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Explore the natural surroundings

Natural surroundings
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The Museum of Altamira stands on a hilltop overlooking the beautiful Cantabrian countryside. From this privileged vantage point, looking north towards the coast you can see rolling green hills and meadows and the valley in which the quaint town of Santillana del Mar is nestled. Rising up to the southwest are the majestic summits of the Picos de Europa and the spurs of the Cantabrian Mountains.

The museum sits in the middle of a large park closed to motorised traffic, which creates a protective buffer zone around the Cave of Altamira but also allows visitors to enjoy nature and see some of the same plant species that grew here during the Upper Palaeolithic. The area surrounding the cave is a recreation of the prehistoric landscape based on the analysis of pollen recovered from the archaeological site. Here you will find birch and hazel groves, scattered stands of oak and ash, and a profusion of herbaceous plants like heather and wild grasses.

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The extensive museum grounds also contain the original administration building, a pavilion that now houses temporary exhibitions, and the country lodge built in 1924 to exhibit the first artefacts found during the excavation of Altamira. Between these two buildings lies the entrance to the Cave of Altamira and a monument dedicated to the man who discovered it, Marcelino Sanz de Sautuola, by the sculptor Julio López Hernández. The park is also home to another cavern, the stalactites cave, very close to the Cave of Altamira. It is not an archaeological site and has no rock art, but it was used as a burial chamber in the Bronze Age. The presence of this second cavern explains why people often speak of Altamira caves in the plural, but in reality there is only one Cave of Altamira.

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