This is where it all began. The paintings in Altamira, discovered in 1879, are so delicate and technically complex that the discoverer was publicly branded a forger by the archaeologist community and died in ignominy ten years after. Their authenticity was not accepted until paleolithic paintings were also found in France and abbot Henri Breuil, the first expert in cave art, confirmed the prehistoric origin of the cave in 1902. Although many other caves have tried to appropriate of the term, it was the Great Hall of Altamira that was originally called the Sistine Chapel of the paleolithic by the French archaeologist Joseph Déchelette before the Great War, and Picasso is said to have stated that after Altamira all is decadence. The truth is that those bison, particularly the ones resting, painted on the bulges of the cave ceiling to create volume, are probably the most impressive sight you will find in a cave.
Spain, however, is not only Altamira. Much less touristically exploited than their French counterparts, the caves in the Spanish Cantabrian Corniche, by their number and quality, offer an exceptionally rich and diversified monograph of Upper Paleolithic cave art, in no way inferior to that of France, and precisely because of this “anonymity” they can still be visited in many cases. Caves like Ekain, with its amazing horses, Altxerri, Tito Bustillo, El Castillo… hold some of the most delicate, and the oldest according to current knowledge, cave art in Europe.