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4 May 2015
Altamira cave paintings under threat again

Inadvertently, precious cave paintings are being irretrievably damaged by the people flocking to view them. The cave paintings in question are those in the Altamira cave in Spain. It is estimated that they are over 36,000 years old.
     Opening then up to the public has been controversial since it was first proposed in the 1960s, with experts arguing one way and the other, even suggesting that the change in carbon dioxide levels through people breathing near the paintings was damaging these highly valuable but fragile artefacts.
     After a long period of closure, Spain's Culture Ministry decided to allow public access again in 2014. Now an esteemed group of academics and researchers from the Complutense University in Madrid have signed a pleas to UNESCO to deny public access again, stating that "The action taken by the Spanish culture ministry is a clear threat to its conservation. We believe that UNESCO and other international organisations dedicated to preserving cultural heritage should take note of the dangers that political decisions pose for the conservation of Altamira".
     In his defence, the director of the cave, Jose Antonio Lasheras stated "Management's mission is to regulate proper conservation and use of the caves and it could be that what was once considered appropriate is no longer so, and vice-versa. I proposed closing the cave in 2002 and take responsibility for the current public visit regime".

Edited from The Independent (29 March 2015)

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