Cueva de las Manos, Río Pinturas

 Argentina (Bajo Caracoles, Perito Moreno, Las Heras)
Patagonia Region, Santa Cruz Province
S47 8 60 W70 40 0
Date of Inscription: 1999
iii. to bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared;
Property : 600 ha
Buffer zone: 2,331 ha
Ref: 936
The Cueva de las Manos, Río Pinturas, contains an outstanding assemblage of prehistoric cave art, with many painted rock shelters, including a cave, with magnificent pictographies surrounded by an outstanding landscape, with the river running through a deep canyon, which were executed between 9,300 and 13,000 years ago.
It is a series of rock overhangs covered with poluchrome paintings. It takes its name (Cave of the Hands) from the stencilled outlines of human hands in the cave, but there are also many depictions of animals and humans, such as guanacos (South American llamas, or Lama guanicoe, which is a main source of food and clothing), chased by stick figure humans, still commonly found in the region, as well as hunting scenes that depict animals and human figures interacting in a dynamic and naturalistic manner. The entrance to the Cueva is screened by a rock wall covered by many hand stencils. Within the rock shelter itself there are five concentrations of rock art, later figures and motifs often superimposed upon those from earlier periods. The paintings were executed with natural mineral pigments – iron oxides (red and purple), kaolin (white), and natrojarosite (yellow), manganese oxide (black) – ground and mixed with some form of binder.

The artistic sequence, which includes three main stylistic groups, began as early as the 10th millennium BP [Before Present]. The sequence is a long one: archaeological investigations have shown that the site was last inhabited around AD 700 by the possible ancestors of the first Tehuelche people of Patagonia found by European settlers in the 19th century. It bears witness to the culture of the earliest human societies in South America.

The Cueva is considered by the international scientific community to be one of the most important sites of these earliest hunter-gatherer communities during Early Holocene that still maintains a good state of preservation and has a singular environment formation, unique at Santa Cruz province. Protected from both rain and direct sunlight, these hands, which seem to be waving across nearly a hundred centuries of time, are amazingly vivid, the religio-magic legacy of a long-vanished people.

The rock art, its natural environment and the archaeological sites on this region are some of the very important reasons that made this area a focus for archaeological research. They made an impact on the observer due not only the deep gorge walls surrounded by a privileged landscape, but also by the artistic compositions, variety of motifs and its polychromies. The habitat surrounding the archaeological site remains intact and has the same animal species depicted through cave art approximately 10,000 years ago. This also applies to plant species. These scenes represent a unique evidence to know about the first Patagonian hunters’ behaviour and their hunting techniques.

Cueva de las Manos, Río Pinturas is unique in the world, for its age and continuity throughout time, the beauty and the preservation conditions of the paintings, the magnificence of the collection of stencilled outlines of human hands and the hunting scenes, as well as the environment that surrounds the place of exciting beauty and for being part of the cultural value of the site itself.


Apr 05 2016 – 5 must-visit destinations in Patagonia for modern explorers; Cailey Rizzo; Mashable

Jun 04 2013 – Losing the hooded grebe: Part 2; Alanna Mitchell; UC Observer

Jan 24 2013 – Patagonia is a stark land with lovely surprises; Fred Bruemmer; Postmedia News

Aerolines Argentinas – One way for you to get to Rio Pinturas.