Articles / About Camagüey / Archeology / María Teresa cave paintings in Camagüey discovered before those of Altamira and Lascaux
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
María Teresa cave paintings in Camagüey discovered before those of Altamira and Lascaux
By Roberto Funes Funes
A great amount of the literature specialized on Archeology, and specifically the one dealing with prehistoric communities, agrees that "...Altamira was the first step in the search of the artistic spirit of our ancestors".
Altamira is the Spanish region where, in 1878, paintings on cave walls were found. Those were drawings depicting "...bisons, cold weather animals that had disappeared from the Iberian geography thousand of years ago".
When that was published, an obstacle seemingly insurmountable raised against it: the Research Committee on Mankind History, seated in France, disapproved "...all theory which presented the primitive men less savage and more artistic than what was assumed up to then" . Such a theory buried the important finding for 19 years.
When in 1897 similar paintings were found in La Mouthe, France¨, the French Association for the Science Development "...accused those who supported such theories as people who endangered the prestige of the Historic Anthropology ".
Marsoulas, in that year of 1897 and Cambarelles, in 1901, demonstrated that all those works had been painted by primitive men.
The confirmation that our forbears had an intellectual level that made them able to do artistic works came later, when an overwhelming quantity of sites in Spain and France were discovered between 1908 and 1927. Those findings in Cogul, Tuc ‘d Audoubert, Isturitz, Valltorta, Rech Merle and Roc de Sers were drawings that seemed to be done by one hand and are remarkable places that treasure this testimony of the human culture in its initial times.
The cave art series discoveries concluded in 1940 with the paintings of the famous cave of Lascaux.
As a whole from 1878 to, at least, 190, no one in the European scientific community gave importance to those findings nor the theories supporting them. That was merely, as they said then, "...non-professional people's valuations".
Nobody wonders, however, that in 1839 a Cuban publication that circulated in all the domains of Spain, including the metropolis published an article entitled "Additional Article of Notes for the History of Puerto Príncipe", which read that in "... the cave called María Teresa ( in Sierra de Cubitas, north Camagüey) there was a frieze alongside the walls like those of our rooms, suggesting us that this is not work of nature. If notice the accuracy of the drawing, the finesse of its colors, the proportions, etc (...) you can infer that such a frieze is done by the ancients that maybe lived or stayed here for some time, because it can't be anything else ".
It is timely to point out that this reference dated back in 1839 occurred almost two decades before that in the cultivated Spain, people knew about the findings of Altamira.
And the repercussion of the mentioned "Additional Article.. ." was so big that here are proves of the request dated in Sevilla in 1840 in which the paradigmatic poetess and novelist Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda send a letter to her uncle Don Manuel Arteaga who lives in Puerto Príncipe to ask "...a detailed and renowned news about Cubitas and its surroundings" , elements they wanted to create an atmosphere for the novel she was writing.
And so was it. In her novel "Sab", written in 1841, La Avellaneda mentions that "...the nearby dwellers make notice in the so-called María Teresa cave some bizarre paintings of vivid and indelible colors, they assure are paintings done by Indians".
And a commission of Puerto Principe City Hall in 1844 made some "notes for the history of Cuba corresponding to the Forever Faithful, Very Gentle and Loyal city of Santa María de Puerto Príncipe" to be included in the Chapter dedicated to the territory within the Great Historical, Geographical and Statistic Dictionary of the Island of Cuba", by Jacobo de la Pezuela.
When those officials commented about the caves in the mountains of Cubitas, they pointed out that "...they are amazing for their extension (...) and the beauties contained, among other many things, that is the Indian hieroglyphics".
Thirteen years after – in 1847– José Ramón Betancourt published his work "Prose of my Verses" and when he describes a visit of youngsters from Camagüey and Oriente to Cubitas, he informs us about the María Teresa cave where "...there are red signs, drew with ochre or reddish earth, supposing those were writings done by Indians".
Even when you make hard research in specialized literature from Cuba or from any other country, will find no remarks on the art of primitive communities prior that of Maria Teresa caves in the province of Camagüey.
If its is said that Altamira was "...the first firm step in the search of the artistic spirit of our ancestors" (despite the many years the most celebrated scientific
organizations denied it ) What of extraordinary had the paintings on María Teresa walls to be recognized as something resembling a "the previous step to that so-called first step" so popular in the archeology books from the four corners of the Earth?
Here we are witness of a similar case we already showed in the previous article of the current series: Jacques Boucher de Perthes studied a jaw found in l863 in the suburbs of París. According to the books, "...this opened the way of a new science: the Prehistoric Archeology ". But nobody refers that 20 years before in 1843, a reference was published on "human fossils" in the coast south of Camagüey and in 1847 a research on a prior-Columbus jaw was carried out. Studies that according to scholars initiates "...the Aboriginal Archeology in Cuba".
We conclude this essay citing the last paragraph of the previous article: "the discoveries in Europe happened after, with similar conceptual mistakes and similar relevance for the science histories –like many others– the credibility only went to the "civilized" and not for the "savage" one, countries and people of second category".
-Padilla Bolívar, Antonio. "Atlas de Arqueología". Ediciones Jover, Barcelona 1963.
-Anónimo. "Artículo Adicional a los Apuntes para la Historia de Puerto Príncipe" –Cubitas- .En: Memorias de la Real Sociedad Patriótica de La Habana. Tomo IX, 1839.
-Anónimo. "Esqueletos humanos fósiles en Puerto Príncipe". En: Memorias de la Real Sociedad Patriótica de La Habana. Tomo XVII, 1843.
-Gómez de Avellaneda, Gertrudis. "Sab" .La Habana, 1963.
-Pezuela y Lobo, Jacobo de la. "Diccionario Histórico, Geográfico y Estadístico de la Isla de Cuba". Madrid, 1863.
-Cruz, José de la, Manuel Castellanos y Manuel de Jesús Arango. "Apuntes para la Historia de Cuba correspondientes a la Siempre Fiel, Muy Noble y Muy Leal ciudad de Santa María de Puerto Príncipe". Puerto Príncipe, 1844.
-Betancourt, José Ramón. "Una jira cubana". En: Prosa de mis versos. Barcelona, 1887.
-Dacal Moure, Ramón y Manuel Rivero de la Calle. "Arqueología Aborigen de Cuba". La Habana, 1986.
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