Facts and Data

Official Unesco Page

Basis Data:
Unesco World heritage since: 1999
Size of heritage: 600 ha
- Buffer zone: 2,331 ha

Longitude: -69,333°
Latitude: -46,850°


The Cueva de las Manos, Río Pinturas, contains an exceptional assemblage of cave art, executed between 13,000 and 9,500 years ago. 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, such as guanacos (Lama guanicoe ), still commonly found in the region, as well as hunting scenes. The people responsible for the paintings may have been the ancestors of the historic hunter-gatherer communities of Patagonia found by European settlers in the 19th century.

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The Cueva de las Manos, located in the Río Pinturas valley in the Patagonia region of Argentina's Santa Cruz Province, is a UNESCO World Heritage site of immense historical and cultural significance. This remarkable cave, adorned with ancient rock art, offers a unique glimpse into the lives and artistic expressions of the early inhabitants of the region.


The history of the Cueva de las Manos dates back over 9,000 years when the cave was first inhabited by the indigenous peoples of Patagonia. The cave's name, which translates to "Cave of Hands," is derived from the numerous handprints that adorn its walls. These handprints, created by placing hands against the rock and blowing pigment over them, are believed to have been a form of communication or a ritualistic practice. The rock art found in the cave also includes depictions of animals, such as guanacos, rheas, and pumas, as well as geometric shapes and hunting scenes. These paintings provide valuable insights into the daily lives, beliefs, and artistic abilities of the early inhabitants of the region.

Current State

Today, the Cueva de las Manos is carefully preserved and protected to ensure its longevity and accessibility for future generations. The site is managed by the National Parks Administration of Argentina and is open to visitors who wish to explore its historical and cultural significance. Visitors to the cave can witness the awe-inspiring rock art firsthand, as well as learn about the techniques and materials used by the ancient artists. The handprints, in particular, continue to captivate visitors, as they offer a tangible connection to the past and a glimpse into the lives of those who once called this cave home. To protect the delicate rock art, access to the cave is limited, and visitors are required to follow strict guidelines. The use of flash photography is prohibited, as it can cause damage to the pigments. Additionally, visitors are advised to refrain from touching the rock surfaces to prevent deterioration. The Cueva de las Manos is not only a significant cultural site but also a natural marvel. Nestled amidst the stunning landscapes of the Río Pinturas valley, the cave offers visitors a chance to appreciate the beauty of Patagonia's rugged terrain while immersing themselves in its rich history. In recent years, efforts have been made to promote sustainable tourism in the region, ensuring that the site's preservation is balanced with the economic benefits it brings to the local communities. This approach aims to safeguard the Cueva de las Manos for future generations while allowing visitors to experience its cultural and natural wonders. In conclusion, the Cueva de las Manos in Argentina's Santa Cruz Province is a UNESCO World Heritage site that holds immense historical and cultural significance. With its ancient rock art and stunning natural surroundings, the cave offers visitors a unique opportunity to connect with the past and appreciate the rich heritage of the Patagonia region.