Researchers exploring a cave system in southeastern Spain have discovered a huge cavity, sealed for thousands of years, hung with giant stalactites and pierced by the claws of an extinct cave bear, which they say, “opens a door new to prehistory” .
The discovery was made at the Cueva del Arco, a collection of caves in the Almadenes gorge near the Murcian town of Cieza. Although the site had already found evidence of settlements stretching back 50,000 years – making it one of the few places on the eastern Iberian peninsula where the transition from Neanderthals to modern humans can be documented – experts digging there suspected he was making other discoveries.
During an excavation in 2018, a team led by Ignacio Martín Lerma, prehistorians at the University of Murcia, and Didac Román, prehistorian at the Jaume I University in Castelló, came across what they believed to be a silty entrance to a large room. . Although their suspicions proved correct – and later, during a careful excavation, an air wind was revealed – the Covid pandemic curtailed the excavation.
When they finally managed to secure the site and get into the room last year, however, they were not disappointed.
“ has made an outstanding discovery,” the team said in a statement on Friday. “The rooms were very large, some of them 20 meters high, making them the tallest rooms in the region. Its stalactites were also unparalleled, some three meters long and a centimeter wide, which meant that they grew in unprecedented conditions of stability due to the cave’s isolation over thousands of years.”
The marks on the walls suggest that cave bears, which went extinct around 24,000 years ago, may have lived further south on the peninsula than previously thought.
“The cave is a large and unique example of where these giant mammals lived in southern Europe,” the statement said.
Martín Lerma, the scientific director of the project, said that the result “surpassed all our expectations”, adding: “A new door opens to prehistory.”
Although researchers and tourists could be brought to the region for the discovery of such a large cave, Martín Lerma urged people to give the experts time to complete their studies. “We must remember that what we have in our hands is a safe natural treasure – and that is how it must remain.”