Archaeologists working in Spain have uncovered a trove of cave etchings that has the potential to revolutionize our understanding of human history in Europe. The cave art was found near the resort town of Lekeitio on Spain’s northwestern coast. According to Spanish news outlet Deia, Basque local officials gave a press conference announcing the etchings, which they are describing as a “treasure of humanity.” The etchings depict various animals such as bison, horses, and goats, as well as lions – a first for cave art in this particular area and from this time period.
The etchings are found over 50 meters from the cave’s entrance and stretch across the walls of the cave in two main panels that depict dozens of animals. These works of Paleolithic art have been estimated to be close to 15,000 years old and range in size from just a few centimeters across to up to over 150 cm (~5 ft). The fact that these new cave etchings bear some resemblance to other well-known cave art in France has some archaeologists now wondering if the Paleolithic hunter-gatherer groups that made them might have been farther-reaching than previously thought.
Visitors are not currently allowed at the site, which lies underneath a building in the heart of Lekeitio and has been described as extremely difficult and dangerous to reach. These new etchings were found not far from Spain’s famed Cantabria region, where the Cave of Altamira, Spain’s most famous prehistoric archaeological site, was discovered in 1880. The etchings in Altamira were only the second set of Paleolithic cave art ever to be found and their authenticity was hotly debated. As for this set of early human art, Lekeitio officials have planned another press conference for the end of this month after analysis and carbon dating on these new etchings can be confirmed.