Do you know what I loved most about our trip to Spain’s town of Alquézar? The fact that the entire National Park area gave us the opportunity to bring textbooks to life to teach my kids about the Paleolithic period.
The town of Alquézar was just twenty minutes away from a Paleolithic cultural learning center in Colungo, where we signed up for organized excursions to learn about Paleolithic cave art, how cave people lived, how they progressed into creating social groups, and more. Mind you, that the excursions were often about an hour or so and little 4-year-old legs got tired quite a bit! Hiking isn’t something we do often so for the most part, the kids learned how to hike safely (another great experience).
Once we hiked to the cave, the guide opened it with their assigned key. These caves are considered historic monuments and therefore, to prevent damage from vandalism they are now locked. What’s interesting is that the hike to the cave wasn’t easy, and the guide explained that the steep entrance was designed to protect the people who took refuge from the weather as much as from wild animals.
The wall art is dated sometime between 6,000 and 4,000 B.C. so the only way to actually see it in person is with a licensed guide. The guide, also explained how over time, people took refuge in such caves, why they weren’t deep caves but most of them were overhangs inside mountain ranges. My kids were mesmerized by the fact that such a small opening could hold at least 20 people, something their sense of “space” didn’t understand (given that their bedroom is bigger than the cave).
After our long hike and learning, we went back to the cultural center to learn how these primitive people ground up rocks to create paint and the process they used to paint on the rock wall. It was impressive to learn that the reason the paint is still intact for over 8,000 years is because of the chemical reaction and the primal materials they used to hold the paint. The ground up a red mineral rock was mixed with animal oils (fats) and then sprayed over onto the rock.
The kids were excited and curious to learn that what they thought was straws, were actually hollow animal bones from birds. Wings and feathers were used as paint brushes and hands as well for larger surface areas.
This entire adventure was both educational and eye-opening. Until that visit, my kids only new about primitive people from our visit to the Natural Science Museum in Madrid (the year before) and this entire experience brought it to life. What’s amazing is that as an adult I also learn quite a bit, some through translating our guide from Spanish to English and also through curiosity.
What brought this trip full circle for me is that growing up (in Spain) my social studies textbooks were filled with images from this exact caves. Imagine my surprise to be able to revisit history in real time.