Members of the Altamira Museum research team and those responsible for the Handpas project (hands of the past) have found three new hands engraved on the walls of the Cantabrian cave, which "almost certainly" were recorded more than 20,000 years ago.
These three hands, which are added to the six that were already known, are in a state of conservation that hinders their visibility and were identified during the course of some documentation work and inventory of the figures of the cavity and, later, submitted to digital treatment in the framework of Handpas, a "3D catalog of the Palaeolithic hands of Europe".
The results of this collaboration have been announced by the deputy director of the Altamira Museum, Carmen de las Heras, and the person in charge of the Handpas project, Hipólito Collado, head of the Archeology section of the Junta de Extremadura, both accompanied by the director of the Museum , Pilar Fatás.
Eight of the painted hands are on the ceiling of the Polychrome Room, between the horse representations, and the other is in the Final Gallery, more than 200 meters from the entrance, with the particularity that, in addition to being the only recorded in negative (the rest follow the technique in positive), it seems to be a child. The fact that one of these hands corresponded to a child is, according to De las Heras, something "quite exceptional" because there are very few of this size. In addition, it is positive and was made in an intense black color.
Only one of the hands was made using the negative technique, which is where the hand rests on the ceiling and the pigment is blown around it with an airbrush or with the blowing of the artist; while with the positive technique the pigment hand is impregnated and pressed against the rock to leave a clear impression. The hands in negative of the Room of Polychromes are of an indefinite color nowadays, given their state of conservation, although some are of a dark blackish violet tone and others of a more or less intense red. Although it is not known with certainty, De las Heras believes that the hands are superimposed on the horses.
In his opinion, the importance of this finding is not so much the number of figures found, but that, having a minimum age of 20,000 years ago, they show what the polychrome ceiling was like before the famous paintings of the bison. "Thirty-two years after the last publication on the Art of Altamira, the cave continues to produce relevant findings that never cease to amaze us and show its greatness", added De las Heras.
For his part, Collado has reviewed some of the data obtained in the study, as about 70% of the prehistoric population was right, according to allows guess the laterality of their imprints. In the second part of the event, held at the Altamira Museum, the documentary was screened Handpas, Hands of the Past, a video that has already been awarded at several international scientific film festivals and with which it tries to answer, through interviews and in a didactic way, many of the questions of hands in rock art.
In addition, asked about the controversy that arises from the fact that some traces of the cave of Maltravieso (Cáceres), dated about 67,000 years ago and considered the oldest in the world, may be made by Neanderthals, Collado has replied that whoever is against showing it with data.