The Ekain Cave
The paintings of Ekain were made in the Upper Palaeolithic (from 40000 to 10000 years ago), particularly in the last period of it, in the Magdalenian period, from 14000 to 13000 years ago. The humans of this era had our own ways, they were homo sapiens, but their way of life was completely different from today, they were hunters and gatherers, and they knew neither agriculture nor livestock. Therefore, their diet was based on what they collected hunting and fishing, or what they could get directly from the land, such as fruits, roots or herbs.
Ekain is located in a spring hunting ground. At that time the climate was much colder than at the present time, it was the period of glaciations, so the temperature was about 10° Celsius below the current temperature, and the Basque mountains taller than 1,500 meters were covered with snow throughout the whole year. In order to protect themselves, humans used caves as shelters.
They used the cave entrance for a living, inhabited the area with most sun and light. The paintings, however, were located inside the cave, which was thought to be more special and sacred. They did not perform their everyday tasks here, they used the inside of the cave for their beliefs and to connect with the spiritual world instead.
That very day, they reported their finding to the members of the Prehistory section of the Aranzadi Science Society. José Miguel Barandiaran and Jesús Altuna went to what is now called Ekain 1 cave the very next day. On studying the works of cave art on the walls, they established that they were painted 13,000 to 14,000 years ago, at the end of the Upper Palaeolithic – specifically, in the cultural period known as the Upper Magdalenian.
That was the moment when the initiative to protect the Ekain cave and its paintings began. After many complex discussions with different authorities and institutions, Ekain closed in June 1969. This allowed the researchers time to investigate the images and the archaeological findings.
Since the cave’s discovery, numerous documentary records have been written.