Today, the cave is only accessible to scientists and a handful of visitors chosen by lottery.Meantime, the Spanish Ministry of Culture has opened a replica cave at the adjacent National Museum and Research Center of Altamira.Indeed, Altamira's artists are renowned for how they used the natural contours of the cave to make their animal figures seem extra-real.The actual subterranean complex itself consists of a 270-metre long series of twisting passages ranging from 2-6 metres (about 7-20 feet) in height, in which more than 100 animal figures are depicted.
The interesting thing about the U/Th dating method is that it gives a minimum age. Th U/Th method was also used to date the sensational finds of Sulawesi Cave art (c.37,900 BCE) in Indonesia.Like many similar prehistoric caves, Altamira has been dogged by environmental and conservation problems.It was closed for conservation purposes in 1977 (reopened 1982), and again in 2002.The first significant research into the age of Altamira's rock art was done by French paleolithic scholars Andre Leroi-Gourhan and Annette Laming.
Using the carbon 14 dating method, they found that two of the cave paintings dated to between 15,000 and 12,000 BCE, which placed them in the Magdalenian (Style III) period.
Some 270-metres (890 feet) in length, the Altamira cave has three main galleries: the Chamber of the Frescoes ("Gran Sala de los Policromos" or "Sala de los Frescos"), the Chamber of the Hole/Basin ("Sala de la Hoya") and the end passage known as the Horse's Tail ("Cola de Caballo").