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During the 1970s and 2000s, the paintings were being damaged by the carbon dioxide in the breath of the large number of visitors.
Altamira was completely closed to the public in 1977, and reopened to limited access in 1982.
The earliest paintings in the cave were executed around 35,600 years ago.
Altamira was the first European cave for which prehistoric origin of the paintings was suggested and promoted by Marcelino Sanz de Sautuola.
Sautuola, having died 14 years earlier, did not live to enjoy his rehabilitation.
He published his research with the support of Juan Vilanova y Piera in 1880 to public acclaim.
Nonetheless a bitter public controversy among experts ensued and continued until 1902, as reports of similar findings of prehistoric paintings in the region had accumulated and evidence could no longer be rejected.
Due to the supreme artistic quality, and the exceptional state of conservation of the paintings, Sautuola was even accused of forgery, as he was unable to answer why there were no soot (smoke) marks on the walls and ceilings of the cave.
A fellow countryman maintained that the paintings had been produced by a contemporary artist, on Sautuola's orders.