these caves is part of larger plan to include many Franco-Cantabrian sites in that list, but this time at least, only those in the Spanish side of the border.

Second, the artificial copy of Ekain, the neocave, will finally open in September. Then we will be again able to watch those beautiful horses, even if in their 21st century version.

Ekain, in western Gipuzkoa, has yielded some remains of the Chatelperronian but its fame comes from the Magdalenian period, including paintings like the ones above. The total list of figures in Ekain is over the hundred items.

Santimamiñe, in mid-eastern Biscay, has instead a very complete record of all the Upper Paleolithic and afterwards until as late as the Iron Age. It has a small hidden paintings room, with bisons surrounding a horse, plus other figures in different places totalling some 50 items. I had the inspiring fortune of visiting this cave when I was a child but nowadays it is closed and has been carefully restored after many decades of being open, suffering in consequence.

Instead, a 3D replica has been opened recently in the hermit on top of the same hill, where one can also appreciate from a privileged view the beautiful landscape these people (and my own ancesors later as well) lived in (of course the coastline is not the same one as in Paleolithic times).

Finally Altxerri, in coastal central Gipuzkoa is a less known cave, as it is closed not just to the public but also quite restricted to researchers, due to its unstability. The dates for this cave are of the late Magdalenian and the dominant figure is the bison.

Location of the five sites of Paleolithic art of the Western Basque Country

Source: Gara and the Basque Government sites linked in-text (specially for the images).

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