Archaeologists discovered 15,000-year-old wall carvings in a Spanish cave.

Justin Kamp
Feb 18, 2020 5:52PM, via artnet News

Photograph by Josep Maria Vergès. Courtesy of IPHES.

A team of archaeologists discovered previously unknown prehistoric wall carvings in a cave in northern Spain, some of which are believed to be 15,000 years old. Among the carvings are depictions of horses, bulls, and deer, as well as more abstract patterns, all of which are carved into a stretch of the Cave of Font Major, a nearly two-mile-long system of caverns located 60 miles outside of Barcelona.

A team of archaeologists from IPHES (the Catalan Institute of Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution) encountered the site at the end of October 2019, though they just recently announced the discovery. Josep Maria Vergès, the leader of the expedition, told artnet News that the discovery is “exceptional,” and compared the site to a “shrine.” While parts of the Cave of Font Major complex are open to the public for tours, the portion containing these carvings is not.

Unlike the famous cave paintings at Altamira, also located in northern Spain, the work at this new site was carved directly into a layer of sand deposited on the walls, rather than painted on the surface. The carvings are extremely fragile to the touch; several figures appear to have been damaged in the past by visitors unaware of their existence. Experts are currently documenting the site using 3D scanning technology, and are devising ways to preserve the art.

The oldest art in the cave is believed to have been created in the Late Stone Age. In comparison to other European cave art discoveries, however, this site is relatively young. The cave paintings at Altamira, for example, are around 36,000 years old, while the engravings at Abri Blanchard in France’s Vézère Valley, discovered in 2017, are estimated to be 38,000 years old.

Justin Kamp