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    The astonishing—and accidental—Ice Age discovery made by Spanish spelunkers

    Published September 22, 2022

    10 min read

    The Ardines massif on Spain’s northern coast is riddled with limestone caves. It lies a few miles from some of the most famous sites of Paleolithic cave art in the world, includ­ing Altamira, discovered in 1868, and El Castillo, discov­ered in 1903. In spring 1968 young cavers exploring the massif were about to find an­other one.

    Equipped with only basic gear, the group was spelunk­ing in a cavern known locally as Pozu’l Ramu. On their way into the cave, they stopped at a subterranean spring, but one of them wandered a little farther forward from the group. “Paintings!” they suddenly heard him shout. As the cavers pressed forward, the light from their lamps caught an animal’s leg painted on the wall. Despite not being archaeologists, they could tell this find was significant and alerted the authorities the next day.

    Shortly after the discovery, one of the cavers, Celestino “Tito” Fernández Bustillo, was killed in an accident, and so it was decided to name the cave after him. After decades of research a plethora of paint­ings, engravings, and sculp­ture found in the Tito Bustil­lo Cave stand among the ear­liest examples of human ar­tistic expression in Europe, and vividly reflect changing subjects and techniques during the Ice Age.

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