Cueva de las Manos

Cave of the Hands

Useful Information

Location: Patagonia Region, Santa Cruz Province. In the Alto Valle Río Pinturas (High Valley Paintings River), north east of Santa Cruz. (47.15 S 70.67 W)
Guided tours:  
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BP 13,000 to 9,500 paintings made by Tehuelches natives.
BP 7350 14 C date for archaeological remains.
1972 discovered by archaeologists.
1999 declared UNESCO World Heritage Site.


In the Alto Valle Río Pinturas (High Valley Paintings River), north east of Santa Cruz. The caves are located on private lands, visitors are only allowed due to kindness of the owners.

The Cave of the Hands, is named after the stencilled outlines of human hands in the cave, but there are also hunting scenes as well as many pictures of animals, such as the guanacos (Lama guanicoe) or lama, which are still common in the region. More than 890 paintings of human hands appear together with geometric figures and animals along the walls of the cave which is only 24 meters deep by 15 meters wide at the entrance and 10 meters high. The hands painted in live colors varying from red, violet and reddish violet, white, black, yellow, to orange ochre and a few in green. They occur as both negative and positive forms. The great majority are left hands belonging to children, youths and adults.

The Caves of the Hands was a sacred site for the Tehuelches Indians, who lived in the area long before the Europeans arrived. They used the cave during their Summer hunting season, moving back to the coast in the Autumn to avoid the harsh Pantoganian Winters.

Text by Tony Oldham (2002). With kind permission.