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Indeed, Altamira's artists are renowned for how they used the natural contours of the cave to make their animal figures seem extra-real.The actual subterranean complex itself consists of a 270-metre long series of twisting passages ranging from 2-6 metres (about 7-20 feet) in height, in which more than 100 animal figures are depicted.For a comparison with early African painting, please see the animal images on the Apollo 11 Cave Stones (c.25,500 BCE).The cave was first discovered in 1868 by Modesto Peres, a local hunter searching for his dog, but it wasn't until 1879 that the murals on the ceiling of the cave were spotted by Marcelino Sanz de Sautuola a local nobleman and amateur archeologist, when excavating the cave floor for artifacts.These recent dating results are consistent with other finds in the region.In 2012, for example, a red dot and a hand print found at the El Castillo Cave - also in Cantabria - were dated to at least 39,000 BCE and 35,500 BCE respectively (Aurignacian era), making them the oldest art of their type from any cave in Europe.

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First discovered in 1868, though not fully appreciated until the 1900s, Altamira was the first of the great caches of prehistoric art to be discovered, and despite other exciting finds in Cantabria and southern France, Altamira's paintings of bisons and other wild mammals are still the most vividly coloured and visually powerful examples of Paleolithic art and culture to be found on the continent of Europe.

Like many similar prehistoric caves, Altamira has been dogged by environmental and conservation problems.



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