Altamira cave dating
Both periods belong to the Paleolithic or Old Stone Age.
In the millennia between these two occupations, the cave was evidently inhabited only by wild animals.
It was not until 1902, when several other findings of prehistoric paintings had served to render the hypothesis of the extreme antiquity of the Altamira paintings less offensive, that the scientific society retracted their opposition to the Spaniards.
That year, Emile Cartailhac emphatically admitted his mistake in the famous article, "Mea culpa d'un sceptique", published in the journal L'Anthropologie.
It remains one of the most important painting cycles of prehistory, originating in the Magdalenian and Solutrean periods of the Upper Paleolithic.
A later study published in 2012 based on data obtained from further uranium-thorium dating research, dated some paintings in several caves in North Spain, including some of the claviform signs in the "Gran sala" of Altamira, and concluded that the first works in Altamira belonged to the Aurignacian culture, 35,600 years old, right at the beginning of human occupation of North Spain by modern humans.
This means that these drawings could have been made by Neanderthal authors instead of homo sapiens, as assumed until now.
Under the name Cave of Altamira and Paleolithic Cave Art of Northern Spain (Cueva de Altamira y arte rupestre paleolítico del Norte de España) are grouped 18 caves of northern Spain, which together represent the apogee of Upper Paleolithic cave art in Europe between 35,000 and 11,000 years ago (Aurignacian, Gravettian, Solutrean, Magdalenian, Azilian).
They have been collectively designated a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO in 2008.
When the discovery was first made public in 1880, it led to a bitter public controversy between experts which continued into the early 20th century, since many did not believe prehistoric man had the intellectual capacity to produce any kind of artistic expression.