Cuevas de El Castillo y Las Monedas

Cueva del Castillo - El Castillo - Caves of Monte Castillo


Useful Information

photography
Galeria A-Ciervas (panel 22). La Pasiega, Spain. Public Domain.
photography
Galeria A-(Bisonte-Caballo). La Pasiega, Spain. Public Domain.
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Galeria A-Primer grupo (oposición Bisonte-Caballos). La Pasiega, Spain. Public Domain.
Location: Puente Viesgo. N-623, Carretera de Burgos. From Puente Viesgo take the Monte El Castillo road SP-6022, 1.4 km to parking lot, 250 m (5min) walk to the ticket office.
(43.2908, -3.9665)
Open: MAR to 15-JUN Tue-Sun 9:30-15.
16-JUN to 14-SEP Tue-Sat 10-14:30, Sun 10-15:30.
15-SEP to 18-OCT daily 9:30-15.
19-OCT to FEB Tue-Fri, Sun 9:30-15:30, Sat 15:30-17:30.
Last visit 1 h before closing.
Closed on 01-JAN, 06-JAN, 24-DEC, 25-DEC, 31-DEC.
[2020]
Fee: Adults EUR 3, Children (4-12) EUR 1.50, Children (0-3) free.
Groups (20+): Adults EUR 2.50.
[2020]
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave ArchaeologyPainted Cave
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension:
Guided tours: El Castillo: D=45 min.
Las Monedas: D=45 min.
Photography: forbidden
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: H. Alcalde del Rio, L. Sierra (1911): Les Cavernes de la Region Cantabrique.
A. W. G. Pike1, D. L. Hoffmann, M. García-Diez, P. B. Pettitt, J. Alcolea, R. De Balbín, C. González-Sainz, C. de las Heras, J. A. Lasheras, R. Montes, J. Zilhão (2012): U-Series Dating of Paleolithic Art in 11 Caves in Spain, Science 15 June 2012: Vol. 336 no. 6087 pp. 1409-1413, DOI: 10.1126/science.1219957
Henri Breuil, Hugo Obermaier, Hermilio Alcalde Del Río (1913): La Pasiega à Puente viesgo Ed. A. Chêne. Mónaco, 1913
Address: Cuevas de El Castillo y Las Monedas, Interpretation Centre of the Caves of Monte El Castillo, National Highway 623 (Burgos road), Puente Viesgo, Tel: +34-942-598425, Fax: +34-942-598305.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

1903 Cueva de El Castillo (El Castillo Cave) discovered by Alcalde del Rio.
1911 Cueva de La Pasiega (Cave of La Pasiega) discovered by Werner and Hugo Obermaier during the excavation of Cueva de El Castillo.
1911 exploration results of H. Alcalde del Rio and L. Sierra published.
1952 Cueva de Las Monedas discovered.
13-AUG-2008 all four caves inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, extension of the Altamira listing.

Description

photography
Galeria B-Gran Ciervo (panel 59). La Pasiega, Spain. Public Domain.
photography
Galeria B-Numero 50. La Pasiega, Spain. Public Domain.
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Galeria B-Numero 51. La Pasiega, Spain. Public Domain.

The hill El Castillo (354 m asl) near Puente Viesgo is riddled with caves. Although not connected they are part of the same cave system which crosses the whole mountain. The caves were opened by the erosion of the limestone and are accessible for many thousand years. Many of the caves have been used by Stone Age man, many contain artworks like paintings and engravings. The entrance areas were inhabited and contain thick sedimentary layers with archaeological remains.

The 1,000 m long Cueva de El Castillo (El Castillo Cave) contains more than 150 paintings of different styles from the upper Palaeolithic. Decorations in red ochre in the forms of hand stencils dated to about 35,000 BP. In the entrance region an 18 m thick deposit, the thickest known at the Cantabrian coast, was excavated and revealed remains from the Acheulien to the Bronze Age. At the beginning of the 20th century this allowed to establish a complete relative sequence of the European palaeolithic for the first time. The cave was discovered in 1903 by Hermilio Alcalde del Rio. It was first explored and excavated by Hugo Obermaier. The excavation was continued by Hermilio Alcalde del Rio and L. Sierra, the results were published in 1911.

Nearby lies the 300 m deep Cueva Las Monedas (Las Monedas Cave). Next to the central chamber lies a small lateral chamber containing black paintings of animals and a panel of engravings, depicting horses, goats, bears, bison and reindeer. They were dated to the Magdalenian, about 13,000 years ago. It was discovered in 1952 and named for a number of 16th-century coins found inside. The cave was explored by Eduardo Ripoll Perelló (1923–2006) after its discovery.

The next cave is Cueva Las Chimeneas (Cave of the Chimneys). The chimneys this cave is named after are shafts connecting the two levels of the cave. There are some panels of parallel lines called macarroni, abstract figures and also some animal pictures.

And finally there is Cueva La Pasiega (La Pasiega Cave). The complex cave has a length of 300 m and shows both paintings and engravings. The artworks are of comparable quality as in El Castillo Cave. It was discovered by H. Obermaier and P. Wernert. The discoveries were published in the book La Pasiega à Puente viesgo by the discoverers, Henri Breuil and Hermilio Alcalde Del Río. The drawings on this page are from this book.

According to a study which was started in 2005 and was still ongoing in 2012, a painiting at El Castilla is 40,800 years old, which is at least 15,000 years older than previously thought. The red sphere was dated using the Uranium/Thorium method, which is more accurate than the C14 method with older samples. Until now the paintings at Chauvet cave in France were thought to be the oldest, being about 32,000 to 37,000 years old. The consequence of this discovery is a new discussion about the origin of the paintings. According to current theory Homo neanderthalensis lived in Europe from about 250,000 years ago until about 35,000 years ago. Homo sapiens arrived in Europe around 45,000 years ago from the east and it took several thousand years to reach the western parts around 41,000 years ago. The question is, were those painting made by the first arriving modern men or by the native Neanderthals.

Two caves, El Castillo and Las Monedas, are open to the public. The ticket office for both is located at the cave of El Castillo. Its best to buy the tickets online and be at least 30 minutes before the begin of the tour at the ticket office to obtain the tickets.