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14,500-year-old cave paintings discovered in Spain

A series of prehistoric cave paintings has been uncovered in the Basque Country, northern Spain, in a discovery experts have called a "once in a generation" find.

14,500-year-old cave paintings discovered in Spain
The cave paintings were discovered by archaeologist Diego Garate and caver Iñaki Intxaurbe. They span roughly
100 metres, and largely represent horses, bison, goats, and deer [Credit: Provincial County of Bizkaia]
The paintings, which include those of bison, horses and goats, were discovered by archaeologist Diego Garate at a depth of 300m in the Atxurra caves, around 50km from Bilbao.

The paintings are between 12,000 and 14,000 years old and depict traditional hunting scenes, including a bison pierced "with over 20 spears" - which marks the cave painting of a bison with the most spear marks in all of Europe.

"It is an exceptional find, the equivalent of discovering a lost Picasso," Garate told The Local on Thursday.

14,500-year-old cave paintings discovered in Spain
Paintings of bison, as they appear now (above) and as they might have appeared (below) 
[Credit: Provincial County of Bizkaia]
"Discoveries of this caliber are not made every year, at most, once a decade. It is important because of the quantity of figures depicted, their excellent conservation and for the presence of associated archaeological materials such as charcoal and flint tools," Garate added.

The cave joins that at Altamira as one of Spain’s most exciting and best-preserved set of cave paintings and for Garate, marks a career high.

"Without doubt it is the most important discovery of my career," he told The Local.

14,500-year-old cave paintings discovered in Spain
Archaeologist Diego Garate with the cave paintings in Atxurra 
[Credit: Provincial County of Bizkaia]
"I have been searching the caves of the Basque Country for ten years and have discovered lots of new caves but none as important as Atxurra. It could very well be the cave with the most animal figures in the Basque Country," he added.

The Atxurra caves were originally discovered in 1929, but as the paintings are at a depth of 300 metres, they went undiscovered until now.

Spain boasts a number of cave paintings including Altamira, which has been billed as the "Sistine Chapel of Palaeolithic art".

In March 2015, 20,000-year-old cave paintings were discovered in Cantabria, northern Spain, making the area the "European capital of rock art".

Author: Jessica Jones | Source: The Local [May 26, 2016]

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