Spain’s Cultural Ministry to Reopen Caves of Altamira Despite Scientists’ Warnings

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MADRID (AP).- A cave complex boasting prized prehistoric paintings will reopen after eight years of closure, despite scientist’s warnings that heat and moisture from human visitors damage the site known as the Sistine Chapel of Paleolithic Art. The Culture Ministry and the site’s board of directors said Tuesday that visits to the Caves of Altamira in the northern Cantabria region will resume next year, although on a still-unspecified, restricted basis. The main chamber at Altamira features 21 bison painted in red and black, which appear to be to charging against a low, limestone ceiling. The site was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1985. The paintings are estimated to be 14,000 to 20,000 years old. Discovered in 1868, the cave complex became a tourist magnet and by the 1970s received 3,000 visitors a day. Body heat and moisture from people’s breath were blamed for a gradual deterioration of the images, and from 1982-2002 only a handul of visits were allowed each day. Th