Experts Ridiculed Amateur Who Died Before His Vindication

(p. 236) The Altamira cave, near Santander, near the Biscay coast, is 961 feet (263 meters) long, a cavern of chambers and passages, ending in a narrow defile known as the Horse’s Tail. A local landowner, Don Marcelino Sanz de Sautuola, noticed some black marks at the back of the cave in 1876, but thought nothing of them until his eight-year-old daughter Maria, bored with his excavations, wandered with a candle into a side chamber. “Toros! Toros!” she cried, in one classic, and seemingly authentic, tale of archaeological discovery. Father and daughter gazed in amazement at the colorful bison on the ceiling of the low chamber.

Sautuola noticed close similarities between the art and pictures of animals he had seen on antler and bone fragments from French rock shelters at an exhibition in Paris. He claimed that the Altamira bison were the work of Stone Age artists but was ridiculed by scholars for his pains. The unfortunate landowner was vindicated after his death by paintings and engravings discovered at La Mouthe and Les Combarelles caves in 1895 and 1901.

Fagan, Brian. Cro-Magnon: How the Ice Age Gave Birth to the First Modern Humans. New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2010.
(Note: italics in original.)

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