Spain is one of the countries where researchers i nd remains of the animals pertaining to mammoth fauna most often. The southernmost location where such discoveries have been made is situated near the town Padul in the Province of Granada. This is where the paleontologists have found the remains of four adult mammoths (aged 26–32 thousand years).
The discovery has indicated that mammoths managed to reach the snowy peaks of the Spanish Sierra Nevada mountain range in that era. In 2008, 400 more remains of mammoth fauna were found near the town Viladecans in the vicinity of Barcelona. It is interesting to note that these animals lived in these parts permanently, and not just came to the place while l eeing the glacier
Evolution of the Earth
The history of Earth and life on Earth, extending back over 6 and 4 billion years respectively, resembles a spiral with every turn repeating the previous one to a certain extent. Warm climate periods interlace with global glaciation; the ocean assails the land covering it whole, then falls back again; the continents come together forming a single supercontinent, then crawl away spreading all over the planet again. The evolution of living creatures is incessant: over 3 billion years ago, the Earth was solely populated by bacteria, then algae and terrestrial plants came along, then the mono- and multicellular animals. Trees and grass covered the land. Batrachosauria (“Frog Sauria”) were succeeded by dinosaurs that in turn had to make room for the mammals. And then the last Ice Age came, and with it came the time of the mammoth and the homo sapiens. The mammoth and other mammals of that time played a signii cant role in the evolution of the man. This is the story told by the museum’s exhibition.
The caves of Spain – treasury of the World
As the Spanish natural historian Marcelino Sanz de Sautuola and his eight years old daughter Maria discovered the now famous rock carving in the Cantabrian Altamira Cave, even the experienced archaeologists would not believe them. Only 14 years after the discoverer’s death did Emile Cartailhac, one of his persecutors, apologize in public in an article titled “The Altamira Cave, Spain: a skeptic’s repentance” (“La grotte d’Altamira, Espagne. Mea culpa d’un sceptique”) published in the L’Anthropologie magazine. He has later become one of the leading researchers of the cave art.
Earlier references to the cave art, found among others in the works of Miguel de Cervantes (“Don Quixote”, 1615) and Lope de Vega (“The Backwoods of the Duke of Alba”, 1633), have been simply ignored, considered mere i gments of the writers’ imagination. Over 300 caves featuring rock “canvas” have been discovered by today, mostly in the north of Spain and the south of France. It is peculiar that all Paleolithic drawings found from Cantabrian Mountains to the Urals may be attributed to a single school of art. The greatest interest is not aroused by the similar motifs and depictions of specii c animals such as mammoths, woolly rhinoceroses, bison, horses, or deer (they should after all resemble their prototypes), but by the abstract shapes in the drawings: striated trapezes, rhombi and grids. The animal depictions are much more than simple drawings or engravings.
Most of these pictures are three-dimensional, applied with consideration of the natural relief of the surface. Cracks, chips, and protrusions serve as essential details of the design, and the numerous contours repeating themselves in slightly dif erent angles produce an illusion of a moving animal. The whole gigantic picture, often covering the dome of the cave chamber as well as the walls, was supposed to come to life when lit by a boni re or a torch, obtaining a fourth dimension – the time. Lastly, the rock motifs bear very few depictions of the man, even though all of the animals are drawn with amazing precision – we create scientii c reconstruction of the extinct species based on these drawings today.
The picturesque compositions are tightly bound to the acoustics of the cave chamber: they are always located at the spot where the echo originates, turning the footsteps of a single person into the brattle of a whole herd. The caves of Spain are also a detailed chronicle of the history of mankind which enables us to track the succession of species: a number of such bridging species in particular were discovered in Spain.
The prehistoric man
The Iberian Peninsula was populated 500 thousand years ago. Spain is the cradle of the humankind on the European continent. The Neanderthal encampments at Gibraltar appeared 35 thousand years ago. The most ancient traces of their life activities were found at the Torralba site (Soria Province): mammoth skulls, bones of the Merck’s rhinoceros, Stenon’s horse, and of other animals of that time. 15 thousand years ago, the culture of La Madeleine existed in the area of the modern Catalonia.
The hunters of La Madeleine adorned cave walls with depictions of the animals they hunted: bi- son, mammoths, rhinos, horses, bears. The carvings were made with a sharpened rock and painted with mineral colors. The most widely known cave drawings are the primeval art masterpieces discovered in the Altamira Cave in the vicinity of Santander – the i rst discovery of this kind in history.
The mammoth and the man
The academic dispute about what to blame for the mammoth’s extinction – was it the gradual climate change or was it the man – has been going on for decades. Spanish mathematicians have i nally managed to separate the both factors. In their opinion, the man was the last straw that broke the hairy giant’s back.
The paleontologists have long since proven that the mammoths had survived quite a few climate warming phases: the area of their distribution shrunk by a double-digit factor, but the population recovered invariably thousands or tens of thousands years later. The only agent that distinguishes the last episode was the appearance of the man. The mammoths had a very hard time 126 thousand years ago as the global warming drove them all the way to the Arctic Region, but even then the animals survived the unprecedented heat unharmed.
Only 6 thousand years ago, during a relatively tolerable warming, the mammoths faced not only the land shortage problem, but also the merciless and very resourceful hunters of the species Homo Sapiens. The calculations performed by the Spanish scientists show that, if every man consumed one mammoth per three years, the mammoths would have had no chances to survive (according to our calculations however, as of today, it would even have been enough if a tribe of 20 ate one mammoth per three years). One way or another, the man did the job.