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Ice Age Cave Art: The Search for Submerged Spanish Sites

July 1 2017
Could Ice Age cave art sites be lying off the coast of N. Spain waiting to be discovered? One of these ancient sites has already been found off the French coast - do the right conditions exist for Spanish art caves to have also survived undisturbed through the millennia? We plan to go and find out.

July 1 2017


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Expedition Background

Europe during the Ice Age

When modern humans first arrived in Europe around 40,000 years ago, the continent looked quite different than it does today. Ice sheets covered most of the north, and with so much water locked up in the ice, water levels in the region were much lower (up to 100 m) than they are at present.

The oldest art in the world

Dating to between 10,000 and 40,000 years ago, the Ice Age rock art of Europe is currently the oldest known in the world. Our distant ancestors decorated the caves and landscapes around them with vivid paintings and masterful engravings. Learning more about this practice allows us to explore the origins of art, symbolism and creativity, all of which are distinctively human characteristics.

The discovery of Cosquer Cave

Cosquer Cave was discovered off the coast of Marseilles, France in 1985. Its entrance is 37 m underwater today, but would have been accessible during the Ice Age. The angle of the tunnel and the trapped air in the main chamber preserved much of its art. This site contains over 150 intact paintings and engravings in near pristine condition. You can check out this amazing cave here:

Could other sites have survived?

During the Ice Age, the northern coast of Spain extended 10-15 km further out than it does today. Most of the cave art sites that are currently known in this region are found along river valleys that run north to south. The northern sections of these valleys are now submerged, but would have been above water in the past and may very well have had decorated caves running along their length. Could the right conditions exist for some of these sites to have survived just like their counterpart in France? There are only 450 known cave art sites in the whole of Europe, so every new find offers the exciting possibility of gaining additional insight into the world and lives of these ancient artists.

Who knows what hidden treasures are waiting to be discovered under the sea?

We plan to go find out in the summer of 2017 off the coast of Cantabria, Spain...


Es increíble pensar que podríamos encontrar pinturas rupestres con una OpenROV. Vamonos! This is awesome!


Muchas gracias Erika! It's a bit of a long shot, but you never know unless you go look right? And can you imagine if we actually found something??!!


Muy interesante propuesta. Un saludo.
Very interesting plan. Regards


Muchas gracias ion! I'm pretty excited about the possibilities :)

This is exciting There are many of use hoping you will discover more coves and paintings. Good luck!


Thanks charliemaker :) Really hoping so as well - I've spent the last two summers doing field work in that region of Spain at land-based cave art sites and I've got some pretty good ideas as to where we might want to look - fingers crossed!!

Esto parece la bomba. Avisa si necesitas voluntarios!