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Like many similar prehistoric caves, Altamira has been dogged by environmental and conservation problems.It was closed for conservation purposes in 1977 (reopened 1982), and again in 2002.Sautuola examined the cave further along with Juan Vilanova y Piera, an archeologist from the University of Madrid, and the pair published a report (1880) stating that the cave's wall paintings and engravings belonged to the Palelithic era of prehistory.Experts who read the report, notably the French scholars Gabriel de Mortillet and Emile Cartailhac, ridiculed its findings at the 1880 Prehistorical Congress in Lisbon, although eventually, in 1902, they and other scientists in the archeological establishment admitted their mistake and acknowledged the authenticity of the Altamira paintings.Other replicas can be seen in the National Archeological Museum of Spain, Madrid, and in the Deutsches Museum, Munich.
It is one of seventeen such caves unearthed along the mountains of North Spain near the Atlantic coast, on the main migratory route from the Middle East, which followed the North African coast, crossed the sea at Gibraltar and led through Spain into France.
Then, in 2008, British scientists dated the paintings using the Uranium/Thorium (U/Th) method.
To everyone's astonishment, they found that certain artworks were created between 23,000 and 33,000 BCE.
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.