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Cueva de la Pileta

You’ll be just as surprised as we were: How is it possible that this cave be so incredible and yet relatively unknown? At the door a trickle of people are waiting to be astounded. Luckily the hoards of tourists haven’t made it this far. Only ten minutes from Ronda you’ll find cave drawings of bisons and fish dating from up to 20,000 years ago. The Cueva de la Pileta is a voyage into the past that will leave you with your mouth hanging wide open.

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By:  Julio Ruiz
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Cave filled with cave drawings
Location: Benaoján (Malaga)
Stands out for: unique cave drawings on a par with those found at the Cave of Altamira
Did you know? inspired by this cave, the artist Maximina Espeso has created several paintings

Although most of you will have heard about the Cueva de la Pileta, or Cave of the Pool, visitors to the cave are usually a mixture of foreigners and savvy tourists. Make sure you’re one of them. Why? You’ll find 3,000 answers to that question on the walls, 879 of them Paleolithic. The feeling you get on seeing the image of an enormous fish drawn thousands of years ago will be etched on your memory.

The jewel in the crown of the many realistic Paleolithic cave paintings, of the same standard as those found at the Cave of Altamira in Cantabria, the fish shares this primitive gallery with surreal and schematic drawings from the Neolithic period. “It can be a strange experience to navigate these narrow, damp and dark passageways to get to the paintings. They are some of the earliest vestiges of the universal belief in the power that lies in the creation of an image,” explains Maximina Espeso, an artist who inspires much of her work on cave paintings.

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Joseph Bouillon, now in his sixties, recalls how his grandfather discovered the cave by accident in 1905: “My grandfather was looking for bat droppings to fertilize his land. After about 30 metres he noticed stacks of bones and fragments of pottery… the rest is history”. So began the principal occupation of his peculiar family. Years later, the family acquired the land and today three of its members are dedicated to guiding visitors through the cave, including the archaeologist Carmen Rosario and her brother Thomas.

During the 45 minute tour by gas light, you’ll discover horses, fish, bison and deer combined with arrows painted to attract good hunting. You’ll also see religious motifs, fragments of pottery and the residue from fires made by tribes throughout the centuries. All of this and more as you voyage amongst the stalactites and stalagmites that grow a little each and every day. The lack of information about the importance of the cave is its only weakness. It should be more clearly explained at the entrance.

However, for now public funds have not been designated for creating panels to promote this unique historical monument. The Regional Government of Andalusia continues its battle in court to attain ownership against arguments by archaeologists who have testified that the state of conservation of the cave is “unsurpassable”, explains Bullón with evident pride. In the meantime artist Espeso assess the artistic, aesthetic and technical quality of the paintings found at the Cueva de la Pileta: “they were created by people who made conscious decisions to achieve balance and harmony in their work, in very much the same way as great artists do today”.

Getting there?

Cueva de la Pileta
Ctra. Benaoján-Cortes de la Frontera
Benaoján (Malaga)

Price: € 8. For groups of more than 11 people: € 7. Kids between 5 and 12: € 5.

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