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Roithmayr, F. (2020) Altamiraltamiraltamira. In: Ferris, N., Quinn, B., Stuart, M. and Wlash-Lister, A. (eds.) On Translation, Transmission & Transposition. Bricks From The Kiln, London, pp. 65-116. ISBN 9780995683525

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One specific manifestation in a series of long-term engagements with exchanges between materials, between materials and bodies, and between bodies. In 1879 Spanish landowner Marcelino Sanz de Sautuola was searching for prehistoric artifact on the floor of a cave in northern Spain when his young daughter interrupted, calling out “Look, Papa, oxen” as she looked up at the cave’s ceiling and “saw vivid yet delicate paintings of bison, almost fully life-sized, that appear to be tum- bling across the sky.” The cave of Altamira has since become famous for its Upper Paleolithic art, featuring drawings and polychrome rock paintings of wild mammals and human hands. Its special relevance comes from the fact that it was the first cave in which prehistoric cave paintings were discovered. The initial dating of the paintings led to a major controversy during the late nineteenth century: in uenced by the publication of Darwin’s theories and the earlier “Academy dispute” about the beginning of human kind, many people and scientists dismissed the cave paint- ings as forgeries because they did not believe prehistoric man had the intellectual capacity to produce any kind of artistic expression. It wasn’t until 1902 that the paintings were accepted as being more than 15,000 years old. Scientists still continue to evaluate the age of the cave artwork: in 2008, a new evaluation estimated parts of the artworks are as old as 25,000 and 35,000 years. In 1962, the Deutsches Museum in Munich opened a new cen- tral presentation in the chemical sciences wing: it was a 1:1 replica of a segment of the Altamira ceiling, intended to demonstrate the very rst human application of paint as chemical knowledge. The replica cast was heralded as a technical revolution at the time — it was more than ve years in the planning, the ceiling was measured using ste- reogrammetric processes. Based on these images, a positive plaster model was sculpted, registering every detail found in the original cave ceiling. The positive plaster was molded in silicon rubber, in which an especially developed concrete ceiling was cast, with the mineral components of the concrete cement exactly duplicating the original mineral combination at Altamira. The chemical science department of the Museum has since moved into another wing of the museum, leaving its central pres- entation behind, because it couldn’t be taken out of the room into which it had been cast. By arrangement with the Spanish government at the time, the Deutsches Museum agreed to produce one other copy of the cave ceiling using the same silicon mould, this time in the Archaeological Museum in Madrid. Afterwards, the mould had to be destroyed to prevent further proliferation. During the 1960s and 1970s, the original paintings began to be damaged by the carbon dioxide in the breath of the large number of visitors. Altamira was completely closed to the public in 1977. Another replica cave and museum were built nearby and completed in 2001, reproducing the cave and its art.

Item Type:Book or Report Section
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Arts and Communication Design > Art > Fine Art
ID Code:95981
Publisher:Bricks From The Kiln

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