Posted 28 February 2008 - 02:00
The cave is located in Deba, Gipuzkoa, in the part of the Basque Country that belongs to Spain. There has been continuous frictions between arahceologists and ecologists, who demand that the quarry is stopped, and the autonomous governments that is rather in favor of contuning with the explotation as much as possible, priorizing the economy over the archaeology.
"La cueva de Praileaitz y la cantera son compatibles", dice la Diputación. Diario Vasco - Feb-15-2007. ("Praileaitz cave and the quarry are compatible", says the provincial government). The article explains how they are blowing up stones at some 150 meters from the cave entrance - but not of the paintings hall. And that they "deny" that there has been any destruction fo the cave so far. It also mentions that several local political groups and associations have demanded the Basque Autonomous Government to declare the cave monument (believe it or not, it is not officialy so).
La cantera de Sasiola no puede actuar en la ladera de Praileaitz. Gara - Feb-27-2008. (Sasiola quarry cannot operate in the area of Praileaitz). Sounds to better news indeed but it was the Parliament which had to act, overriding the Government in this matter. Still, Miren Azkarate, speaker of the Basque Government, rejected to change her decree allowing the quarry to continue operating until there are more studies finished.
The second part of this last article, mentions a preliminary report by British scholar Paul Petit that confirms both the importance of the findings as well as their fragility. Backed with this report, Ms. Azkarate toyed in the press conference with the idea of forbidding not just the visists to the site but even archaeological excavations altogether that "could create dangerous air currents".
The article also mentions that the sismological studies are favorable, that the other 8 caves in the mountain are being studied and that so far none has yielded any archaeological remains.
Praileaitz means in Basque "rock of the monk" and the cave has been nicknamed as "the shaman's cave", because the initial research suggested it was used by possibly a single person, speculated to be some sort of shaman or medicine-person (or at least artist).
Naturzaleak: Los tesoros escondidos de Deba (The hidden treasuries of Deba). Generalistic article on the cave that goes in some more detail about the findings of the cave and its archaeological history (follow translated excerpts):
Without diminishing the importance of other nearby caves, Praileaitz is special because of its meaning and because of what has been found in it: it is believed that in this cave lived a single person, maybe a wise person or a shaman, to whom the rest of groups would visit to consult on matters of life or related to hunting. Also, in Praileaitz were found five necklaces dated to 15,500 ago, with as many as 29 hanging pieces made up with polished black stones that had been gathered at Deba river, not far from the site.
The cave (...) was discovered by Mikel Sasieta and Juan Arruabarrena in 1983. Later, since the year 2000, the Archaeology team of Aranzadi Scientific Society, lead by Xabier Peñalver, retook the excavations that culminated in 2005 wuth the discovery of the black stones.
(...) in this period and the level that most interests us of this cave, the Lower Magdalenian of some 15,500 years ago, we begin to see elements that are not anymore just related to survival. Human beings had in their heads more complex and elaborated ideas than just survival.
(...) all materials that appear in this layer are related apparently with ritual activity alone.
After gathering the stones, the only inhabitant of the cave decorated almost all of them. "Pierces them to make them able for hanging and appear those beads, grouped in necklaces in different places of the two rooms that we have excavated by the moment. We were lucky, also, because a stalagmitic layer had totally sealed the site, so it was totally virgin, absolutely untouched. It was perfectly preserved", recalls Peñalver. But, besides this, we also found several ochre pencils, that he/she used to pain him/herself and that showed he marks and faceting of having been used. "There are also more than 200 sea snails... All elements are, let's say, related with that activity that surely was of ritual type. We think that it would be a single person because at the entrance there is a bonfire, some bones of what that person ate and natural stone with a concavity where that person sat near the fire. This person could have some knowledge or special characteristics that made him the referent of all nearby caves. Possibly he/she was someone with knowledge maybe of medicine, maybe of hunting strategies, or knowledge of the area or something else that was asked by other inhabitants around", they say.
Praileaitz is totally different and absolutely unique if compared with other caves around. "It fulfills a different role. No other sites of this type are known, not just in our country but neither elsewhere - because, even if there are sites that have important ornaments, these appear mixed with, say, normal elements (...) Praileaitz gives the impressio of being more specialized [than Ekain], in the sense that it seems that all the activvity there realized was related with these rites", said Xabier Peñalver.
The excavations and the findings have been done in Praileaitz I. But there was also a Praileaitz II, now vanished and excavated by Eloisa Uribarri a decade ago.
Praileaitz II disapepared because of the work of the Sasiola quarry and it is precisely this industrial explotation which caused in some way that the research in Praileaitz I began. "Praileaitz II was at a higher altitude and now there is nothing there anymore. Praileaitz I is in that area too and that is why we began to excavate in the year 2000, because it was going to be affected by the quarry", explain from Aranzadi.
Note sorry for any possible errors in the translation. And also it's a pity I could just find links in Spanish (or Basque).
