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Early investigations suggested that the most of it was created at the same time as the Lascaux cave paintings - that is, during the early period of Magdalenian art (15,000 BCE).

But according to the most recent research, some drawings were made between 23,000 and 34,000 BCE, during the period of Aurignacian art, contemporaneous with the Chauvet Cave paintings and the Pech-Merle cave paintings.

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It was closed for conservation purposes in 1977 (reopened 1982), and again in 2002.

Today, the cave is only accessible to scientists and a handful of visitors chosen by lottery.

Neanderthals had the ability to create works of art, according to a team of archaeologists.

The discovery of paintings made over 64,000 years ago in Spanish caves suggests Neanderthals possessed creativity and the ability to think symbolically, like modern humans.

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.

Other important Cantabrian sites of Ice Age cave art include the El Castillo Cave (c.39,000 BCE), and the Pasiega Cave (c.16,000 BCE), as well as La Pileta Cave (18,000 BCE) (Malaga) and Tito Bustillo Cave (14,000 BCE) (Asturias).In 1985, Altamira was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.In 2008, UNESCO added 17 additional caves to the Altamira World Heritage Site.About 12,000 BCE, a landslide sealed the cave's entrance, thus preserving its contents until its accidental discovery in the late 19th century.Like many similar prehistoric caves, Altamira has been dogged by environmental and conservation problems.“Our results show that the paintings we dated are, by far, the oldest known cave art in the world, and were created at least 20,000 years before modern humans arrived in Europe from Africa – therefore they must have been painted by Neanderthals.” The work was carried out by a team of scientists from several European institutions, and their results were published in the journal by the same team, documented the discovery of perforated and coloured marine shells in another Spanish cave.

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