Spain rethinks reopening of prehistoric art 'Sistine Chapel'
Sunday 19 December 2010
Spain's Altamira cave, dubbed the "Sistine Chapel" of Paleolithic art because of the paintings of animals on its ceiling, will no longer reopen to the public as planned at the end of the year.
The cave located some 30 kilometres (19 miles) west of the northern city of Santander has been closed since 2002 because the breath and body heat from visitors threatened the fragile natural pigments used in the cave art.
But in June the foundation which manages the the cave announced it would reopen the site to the public at the end of 2010 once a panel of experts determined how many people could safely be allowed to visit.
Now officials have reversed course. Spain's culture ministry said in a statement late on Thursday that "today it is not advisable to change the conditions for access to the cave or propose public visits."
The ministry said a "multidisciplinary international group" of conservation experts would be set up that will determine what impact human presence has on the rock art in order to decide if visits to the cave should be allowed.
The group will deliver its findings within a "maximum period of two years", the ministry added.
The lifelike drawings on the cave's ceiling of deer, wild boar, bison and horses beautifully rendered in shades of red, yellow, black and brown that are estimated to be at least 14,000 years old were discovered in 1879.
Tens of thousands of people visited the cave over the next century until it was closed to the public for the first time in 1977.
It was reopened in 1982 but with restrictions on the number of people who could visit it and remained open until September 2002.
Some 2.5 million people have visited a replica of the cave located in the northern town of Santillana del Mar since it opened eight years ago.
The Altamira cave was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1985.
The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations
Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes
Hashima: Among the ruins on Japan's Battleship Island, the place that time forgot
The 50 Best spas
A commuter is getting revenge on First Capital Connect by Photoshopping its CEO's face every time his train is delayed
Simon Calder: Heathrow's Terminal 2, barely powered up and it's unfit for the job
The 50 Best European beach breaks
- 1 Why I'm on the brink of burning my Israeli passport
- 2 Comfortable in their own skin
- 3 Japanese plant experts produce 10,000 lettuce heads a day in LED-lit indoor farm
- 4 War is war: Why I stand with Israel
- 5 L'Oreal cuts ties with Belgium supporter Axelle Despiegelaere after hunting trip photographs
Sustained immigration has not harmed Britons' employment, say government advisers
War is war: Why I stand with Israel
7/7 memorial defaced on anniversary of 2005 attacks with ‘Blair lied thousands died’ graffiti
Australia facing international condemnation after turning around Sri Lankans at sea
Even when it brutalises one of its own teenage citizens, America is helpless against Israel
Socialist Worker called to apologise over ‘vile’ article saying Eton schoolboy Horatio Chapple's death is ‘reason to save the polar bears’
£45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...
Voluntary, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Are you keen on...
£33000 - £45000 per annum + 8% Bonus, pension: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: ...
£30K- £40K pa + Commision £10K + Benefits: Charter Selection: Rapidly expandin...