In Ribadesella, in the Ardines Massif, the cave of Tito Bustillo is opened, integrated into a karstic complex next to the mouth of the Sella. In this massif there are also other cavities such as La Lloseta or the cave of Biesca, as well as the cave of Ardines, located above the cave of Tito Bustillo. The cave of Tito Bustillo is catalogued as one of the Great ones within the cave art besides being one of the most complete archaeological sites of the Cantabrian coast, since it has had a great occupation throughout the time, since archaeological remains have been found that go from the 10000 years up to the 30000 before Christ.
It was discovered in 1968, when a group of mountaineers together with two young people from Riosellanos descended through a small chasm known as Pozu´l Ramu and exploring the cave to which this chasm led them, they found two of the most important sets, between the great quantity of cave artistic expressions that it possesses, the Camerín de las Vulvas and the Main Panel. A few days after the discovery, one of its protagonists, Celestino Fernández Bustillo, died in a mountain accident, which led to the cave being named after him, becoming known as Tito Bustillo.
During the visit a gallery of about 700 meters long is taken that leads directly to the Main Panel, this is the only visitable area of the cave and the one that stands out the most, both for its great artistic ensemble and for its variety of techniques and styles. While one arrives at it, places are left behind, on both sides, to which to accede, given their situation, it would be indispensable to make caving, among them are distributed eleven sets with engraved and painted representations, like El Camerín de las Vulvas, that is considered as one of the most important and expressive of the world in vulvar representations, was the first one in being seen by the discoverers of the cave, it is in a small chamber to a few meters of height on the ground, this set could even be previous to the year 25000 a.C. The place where it is located, a little away from the rest of the gallery gives it a halo of mystery and a strongly symbolic character. Another place with a very interesting representation is the room of the Anthropomorphs, this small circular camera has in its center, about three meters high, a stalactite in the form of a flag on their faces have been drawn two human silhouettes, one female and another male and in the time when the stalactite was almost transparent would complement each other. These figures are well over 30000 years old.
Continuing through the gallery and after observing on a very flat wall an engraving of considerable size where the profile of a headless cetacean, a whale specifically, remains impassive over time, you arrive at a room in which the path to the Main Hall meets the original entrance gallery of the cave. This original entrance gallery has been blocked by a great collapse for thousands of years, thus preserving the archaeological treasure it holds, and the chimney through which the discoverers of the same descended. It is in this original gallery where the archaeological excavations are being carried out, as they are always carried out at the entrances to the caves, the place where our prehistoric ancestors made their living, since, among other things, they took advantage of natural light. The fact that the paintings appear very deep in the caves does not mean that the clan walked through them, which if they did were the shamans or witches. The reason for this cannot be explained, but there are numerous interpretative theories. Already in the Main Hall you can appreciate the participation of many people prolonged in time, since some of the figures that are appreciated here can take between them up to 7000 years. But it is intuited as a respect to the previous artistic expressions and a continuity or common and characteristic drawing to the diverse stages and zones. In this cave of Tito Bustillo is the horse but also bovines and deer, all in a predominant red color, although black and violet also have their protagonism. In this room time stops trying to discover and admire all the figures it keeps.
In the same environment, the Cuevona de Ardines, to which it is necessary to climb 300 steps, is a cave that was used by prehistoric hunters. Real refrigerators of the time where they prepared the hunted animals to take, the parts of them that interested them, to their clans. It is a cave that has been known for a long time and is part of the history of Ribadesella as shown by internal graffiti of the nineteenth century, was also a refuge during the Civil War. During the excavations that took place in 1913 an important quantity of tools were found that they used to cut up the animals and to be able to use their skins. From them also obtained pendants, ornaments and useful richly decorated, today all this has been called furniture art. Its main room is of a more than considerable size and the ceiling reaches 40 meters of height being crowned by a natural skylight that allows the passage of the rays of sun and the light of the day. Its circular floor plan and its large vault with exit to the outside make this place has a unique acoustics which has allowed for a few years the Cuevona has become a true natural theater in which the concerts of classical music that are organized in August are unforgettable.
Visitors can complete the fantastic experience of this visit to the caves by visiting the Permanent Exhibition of Rock Art, located in the Interpretation Centre, which by means of panels and audiovisuals transports us back in time and makes us participate in some way in the uses and customs of our ancestors.
To facilitate access to the cave of Tito Bustillo has been made an artificial tunnel about 160 meters long, because the original entrance of the cave is on the other side of the mountain, as about two kilometers through mount. This tunnel was made following the course of the river San Miguel which passes underground throughout the cave and which floods it in several areas almost every year especially when the rains are more abundant, thus contributing to the climate of the cave itself.
It is said in books and seen in movies how men entered with torches in caves and painted with blood, nothing further from reality because if they had entered with torches would have suffocated and the walls would be black, the torch could be used to go through a cave and not to illuminate and much less while painting and if the paintings had been made with blood would not have reached our days. What was used was iron oxide for red; black was made with charcoal, and violet with iron oxide and manganese oxide.
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Ribadesella can be reached via the A-8 motorway which links Ribadesella with Santander, Gijón and Oviedo, as well as the N-634 which links it with Oviedo and the N-632 from Gijón. It also has daily bus service that makes the route Santander-Oviedo and also brings you closer to nearby towns. It is also connected by narrow-gauge railway through the Oviedo-Santander line.
Once in Ribadesella we cross the Sella bridge and following the Avenue of Tito Bustillo, which goes up the river, we arrive at the cave and the permanent exhibition centre of cave art.
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