Covalanas and la Cullalvera



The Covalanas cave, the cave with red hind, lies on the northeast slope of Monte Pando, over the El Mirón cavity, used as a habitation at least for the last 45,000 years.

It was surveyed in 1903 by L. Sierra and Hermilio Alcalde del Río, two key figures in archaeological research in Cantabria. Its discovery sets it at the origins of prehistoric science and, more specifically, of palaeolithic art.


This is a small cave, with two galleries sharing an exterior shelter zone apparently not used as a habitat. The gallery on the right houses the graphic cave wall expressions.

After two small series of dots, 65 meters from the entrance, the first animal forms appear. Moving on from this spot, the red figures are depicted to the right and left along the main gallery and inside a small bypass. Eighteen hind in all, a stag, a horse, an auroch, a possible hybrid type figure and three rectangular signs, apart from small dots and lines are arranged on friezes.

After 90 meters, now in small dimensions, the number of figures falls drastically, with only one complete animal figure and, conversely, numerous small dots and lines.

gran_covalanas_001The figures are formed by a dotted outline made with the fingers. This technique is very characteristics of some of the caves located in the Nervión River basin (Biscay) and the Sella River (Asturias), with the highest number around the Asón River basin, although there are outstanding groups such as that found in El Pendo. This distribution points to the existence of groups of human with strong graphic links between them, an example of social networks and contacts. Although it is difficult to date this with any precision, it would appear to have been made in remote antiquity, around 20,000 B.C.

The freshness of the red, the large size of the motifs, the dotted tracing used in the outline of the animals and the concentration of the greater part of the figures in a clearly demarcated area, envelop the visitor in surroundings imbued with mystery.

In the semi-darkness of the cave, it is as if the animal figures came to life and flee away from the rock. As pointed out earlier, this reddish flock, standing restless in the shadows, has been a witness, over the millennia, of the life of Mankind.



Alcalde del Río, H. (1906): Las pinturas y grabados de las cavernas prehistóricas de la Provincia de Santander. Altamira, Covalanas, Hornos de la Peña y El Castillo. Blanchard y Arce. Santander.

Alcalde Del Río, H.; Breuil, H.; Sierra, L. (1911): Les cavernes de la Région Cantabrique (Espagne). A. Chéne. Mónaco.

García Diez, M.; Eguizabal, J. (2003): La cueva de Covalanas. El grafismo rupestre y la definición de territorios gráficos en el paleolítico cantábrico. Consejería de Cultura, Turismo y Deporte, Gobierno de Cantabria. Santander.

García, D.; Angulo, J.; Eguizábal, J. (2011): “Conoce Covalanas”. Sociedad Regional de Cultura y Deporte. Santander

González Sainz, C.; Cahco, R.; Fukazawa, T. (2003): Arte paleolítico en la Región Cantábrica. Consejería de Cultura, Turismo y Deporte del Gobierno de Cantabria – Servicio de Publicaciones de la Universidad de Cantabria. Santander.

Moure, A.; González Sainz, C.; González Morales, M (1991): Las cuevas de Ramales de la Victoria (Cantabria). Arte rupestre paleolítico en las cuevas de Covalanas y La Haza. Universidad de Cantabria. Santander.

Serna, M.; Valle, A.; Smith, P. (coord.) (2002): Las cuevas con arte paleolítico en Cantabria. ACDPS. Santander.

Cave of Cantabria