Cueva Mayor

Useful Information

Location: 20 km east of Burgos. N-120 Logroño-Vigo, at km 93,5 turn offf to Santovenio de Oca and San Juan, after 500 m turn off to Atapuerca
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Guided tours: D=3 h.
Address: Atapuerca, Tel: +34-947-421462, Tel: +34-947-421540, E-mail: contact
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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189? Trinchera de Ferrocaril built.
192? railroad closed.
194? quarrying in the Trinchera.
1960-1980 excavations by different people.
197? quarrying stopped.
1978 first excavations by Prof. Emiliano Aguirre.


Atapuerca is the name of a sierra, a mountain ridge, and also of the village in the southern foothills. This sierra is a extraordinary place, even for Spain. Numerous caves, shelters and other archaeological sites show remains of Megalithic and Prehistoric times. Here the earliest hominid fossil of the Homo erectus, probably Homo heidelbergensis, was found. It was dated to be 780,000 years old.

The whole site was discovered at the end of the 19th century. English engineers built a railroad through the Sierra de Atapuerca, to transport iron ore and coal from the Sierra de la Demanda to Burgos. To cross the Sierra de Atapuerca they made a trench, which was called la Trinchera de Ferrocaril. Doing this they cut through many caves and made them available. Later quarrying opened even more caves with 18 to 20 m thick layers full of important findings. Finally their importance was recognized and the quarrying stopped.

There are numerous sites in the area, which were excavated in the following chronological order. The Vacimiento Gran Dolina (Gran Dolina Site), the Complejo Tres Sima (Three Pits Complex), and the Vacimiento del Elephante (Elephant Site). A man made tunnel opend two caves, the Complejo Cueva Major (Cueva Major Complex) and the Cueva del Silo. They are also called Cueva Peluda.

The visit shows various sites along the Trinchera de Ferrocaril. Several other sites are not open to the public.