This summer’s hottest ticket: Palaeolithic cave art

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Cave of Altamira © UNESCO

Five lucky visitors, chosen at random each week from now until August, have the chance to explore the Cave of Altamira, a Unesco World Heritage Site known as the “Sistine Chapel of Palaeolithic Art”, which has been closed to the public since 2002. To enter the lottery, visitors must be aged 16 or older and buy a ticket to the Museum of Altamira in Santillana del Mar, Cantabria, northern Spain, where staff will draw a handful of names every morning, starting today. Those chosen get to enter the cave wearing disposable overalls, hats, masks and special shoes (stylish!) provided by the museum to protect the ancient murals of bison, horses and other animals, dating from 35,000BC to 11,000BC. The goal of the limited entry is to allow conservators to analyse the impact of human on Altamira’s delicate environment and help officials decide whether it should be reopened to the public permanently. According to Unesco, because of the deep galleries, isolated from the outside climate, the cave art has been particularly well preserved. But in recent years scientists blamed mould growing on the paintings to the body heat and moisture brought in by large numbers of visitors.

From In The Frame

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