Posted 4 March 2008 - 17:13
They denounce that while Azkarate has changed the form of her discourse, the bottomline remains the same: that the enviroment of the cave can be destroyed and belief that a mere bare stone cone surrounding the cave is enough for its preservation.
Last December 14 the autonomous Parliament passed a resolution asking the autonomous government to stop all the quarrying activity in the area.
Source: Gara newspaper.
Posted 23 March 2008 - 06:46
minerals worth a few tens of million,the cave's archae and historio importance would be many times that amount.I think capitalism is to blame for all this destruction.It wants society to demand more,consume more,spend more and ultimately leads to destruction.Take the case of Tara in Ireland.I think we have to rebuild socialism on a global level from scrap.
What do u think can be done to stop the destruction of Cave of Praileaitz.
Posted 5 June 2008 - 02:31
Also the Deputy of Culture has announced that the study by the University of Cantabria have found breaking lines in the rock, some of which cross the cave, and a serious problem of stalactic corrosion that may affect the paintings "in a relatively short geological time frame" - (what's that: ten or ten thousand years?).
The research has also found eight new caves one of which also has remains of paleontological interest. The evalution of the archaeological interest of these other caves will be done in the upcoming months.
Posted 4 July 2008 - 00:06
There are some more images, including 3D maps of the cave. And an MP4 video too. The site includes further info in PDF and the institution's proposal to preserve the site (also in PDF).
Posted 4 July 2008 - 10:10
Source: Gara: ' También Jean Clottes aboga por conservar la ladera de Praileaitz'.
In contrast with the previous report by Jean Pettit, Clottes suggests that an area of 500 meters is necesary to correctly protect the cave. He bases that idea in French legislation that automatically assigns a protection area of that size to all historical monuments.
By the moment Praileaitz only has a 50 m. full protection area, and a 100 m. extra one where explosions are forbidden. Clottes thinks this is much less than necesary and the fact that archaeologists at work must evaquate the cave each time there is a scheduled explossion means that there is real risk of collapse or other damage due to quarry works.
Clottes emphasizes that it is most important "to protect the side of the hill that faces the Deba river", where the cave is. Why? Because of (a) "the principle of precaution" and ( "the protection of the enviromental context of the site".
The mural paintings are often on very fragile geological structures, called banners (as you can see in the previous post), for which "the smallest vibration, even of low intensity, is potentially dangerous". The French expert believes that if the principle of precaution is applied to people, like archeaologists working in the cave, with even more reason it should be applied to the cave and the art inside it.
Additionally the visual and enviromental impact caused by the quarry is already big and, with the current minimal protection measures would be much larger in the near future.
Clottes also supports the continuty of field work in the cave. He argues that the impact that archaeologists could have on the art would be minimal, negligible, specially incomparison with the already massive enviromental alterations caused by the quarry.
Clottes argues that the paitings are without doubt Paleolithic but he thinks they belong to the Magdalenian period, some 15,000 years BP. This in contrast to his colleague Marcos García, who claimed they are pre-Magdalenian (Solutrean?) with an antiquity of c. 18,000 BP.
Posted 4 July 2008 - 11:06
Xavier is a very kind, down-to-earth man and he helped us a lot selecting and locating a series of sites in the Basque Country and Navarra. He is also a great expert of stone circles. He made a thorough research on the stone circles of the Pyrenees, visiting more tham a thousand sites: you can find everything about those circles on his book "Los Crómlech Pirenaicos". More info bout it here (in Spanish).
We believe is also worth mentioning the Amigos de Praileaitz blog, that is available at amigosdepraileaitz.wordpress.com.
Posted 4 July 2008 - 14:32
I understand he's one of the most important Basque archaeologists alive. I've just read his divulgation book on Basque prehistory but I am reading his name once and again as of late.
Cool. There's a lot of people behind it, even musicians!
It's an interesting article, so I'll translate some excerpts here:
The speakers of Praileaitzen Lagunak (friends of Praileaitz) denounce that the current political administration has lost the transparency that characterized democracy and Illustration. The managers of these policies are just despots, as well as slaves of the short-term benefit, that, at most, is measured by the cycles of elections transformed in ritual refrendums, where any dissidence is marginalized on grounds of their supposed utopism or their alleged intrisecal evilness. In contrast with this myth democratic and circumstantial, the historical milestone of Praileaitz and the fight for its survival allow looking at our world, our past and our future in a different way.
Another speaker said: When we organized ouselves as association, we thought that the institutions would be delighted, because that would allow them a wide support to negotiate more and better with the company that exploits the quarry, Hormigones Zeleta, of the Amenabar group, or with whoever needed. But it has happened exactly the opposite: they have seen us as an enemy that disrupts their work.
They also denounce that a public TV (ETB) documentary and interview with them has been mysteriously silenced, never emitted.
A very interesting read. I'll borrow the link for another thread, ok?
Sure. I had mentioned them before but was unaware of the blog. I'll keep an eye on it.
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