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| 16 | E l Mirón Cave is located at the eastern edge of Cantabria province, in the township of Ramales de la Victoria, within a kilometer of the border of the province of Vizcaya (Basque Autonomous Region). It is also close (12 km south) to the border of the province of Burgos (Old Castile). In terms of longitude and latitude, the cave is at 43°14'48" North × 3°27'05" West of the Greenwich Meridian. In UTM this translates to × = 463353.83, y = 4788392.82 (range 30, zone 30T). The huge mouth of El Mirón Cave is imposing because of its size and location (plate 3.1). At 260 m above sea level (a.s.1.), it is eminently visible from the valley floor at the Gándara-Calera confluence (100 m a.s.1.), looming from high on the rampart-like eastern end of the Ruesga Valley at Ramales (70 m a.s.1.). It is, of course, not the only vast, gaping cavern entrance in this area of highly karstic Aptian (Lower Cretaceous) limestone. Immediately east of El Mirón on the opposite, equally vertical face of Monte Pando (La Pared del Eco) are the immense mouths of Cuevamur (plate 3.2) and Cueva de la Luz. Far less visible, opening out onto a low-lying dolina on the edge of Ramales, is the gigantic mouth of Cullalvera (figure 3.1), but unlike the caves high up on Monte Pando, it is just the end of a very long cavern—to date measuring 16 mapped km. Despite its paintings and engravings located nearly a kilometer from the mouth (and a faint rupestral painting recently discovered near the mouth), not much remains of a once-extant Paleolithic living site in Cullalvera (attested during recent walkway construction near the mouth by the finding of an engraved bone whose style, like that of the rock art, is suggestive of late Magdalenian age), since a violent current flows from its mouth after periods of prolonged, intensive rain, actually causing floods in areas of Ramales in front of this imposing cave (González Sainz, Muñoz, and Morlote 1997). Although not nearly as long as Cullalvera, in terms of easily accessible area El Mirón—at about 130 m deep—is still an impressive cavern. In contrast, Cuevamur has essentially no level habitable area, although, through an interior chimney, it does lead back to an extensive series of galleries that have been explored by experienced speleologists. Much less extensive, Cueva de la Luz opens out Chapter Three El Mirón Cave Lawrence Guy Straus El Mirón Cave | 17 | the Ruesga Valley and on its bordering slopes (plate 3.3). This cave is an “eagle’s nest,” but it is a large one, and it is not hard to reach on foot. Its surroundings—the sheer cliffs of Monte Pando, itself a shoulder of El Moro (818 m a.s.1.); the towering slopes of pyramidal Pico San Vicente (909 m a.s.1.) (plate 3.4); and the serrate crest of the Sierra del Hornijo (with peaks up to 1,200–1,400 m a.s.1.)—are grandiose. The cavern is spacious, generally dry, and well-oriented vis-à-vis the sun and the north winds, and its vestibule is apparently unencumbered by blocks. All of these qualities—with varying degrees of relativeimportance—wouldhavemadeElMirónexceptionally attractive to humans throughout millennia as a site both for long-term residence and for other functions . Until recently El Mirón was used as a stable and— within the living memory of townspeople—as a human residence (putatively that of gypsies). The Haza and Pared del Eco cliffs, and indeed the El Mirón Cave arch itself, are currently very popular rock-climbing venues, with numerous established piton routes. slightly above and to the south of the base of the sheer, 200 m high La Pared del Eco cliff and contains an unexcavated archaeological site whose surface finds suggest an Upper Paleolithic component (Junta Directiva de la F.C.E. 1995)—including two Solutrean points and rupestral engravings (Montes, Muñoz, and Morlote et al. 2003; Gómez et al., 2006). (We recently obtained a 14 C date on a bone from the exposed Cueva de la Luz deposit that tends to confirm a Solutrean age.) Immediate Geographic Location and Location El Mirón is at the southern end of the vertical sector of the cirquelike, 150 m high El Haza cliff (figure 3...


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