Does Money Matter More Than Preserving History and Culture?


The Altamira Cave Paintings, which are believed to be at least 14,000 years old, may become irreversibly damaged if the cave is reopened to tourism. Because of the travelers’ body heat, the cave could fill with microbes that would destroy the pigment of the ancient art. However, local officials in northern Spain seem more worried on boosting the economy than preserving history.

According to Charles Harvey of, the cave was open to the public until 2002 when it was found that photosynthetic bacteria and fungi were quickly destroying the pigment of the paintings. Research done by the Spanish National Research Council predicts various negative outcomes to allowing visitors back into the cave, such as a rise in temperatures, humidity, and carbon-dioxide that would create an ideal environment for harmful microbes to thrive as well as giving the microbes nutrients through dead skin and clothing fibers. Not only that, but the natural movement of tourists in the cave would spread bacterial and fungal spores to previously unaffected spaces.

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