Third, when composing their pictures, the Magdalenian artists took full advantage of the natural contours, facets and angles of the rock surface to make the figures as three-dimensional as possible. The drawings, which include some of the oldest and youngest prehistoric art in the complex, are outlined in black manganese oxide or charcoal and often smudged for maximum volume and relief. Subjects include animals and also hybrid figures humans with animal heads.
Engravings at Altamira appear throughout the cave. Some are independent works, others are added to paintings either to boost volume or to complete the composition. In addition to Altamira's figure painting and figure drawing , the cave also contains a large amount of abstract art , in the form of signs and symbols, most of which are still not understood. They include a number of unusual club-shaped images and tectiforms images shaped like an upward-pointing wedge or arrow , drawn and engraved in the most remote part of the cave, which have yet to be deciphered.
Lastly, there is a quantity of finger marks and finger fluting. For the best examples of finger fluting in Australia, see: Koonalda Cave Art c. Art Materials and Methods. In general, one can say that the Altamira cave was slightly easier to paint than the cave at Lascaux. The ceiling of the main gallery, which hosts most of the paintings in the complex, is within easy reach and would have been relatively well lit by daylight.
But this is more than offset by the advanced painting techniques shown by Altamira's artists which, in the opinion of many experts, gives them the edge over their prehistoric counterparts in France. Colour is the dominant feature of Altamira's art, although the colour pigments used would not have differed significantly from those employed in the rest of Cantabria, or in southwestern France.
Here, as elsewhere, artists relied on the same basic prehistoric colour palette , of black, most shades of red, along with a range of warm colours, from earth brown to straw yellow. Nearly all were made from natural minerals, which do not decay. Iron-rich ochre, haematite and goethite produced the reds, yellow and browns, while manganese made the blacks. Variations in intensity or hue were typically obtained by diluting the pigment with juices, animal blood or saliva, or by scratching the rock to create a paler line.
At Lascaux, research shows that artists did not employ brushes to apply paint. Instead they used pads of moss or hair, or even blocks of raw colour. In addition, they developed a technique of spray-painting using hollowed out bones to blow paint onto the rock surface. Artists at Altamira used an identical method of spray painting, which worked as follows.
Two hollow bones are used; one is positioned vertically in a container containing water mixed with a pigment like ochre; the other is held in the artist's mouth. As the artist blows air across the top of the upright hollow bone, the reduction in air pressure sucks the ochre up the vertical hollow bone, after which it is blown onto the rock by the jet of air from the bone in the mouth of the artist.
A hollowed out colour-stained leg bone of a bird found at Altamira, was dated to approximately 16, BCE, proving that Solutrean-Magdalenian artists were adept at spray painting by this time. Curiously, unlike at Lascaux, where all the drawing was performed using manganese for the black outlines, Altamira artists also used charcoal, right up until 12, BCE, just before the cave was sealed by a landslide. Other Prehistoric Caves in Spain.
Eighteen Stone Age caves decorated with various types of parietal art have been discovered in northern Spain. These Paleolithic rock shelters are located in three different regions - Cantabria, Asturias, and the Basque region - and date from 35, to 11, BCE. They were occupied, it is believed, by groups of a new species of Homo sapiens , known as "anatomically modern man", who gradually replaced Neanderthals throughout the continent of Europe. It was this new species, that scholars believe was responsible for the explosion of cave painting and prehistoric sculpture that began around 40, BCE.
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