Merry Wanderer of the Night  + [Spain]

Southern Europe: Experts criticize Altamira cave reopening to public
The cave paintings of the Altamira caves in the northern Spain region Cantabria, one of the most important in the world and recognized as World Heritage, will be put at risk by the reopening of them to the public.

Experts criticize Altamira cave reopening to public
Bison from the Cave of Altamira in Spain, considered the Sistine Chapel 
of cave painting [Credit: The Gallery Colection/Corbis]

El Pais on Thursday reported that the Pre-History Department of Madrid's Complutense University had sent a letter to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) criticizing the cave management and saying that ''the new program of the Spanish culture ministry, a plan that entails the opening of the cave to visitors, raises important questions about conservation and puts fragile heritage that is enormously important for the understanding of Paleolithic society at risk.''

The letter, signed by 17 professors, was also backed by the History Institute of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), which 70 researchers are part of. The letter, on the webpage of the Pre-History Department, stated that the ''actions undertaken by the culture ministry are a clear threat to conservation'' of heritage that should be preserved for future generations. It also urges UNESCO and other international organizations involved in heritage conservation to ''take note of the risks that political decisions entail'' for Altamira.

The site, closed to the public since 2002 after a report commissioned by the culture ministry and a team led by the French national Gael de Guichen, was reopened in 2012 to selected visits by small groups of five people and a guide. In one year, 250 people visited the caves, according to the program that ended in February. The next meeting of Altamira sponsors will have to decide whether to make the visits a regular occurrence. Experts say that this would lead to irreversible damage.

Source: ANSAmed [March 20, 2015]