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Sistine Chapel of Paleolithic Art

By Linda Tancs

Nineteen miles west of the port city of Santander in northern Spain is the prized prehistoric Altamira cave, a World Heritage Site. Over 900 feet long, archeological remains unearthed there are from two main Paleolithic occupations—the Solutrean (about 21,000 to 17,000 years ago) and the Magdalenian (about 17,000 to 11,000 years ago). Sometimes referred to as “the Sistine Chapel of Paleolithic art,” the cave’s chambers are a treasure trove of striking black-and-red prehistoric art depicting bison and other animals. In several instances, the artist exploited the natural contours of the rock to create a three dimensional appearance in the works.


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