The Aitzbitarte III cave (Rentería, Gipuzkoa) is part of a group of caves located on a hill with strong karstic activity. It is the site of numerous chasms, hollows and caves, three of which (Aitzbitarte III, IV and V) have archaeological sites, and four (the previous three, together with cave IX) have Gravetian and Magdalenian cave art.
The Aitzbitarte hill cave complex has been known since the 18th century, although its archaeological value was discovered two centuries later, with the start of excavations in cave IV by Barandiarán (Barandiarán et al., 1965) and the discovery of lithic and bone remains in cave III. At the end of the 20th century, modern excavations began in Aitzbitarte III in two separate areas, which determine a sequence of occupation from the Middle Palaeolithic to the Magdalenian, with significant levels of occupation during the Gravetian (Altuna, et al., 2011).
In 2022, a team formed by members of the University of Salamanca and the University of Cantabria, with the collaboration of members of Aitzpitarte Elkartea, began excavations in the area outside Aitzbitarte III, extending the previous excavations to obtain data to complement the knowledge of the site, such as microgeomorphological and DNA analysis and dating of the levels.
In addition, Aitzbitarte III has a lower gallery with Gravettian parietal art, discovered in 2015 by speleologists from the Félix Ugarte Elkartea Group (FUE) and confirmed by D. Garate and J. Ríos. Its entrance is located on the left wall of the cavity, after a narrow corridor that opens down into a corridor. Eleven decorated panels have been identified here, depicting animal figures such as horses and bison. You can read the article to find out more about the art of the Aitzbitarte hill.
In the following videos you can see the excavation process and a 3D model of the cave during the intervention.