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Cantabria belongs to Green Spain, the name given to the strip of land between the Bay of Biscay and the Cantabrian Mountains, so called because of its particularly lush vegetation, due to the wet and moderate oceanic climate. The climate is strongly influenced by Atlantic Ocean winds trapped by the mountains; the average precipitation is about 1,200 mm (47 inches).
Cantabria is the richest region in the world for archaeological sites from the Upper Paleolithic period, although the first signs of human occupation date from Lower Paleolithic. The most significant site for cave paintings is that in the cave of Altamira, dating from about 16,000 to 9000 BC and declared, along with nine other Cantabrian caves, as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.
The modern Province of Cantabria was constituted on 28 July 1778. The Organic Law of the Autonomy Statute of Cantabria was approved on 30 December 1981, giving the region its own institutions of self government.