Thursday 29th September 2016

20160929_12423420160929_13375120160929_121049755444dc120160929_11512120160929_11515320160929_11521920160929_11514420160929_11513820160929_11515020160929_115433img_05994446566634533366665555uuuuyyyimg_05985

Finding Altimira

Banderas plays Marcelino Sanz de Sautuola, a well-to-do amateur archaeologist and prehistorian whose insatiable curiosity and acceptance of Darwinian principles often place him at odds with his loving but devoutly religious wife, Conchita (Golshifteh Farahani), and a dogmatic local monsignor (Rupert Everett). When Marcelino and Maria (Allegra Allen), his worshipful 9-year-old daughter, find millennia-old paintings of bison in the Altamira cave on his property, he is thrilled by what he deduces is evidence that prehistoric humans attained intellectual prowess thousands of years earlier than 19th-century scientists had heretofore theorized. Much to his dismay, however, his discovery brings him more pain than acclaim.

altamira-spainfinding-altamira-trailermaxresdefault

Marcelino is denounced as hubristic, if not downright heretical, by the monsignor, causing Conchita no end of distress. (Galileo is pointedly referenced during a key early scene.) Worse, the enthusiastic amateur is publicly humiliated by implacable experts — chief among them the noted Émile Cartailhac (Clément Sibony), one of Marcelino’s scientific idols — and accused of faking the cave paintings with the help of a young artist (Pierre Niney) who, not incidentally, may be in love with Conchita.

In the midst of all this turmoil — actually, even before her dad gets brickbats tossed his way — Maria repeatedly imagines the bison angrily stampeding off the cave ceiling, and at one point gathering just outside her bedroom door. It’s easy to admire the special effects employed to animate these fantasies, but rather more difficult to refrain from laughing out loud at them. Banderas labors under the handicap of having to convey Marcelino’s sagacity with clumps of stilted dialogue provided by scriptwriters Olivia Hetreed and Jose Luis Lopez Linares. (“It is impossible to ask too many questions, as long as you pay attention to the answers.”) Still, he acquits himself admirably with his restrained yet subtly detailed portrayal of an intelligent man subjected to the stings of intolerant attitudes and professional jealousies.

la-1473897428-snap-photo

The Cave of Altamira (Spanish: Cueva de Altamira is a cave in Cantabria, Spain, famous for its cave paintings featuring drawings and polychrome rock paintings of wild mammals and human hands, created between 18,500 and 14,000 years ago, during the Upper Paleolithic by early human beings. Altamira was the first cave] in which prehistoric cave paintings were discovered. When the discovery was first made public in 1880, it led to a bitter public controversy between experts which continued into the early 20th century, since many did not believe prehistoric man had the intellectual capacity to produce any kind of artistic expression. The acknowledgment of the authenticity of the paintings, which finally came in 1902, changed the perception of prehistoric human beings. It is located near the town of Santillana del Mar in Cantabria, Spain, 30 km west of the city of Santander. The cave with its paintings has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

The cave is approximately 1000 meters long[2] and consists of a series of twisting passages and chambers. The main passage varies from two to six meters in height. The cave was formed through collapses following early Karst phenomena in the calcareous rock of Mount Vispieres.

altamira-descubridorescaptura-de-pantalla-2014-06-01-a-las-19-42-03

Archaeological excavations in the cave floor found rich deposits of artifacts from the Upper Solutrean (c. 18,500 years ago) and Lower Magdalenian (between c. 16,500 and 14,000 years ago). Both periods belong to the Paleolithic or Old Stone Age. In the millennia between these two occupations, the cave was evidently inhabited only by wild animals. Human occupants of the site were well-positioned to take advantage of the rich wildlife that grazed in the valleys of the surrounding mountains as well as the marine life available in nearby coastal areas. Around 13,000 years ago a rockfall sealed the cave’s entrance, preserving its contents until its eventual discovery, which occurred after a nearby tree fell and disturbed the fallen rocks.

Human occupation was limited to the cave mouth, although paintings were created throughout the length of the cave. The artists used charcoal and ochre or haematite to create the images, often diluting these pigments to produce variations in intensity and creating an impression of chiaroscuro. They also exploited the natural contours of the cave walls to give their subjects a three-dimensional effect. The Polychrome Ceiling is the most impressive feature of the cave, depicting a herd of extinct steppe bison (Bison priscus) in different poses, two horses, a large doe, and possibly a wild boar.
Great hall of policromes of Altamira, published by M. Sanz de Sautuola in 1880.
Dated to the Magdalenian occupation, these paintings include abstract shapes in addition to animal subjects. Solutrean paintings include images of horses and goats, as well as handprints that were created when artists placed their hands on the cave wall and blew pigment over them to leave a negative image. Numerous other caves in northern Spain contain Paleolithic art, but none is as complex or well-populated as Altamira.

In 1879, amateur archaeologist Marcelino Sanz de Sautuola was led by his eight-year-old daughter María to discover the cave’s drawings. The cave was excavated by Sautuola and archaeologist Juan Vilanova y Piera from the University of Madrid, resulting in a much acclaimed publication in 1880 which interpreted the paintings as Paleolithic in origin. The French specialists, led by Gabriel de Mortillet and Emile Cartailhac, were particularly adamant in rejecting the hypothesis of Sautuola and Piera, and their findings were loudly ridiculed at the 1880 Prehistorical Congress in Lisbon. Due to the supreme artistic quality, and the exceptional state of conservation of the paintings, Sautuola was even accused of forgery. A fellow countryman maintained that the paintings had been produced by a contemporary artist, on Sautuola’s orders.

It was not until 1902, when several other findings of prehistoric paintings had served to render the hypothesis of the extreme antiquity of the Altamira paintings less offensive, that the scientific society retracted their opposition to the Spaniards. That year, Emile Cartailhac emphatically admitted his mistake in the famous article, “Mea culpa d’un sceptique”, published in the journal L’Anthropologie. Sautuola, having died 14 years earlier, did not live to enjoy his rehabilitation.

Further excavation work on the cave was done by Hermilio Alcalde del Río between 1902–04, the German Hugo Obermaier between 1924–25 and finally by Joaquín González Echegaray in 1981.

altamira_bisonthumbnail_24848

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: