Read an Excerpt
There are many reasons for visiting the Ice Age decorated caves of Europe. You may be making a pilgrimage, in homage to the region's artists of 30,000-10,000 years ago; you may be visiting out of curiosity, books, television or lecture slides having triggered your interest. Whatever your motivation, there is simply no substitute for seeing the sites themselves. You will see some of humankind's greatest artistic achievements in their unusual, evocative and original settings. In addition, many of the caves are in regions of outstanding beauty and wonderful climates, famed for their wines and cuisines.
A visit to an Ice Age cave is a tremendous privilege. After more than a century of research, we still know of only about three hundred such sites in Eurasia, and because of difficulties of access or conservation concerns only a small fraction of these are open to the public. Thus Ice Age caves constitute a very limited and finite resource. In a cave visitors can approach original masterpieces really closely and see the images precisely where they were created, standing or crouching just where the artists did - an experience unparalleled by major art galleries such as the Louvre or the Prado.
In many cases, the journey to the cave entrance and the route through the chambers give your experience an immediacy, purity and vividness. There is nothing like a stalactite dripping on your head to remind you that you are in a pristine and natural setting. Entering a world far removed from one of commerce, art dealers and critics enhances a feeling of connection with the artists.
Although a number of decorated caves have had to be closed to the public in recent years (for example Santimamiñe, Maltravieso), others have been re-opened (for example Candamo). In addition some new discoveries have been opened for the first time - most notably El Pendo, Church Hole (Creswell Crags) and various open-air sites in Spain and Portugal. Moreover, such has been the enormous success of the facsimiles of the caves of Lascaux and Altamira that a whole series of such replicas is already in production and will be opening in the next few years.
In view of the ever-growing popularity of Ice Age cave art, this book is intended to help you prepare for an enjoyable and meaningful visit. The excellent and knowledgeable guides at each site will further enhance your experience.