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The Cueva de las Manos: discover this archaeological treasure

Cueva de las Manos, in Argentina, hides some wonderful prehistoric cave paintings. They are neither more nor less than the oldest artistic expression in South America. It is a treasure located in the hidden lands of Patagonia and whose visit is capable of satisfying the desire for adventure of the most experienced travelers.

How to get to the Cueva de las Manos

Reaching the Cueva de las Manos, in itself, is an unforgettable journey through landscapes as suggestive as they are wild. In fact, you have to travel part of National Route 40, which for 5,000 kilometers forms the backbone of the territory of Argentina from north to south. Without a doubt, one of the most spectacular roads that can be traveled on this planet.

Well, on that immense road you have to get to the intersection with Provincial Route 43. There the small town of Bajo Caracoles will be indicated. This inhabited nucleus of the province of Santa Cruz is the closest to Cueva de las Manos.

And from Bajo Caracoles we must look for the indications that take us to the Cañadón del Río Pinturas. It is in its elevations where this jewel of Argentine and Latin American historical heritage is found.

The discovery of the cave of the Hands

Today, this wild and remote place is perfectly located on maps, and even georeferenced, so it is not difficult to reach. But it was not always like this. There was a time when this area of ​​Patagonia, neighboring the Andes, was uncharted territory. Until here only the most intrepid scientific expeditions arrived.

It was in one of them, in the last quarter of the 19th century, that the Cueva de las Manos came to light. The discovery was made by an expedition commanded by Franciso Pascasio Moreno. A name that may not tell you anything, but it is the famous Perito Moreno, the same one that gives its name to the impressive glacier that is also in the Argentine province of Santa Cruz.

Why Cueva de las Manos?

When visiting the Cueva de las Manos, its name is immediately understood. On these walls there are painted more than 800 hands. Almost all negative and almost all left. This is due to the method used to paint them.

The painting, made with plant and mineral materials, was placed on a reed or in the hollow of animal bones. And with that instrument you blew on your hand leaning against the wall. Thus, its entire outline was colored by that paint, almost always agglutinated with fat and even with animal blood.

much more than hands

It is clear that the hands are the main element of this great cave ensemble. But there is more. The truth is researchers distinguish three phases of realization throughout this pictorial repertoire of American Prehistory.

With an age that is dated around the years 9500 and 9000 a. C., the oldest paintings depict groups of animals in hunting scenes. The favorite prey of the area appears in them: the guanacos, which used to be hunted with a lasso.

Then there is the majority group, which is the one with the negative hands in different colors such as ocher, red or yellow. They are paintings dated between 7000 and 3000 BC. C. Also among them you can distinguish some animals painted individually, such as rheas or felines.

Finally, the most ‘modern’ paintings would date from the third millennium BC. c. Human figures appear in them, but everything is much more abstract, with geometric shapes and spirals. Thus, a stylistic evolution can be seen from the most figurative to abstraction, very similar to that seen in other large cave ensembles in the world.

A Patagonian treasure

In short, Cueva de las Manos is one of the great wonders hidden in the wild landscapes of Patagonia. It is not surprising that due to its beauty and its value, the place has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

This is a site that shows us that the peopling of South America is much older than many thought. What’s more, surely he can still provide us with more undiscovered testimonials.

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