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Thursday, March 06, 2014 (read 918 times)
The Cave of Altamiraby Matthew
The Cave of Altamira is located 30 km west of the city of Santander in Cantabria in the town of Santillana del Mar. It is one of the most spectacular and historic locations in the whole of Spain. The enormous cave is covered in drawings and rock paintings of animals including European bison and bulls as well as human hands. The interior artwork was estimated to have been created in prehistoric times…Possibly as far back as 20,000 years ago! The extraordinary cave was granted Unesco World Heritage Site status in 1985.
The site in Northern Spain has had to be closed to the general public on several occasions. It was first shut in 1977 after scientists warned that the CO2 levels being emitted form the 3,000 daily visitors were having a very damaging affect on the paintings. The cave was then re-opened to a limited number of visitors, and the waiting list increased enormously, leaving people waiting as long as three years to have an opportunity of exploring the cave and its prehistoric masterpieces. The cave then had to be closed again to visitors in 2002 when green mould started to appear on some of the paintings, with scientists laying the blame on the body heat emitted by visitors as well as an overexposure to elements such as moisture and light.
Re-Opening of Altamira
After this closure, a museum and replica cave were constructed in close proximity to the original site by Sven Nebel and Manuel Franguelo reproducing the cave and its art. However, the government of Cantabria has been consistently campaigning for the re-opening of the site because if its monumental importance on the tourism, culture and history of the region. Now, as part of a scientific experiment to observe whether the paintings can cope with the presence of tourists, small groups of fortunate visitors will be allowed to visit the site.
This experiment that will last until August will allow up just fewer than 200 lucky individuals to explore the historic cave. Those who are visiting the museum will have the opportunity of entering a draw on a randomly chosen day of the week and 5 people will be selected to embark on a guided tour which will include just over half an hour inside the actual cave.
Precautions are of course being taken in order to prevent any potential further damage on the interior artwork of the cave and visitors will be required to wear specific clothing including shoes, masks and suits before entering the site. Scientific researchers will constantly measure the impact the visitors will have on the cave’s atmospheric conditions such as CO2 levels, humidity and temperature as well as monitoring contamination at a microbiological level.
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