Cueva de los Aviones

Cave of the Aircraft

Useful Information

Location: At the western side of the harbour of Cartagena. Near the Faro de Navidad, below the Bateria - Fuerte de Navidad.
Open: no restrictions.
Fee: free.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Light: n/a
Dimension: L=10 m.
Guided tours: n/a
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: João Zilhão (2018): Modernity, Behavioral 1-9. 10.1002/9781118924396.wbiea1787.
João Zilhão et al. (2010): Symbolic use of marine shells and mineral pigments by Iberian Neandertals In: PNAS. Band 107, Nr. 3, 2010, S. 1023–1028, doi:10.1073/pnas.0914088107
Address: Cueva de los Aviones.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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The Cueva de los Aviones (Cave of the Aircrafts) is famous for findings of Homo neanderthalensis remains, including jewelery. The excavations revealed perforated sea shells and animal teeth, pigments in red and yellow, and various bone, tooth ivory and stone artifacts. Dated to be 65,000 years old, a time before Homo sapiens reached Europe, they must be made by Neanderthals. They also found perforated seashell beads and pigments that are at least 115,000 years old.

Traditionally archaeology sorts findings by attributing the skilled ones to Homo sapiens and the other to Homo neanderthalensis. Unfortunately sites with remains older than 40,000 years are extremely rare and most items in a bad state. Andas we actually do not know who made something, because there are no made by neanderthals labels on the items. In the best case we have human remains of only one species and so we guess that the other remains were left by this species. Assuming our ancestors were "better" without any proof might be a sign of racism.

The Cueva de los Avionesis of enormous importance, as findings can be classified as being made by Neanderthals for the very first time. And with absolutely no doubt. The implications are numerous and massive. Neanderthals produced the same art our ancestors produced. They were no dumb brutes as they are often seen, they were recognizably human. They had a cultural competence that was shared by modern humans. And if this is so, we must review most of our other finding and attribute the artworks to Neanderthals if they are wrongly classified. And actually we do not know any more if early art was made by Homo sapiens or Homo neanderthalensis, both is possible.

The cave itself is of little interest. It is a shallow abri, little more than an overhanging cliff face, located at the entrance to the harbour of Cartagena. Feel free to visit the site, but please do not destroy any cave content or litter the cave. Actually it is quite difficult to enter the cave without a boat, but there is a good view from the wall of the faro.