The Cueva de las Manos site in Patagonia resembles the ancient paintings found at the Lascaux cavern in Southern France. The indigenous population that inhabited Patagonia left their negative hand impressions on this cave as a testament for future generations.
The Cave is located at the province of Santa Cruz, Argentina and relatively close to both the city of El Calafate and the Perito Moreno glacier.
The art painting dates from 13,000 to 9,000 years ago and early artwork has been carbon-dated to ca. 9300 BP (about 7300 BC). We believe that the site was last inhabited around 700 AD, possibly by ancestors of the Tehuelche people.
The paintings of left negative stenciled hands, suggests that the painters held the spraying pipe with their right hand or that they placed the back of their right hand to the wall and held the spraying pipe with their left hand.
As with other European cave paintings – Almeria and Lascaux – there are also local animals depictions such as Guanacos, rheas and felines. The Cueva de las Manos also shows other paintings representing geometric shapes, zigzag and hunting scenes. As with its overseas siblings, these images had a profound ritualistic meaning to the Patagonia inhabitants. It served as a spiritual connection with the environment, the animal’s soul as a way of understanding the circle of life from an early human perspective.
When to visit Cueva de las Manos
The Cueva de las Manos can be visited year round.
It is most easily reached by a gravel road (RP 41), which leaves Route 40 3 km north of Bajo Caracoles and runs 46 km northeast to the south side of the Pinturas Canyon (Painting Canyon)
If you’re attending our Patagonia photo tour in November, this is a worthwhile visit. The cultural importance of the Cueva de las Manos site has a deep connection with the first inhabitants of Patagonia.
Both the traces of their human development, meaning and identity is as valid today, as it was in pre-historic times.
If you go, don’t forget to place your left hand on top on one of the many silhouettes.