Prehistoric paintings and engravings of animals and hunting scenes have been discovered in the Atxurra cave, on the Spanish side of the Basque country. The Palaeolithic parietal artwork is located 300m deep in the cave. Difficulty in accessing the paintings is the reason why they had so far not been identified, even though the cave was first uncovered in 1929.

Atxurra cave paintings
The art is located 300m deep into the cave.

Experts estimate that the 70, or so, paintings and engravings date back 14,000 years. "This is an exceptional find to advance our understanding of parietal art, thanks to the great quantity of panels and decorated animal figures. To this date, we believe the cave displays the most important number of artworks from the time ever found in the Basque country," points outs Lorea Bilbao, deputy for culture in the region.

Atxurra cave paintings
The bison depicted in this image bears the greatest number of spear markings in any painting discovered in Europe.

The animals depicted are quadrupeds such as bisons, horses and goats. Hunting scenes are represented and one of the paintings shows a bison pierced "with over 20 spears" – marking the bison as bearing the greatest number of spear markings of any painting uncovered in Europe.

Atxurra cave paintings
Too sensitive to be shown to the public, the paintings are soon to be reproduced in 3D

The cave will not be opened for the public, as the Basque country's local government fears the paintings and engravings could get damaged. Additionally, going in so deep in the cave would prove risky. However, to make sure the beauty of the artwork does not get lost for future generations, work is underway to recreate them in 3D so the public at large can have access to them.