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Human occupants of the site were well-positioned to take advantage of the rich wildlife that grazed in the valleys of the surrounding mountains as well as the marine life available in nearby coastal areas.
When the discovery was first made public in 1880, it led to a bitter public controversy between experts which continued into the early 20th century, since many did not believe prehistoric man had the intellectual capacity to produce any kind of artistic expression.
The acknowledgment of the authenticity of the paintings, which finally came in 1902, changed the perception of prehistoric human beings.
The cave was excavated by Sautuola and archaeologist Juan Vilanova y Piera from the University of Madrid, resulting in a much acclaimed publication in 1880 which interpreted the paintings as Paleolithic in origin.
The French specialists, led by Gabriel de Mortillet and Emile Cartailhac, were particularly adamant in rejecting the hypothesis of Sautuola and Piera, and their findings were loudly ridiculed at the 1880 Prehistorical Congress in Lisbon.
It is located near the town of Santillana del Mar in Cantabria, Spain, 30 and consists of a series of twisting passages and chambers.