Cueva de la Pileta

Pileta Cave - Cueva de los Letreros

Useful Information

Location: Near Benaoján, Andalucia. Ronda direction Seville, C339 12 km, turn left into minor road MA 501 direction Benaoján, a few km behind turn right.
(36°41'28.35"N, 5°16'12.19"W)
Open: Winter daily 10-13, 16-17. Summer daily 10-13, 16-18.
Fee: Adults EUR 6. [2007]
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave ArchaeologyPainted Cave
Light: none, paraffin lamps provided.
Dimension: L=2,300 m, A=670 m asl, T=15 °C.
Guided tours: D=60 min., L=500 m.
Bibliography: J. A. Bullón Giménez (1977): La Cueva de la Pileta, Ipek. Jahrbuch für Prähistorische & Ethnographische Kunst, Jahrgang 1977. (Deutsch - German)
J. A. Bullón Giménez (1975): Eiszeitmalerei in Südspanien - Cueva de la Pileta, Almogaren IV/1973, Graz 1975, 209-212 (Deutsch - German)
Address: Bullón family, propietor of the Cave, Benaoján, Tel.: +34-952-167343.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


1905 discovered by José Bullón Lobato.
1912 first archaeological excavation by H. Obermaier.
26-NOV-1911 The Saturday Review of London announces the discovery of cave paintings in a cave near Benaoján.
1912 exploration by a team led by Abbe Breuil.
1915 monograph La Pileta a Benaojan published by the Institute of Paleontology, Paris.
MAR-1924 present access to the cave by Tomás Bullón Garcia.
25-APR-1924 declared National Monument.
14-APR-1933 Gallery of the Skeleton discovered.
1935 Venus of La Pileta discovered.
1963 road to the cave opened.
14-MAR-1992 new gallery of 250 m length discovered.


Cueva de la Pileta is a painted cave with numerous drawings. Most of them a lines or patterns, but there are also human figures and animals, painted in black, red and yellow. Probably the most exceptional drawing is called El Pez. Located in the deepest part of the cave the 1.50 m long drawing shows a fish, which is interpreted as a flatfish (Pleuronectiformes), probably a European Flounder (Platichthys flesus L.). It has both eyes on one side of the body and the form of the fins is typical. Other findings from this cave include some of the oldest pieces of pottery ever found in Europe and human bones.

From the modern entrance the underground passage divides into two branches. To the right, low galleries lead to the Sala de las Grajas (the Rooks' Hall), El Labarinto (the Maze), El Coro (the Choir), and El Lago de Arcilla (Clay Lake). The left branch is bigger and more interesting. In the central part is the location of the famous paintings, from the Thermopylae Pass, across the Sala de la Reina Mora (the Moorish Queen's Hall) to the Sala del Pez (Fish Hall). The Sala del Santuario (Sanctuary Hall) is decorated with a pregnant mare, an archer and other figures.

The cave La Pileta was discovered in 1905 by José Bullón Lobato and stayed in the ownership of the Bullón family until today. The present owner is José Tomás Bullón Almagro, the fourth generation of the family working to explore and protect the cave. The most important discoveries in the cave were made by the son of the discoverer, Tomás Bullón Garcia.

La Pileta is the name of a mountain ridge, a karst area between Montejaque and Cortés de la Frontera with some foothills towards Grazalema and Ubrique (Cádiz). It reaches heights of 1,400 m asl. The cave is located in a part of this area called Las Mesas, high plains belonging to the town Benaoján. It has three entrances, the one to the south is called Cueva de las Vacas, then the abyss Sima de las Grajas, where the cave was discovered, and to the east the present entrance of the show cave.

José Bullón Lobato discovered the cave when he was looking for fertilizer, in form of bird dung, and entered theSima de los Murciélagos (Abyss of the Bats), which is today called Sima de las Grajas. He descended 30 m to the floor, where he found black marks on the walls and the floor. He explored some passages including the Balcón de Tomás and the Sala del Pez (Hall of the Fish). He found numerous potsherds and pottery and much more paintings. Most of of the paintings are lines and symbols, so he called the cave Cueva de los Letreros (Cave of the Letters).

The cave is developed in a rather simple way, there is a trail ot footpath through the cave but no light. The guide provides some lamps, but there are not enough lamps for every member of the group. We recommend good walking shoes and a torch.