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A 5,000 year-old rock painting in southern Spain has been destroyed by thieves who tried to steal the Unesco World Heritage-listed artwork by chipping it off the cave wall where it was housed.

Residents of the Santa Elena in Spain’s southern Jaén province are reeling after news of the damage.

Local mayor Juan Caminero said the painting was now “irreparable” and condemned the act of vandalism as “heartless”, Spanish daily La Vanguardia reported on Monday.

News of the attempted theft first emerged on Saturday after visitors to the Los Escolares Cave noticed the damage to the zoomorphic painting of a person resembling a swallow.

After noticing what looked like evidence of someone having tried to chip away at the image with a pick, they spotted fine dust and rock fragments on the floor. Read more.

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