The Museum of Altamira is a place devoted to learning about, enjoying and experiencing the life of those who painted and inhabited the cave of Altamira. The museum’s most attractive offer is the possibility of knowing the humanity's first art, Paleolithic art.
The Museum is in charge of a legacy of maximum value, the cave of Altamira, a milestone in universal art history which discovery meant the discovery of Palaeolithic cave art and one of its most spectacular manifestations. The showiness of the artistic expression of the cave's inhabitants was recognised by UNESCO, which in 1985 registered it on the World Heritage List.
The Neocave of Altamira
The reproduction of the cave, the Neocave, presents Altamira as a Palaeolithic venue, a habitation site and a sanctuary. This meticulous and exact reproduction, made in full scale, reconstructs the cave of Altamira as it was between 22,000 and 13,000 years ago, when it was inhabited by groups of hunter gatherers. The remains of the everyday life of its inhabitants can be found in the hall area, where there are large collections of fauna, shells, charcoals, and utensils made out of flint stone, antler and bone, as well as the remains of pigments and objects of furniture that provide information about their way of life.
The art surprises the visitor, specially the colorful roof with its bison, horses, deer, goats, and painted and engraved symbols. It is in this part of the cave, scarcely penetrated by daylight, where the spaces of ritual and myth begin. This collection of animals and symbols represents a worldview, the spirituality of the hunters of the Upper Palaeolithic age and the start of our history.
The art of Altamira stands out on account of the quality of its paintings and engravings, as well as for the diversity of techniques and styles, and the collection of art spanning a period of more than twenty thousand years. It is the most spectacular embodiment of cave art and constitutes the masterpiece of brilliant painters.
The Times of Altamira
The permanent exhibition "The times of Altamira" gives visitors a closer look at the prehistoric era of the Iberian Peninsula. Different aspects of prehistoric life in Altamira are shown: art, culture, life, etc.
The life of the hunters and gatherers of the Upper Palaeolithic age is revealed through the archaeological objects on display, which take into account their original context and show how they were used and created.
Hunters and gatherers satisfied their requirements for survival by selecting natural resources through hunting, fishing and gathering. Part of their daily routine took place inside the caves, around the fire. Visitors can find out about their diet, the preparation of skins for making clothes and personal ornaments, the organization of the society and its relationship to its surroundings, the economics of exploiting the surrounding environment, seasonal movement throughout the land, and the main archaeological sites in Cantabria.
Thanks to its privileged hilltop site, visitors can enjoy a spectacular scenery at the Museum of Altamira.
Walking in the grounds, they can discover the landscape of the Palaeolithic age, and enjoy the magnificent views of the current landscape.
In addition to this, the first building for the management of the cave, built in 1924, remains, together with the two pavilions that housed the museum in the 1970s.
Close to these buildings there is also a monument created by the sculptor Julio López Hernández in commemoration of the cave discoverer, Marcelino Sanz de Sautuola.
The protection of the cave of Altamira has been the main factor in the location, design and construction of the building housing the current Museum, opened in 2001 and designed by Juan Navarro Baldeweg.
With its minimalist architecture, the building is integrated into the landscape to form a continuation of the essence of the cave of Altamira and has been designed to house the spaces in which the work of the museum is carried out: the permanent collection, including the reproduction of the famous polychromes room, laboratories, seminar rooms for activities, an auditorium, a library, and a shop.