Department of Culture and Language Policy

A World heritage site

On 8 July 2008, UNESCO added three Basque caves with Palaeolithic art (40,000 to 12,000 years old) to the list of World Heritage. The caves of Ekain, Altxerri and Santimamiñe joined the select group of archaeological World Heritage sites, like Altamira and Atapuerca.

Palaeolithic rock art is one of the most significant cultural achievements in the history of Humankind. In addition to its artistic qualities, from a historical point of view the art is important because it represents a crucial stage in human evolution: the appearance of Homo sapiens. The paintings are therefore a major cultural property, true masterpieces of human creative genius and, at the same time, outstanding evidence in the history of civilisation, as they are the first artistic expression of the human species.

Ekain formed part of the network of hunting-gathering-fishing communities that lived in south-west Europe in the Upper Palaeolithic. Its universal and outstanding value is based on its condition as a work of art of human creative genius, and a unique or exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or a living or disappeared civilisation. Its art shows the cultural diversity and the high level of social integration in south-west Europe in the final stages on the last Ice Age.