30 May 2024 The Future is the Product of the Past

Archaeologists reveal largest paleolithic cave art site in Eastern Iberia

More than 100 ancient paintings and engravings thought to be at least 24,000 years old were found in the cave Cova Dones, or Cueva Dones, in Millares, near Valencia. Archaeologists have discovered a major Palaeolithic cave art site, arguably the most important found on the Eastern Iberian Coast in Europe.

The cave site is well-known by locals and often visited by hikers and explorers, but the existence of Palaeolithic paintings was unnoticed until researchers from the universities of Zaragoza and Alicante (Spain), and affiliated to Archaeology at the University of Southampton (UK), made the exciting discovery in June 2021.

Findings of a study into the cave art, which highlight its true significance, are now published in the journal Antiquity.

Dr Aitor Ruiz-Redondo, Senior Lecturer of Prehistory at the University of Zaragoza (Spain) and research affiliate at the University of Southampton (UK) comments: “When we saw the first painted auroch [extinct wild bull], we immediately acknowledged it was important. Although Spain is the country with largest number of Palaeolithic cave art sites, most of them are concentrated in northern Spain. Eastern Iberia is an area where few of these sites have been documented so far.

Image Credit: A Ruiz-Redondo/V Barciela/X Mart

“However, the actual ‘shock’ of realising its significance came long after the first discovery. Once we began the proper systematic survey we realised we were facing a major cave art site, like the ones that can be found elsewhere in Cantabrian Spain, southern France or Andalusia, but that totally lack in this territory.”

The research team of Dr Ruiz-Redondo, Dr Virginia Barciela-González, Senior Lecturer of Prehistory at the University of Alicante and Dr Ximo Martorell-Briz, research affiliate at the University of Alicante, have painstakingly documented over a hundred ‘motifs’, or designs, at Cova Dones so far.

The large number of motifs and the variety of techniques involved in their creation make the cave the most important Palaeolithic cave art site on the eastern Mediterranean coast of the Iberian Peninsula. In fact, it is probably the Palaeolithic cave with the greatest number of motifs discovered in Europe since Atxurra (Bizkaia), in 2015.

The study highlights there are at least 19 confirmed animal representations, including hinds, horses, aurochs, and deer. Unusually, the majority of the paintings have been made using clay.

Horse head painted with clay. Image Credit: Ruiz-Redondo/Barciela/Martorell

Dr. Aitor Ruiz-Redondo explains: “Animals and signs were depicted simply by dragging the fingers and palms covered with clay on the walls. The humid environment of the cave did the rest: the ‘paintings’ dried quite slowly, preventing parts of the clay from falling down rapidly, while other parts were covered by calcite layers, which preserved them until today.”

Although painting in clay is known in Palaeolithic Art, examples of its usage (or preservation) are scarce. In Cueva Dones, however, it is the main technique.

The researchers say their investigations are at an early stage and there are still many areas to survey and panels to document – so they are likely to reveal more art in the coming years.

University of Southampton

Cover Photo: Partly flooded chamber which contains most of the motifs. Credit: A Ruiz-Redondo/V Barciela/X Mart

Related Articles

An architectural gem from the medieval monastery of Posa, Germany

26 July 2023

26 July 2023

Archaeological excavations have been taking place on the Posaer Berg (Posa Hill) near Zeitz (Burgenland) every year since 2017. They...

An imitation Arabic dinar discovered in Norfolk may have been made by Vikings

6 April 2023

6 April 2023

A gold disc struck with a fake inscription imitating an Arabic dinar found near Morston, Norfolk in April 2021 may...

The ashes of 8,000 victims were found in two mass graves near the Soldau concentration camp in Poland

14 July 2022

14 July 2022

Polish authorities said they had unearthed two mass graves near the former Nazi concentration camp Soldau containing the ashes of...

Iron Age port discovered on Swedish island of Gotska Sandön

21 September 2023

21 September 2023

Archaeologists have discovered an Iron Age port on Gotska Sandön, an island and national park in Sweden’s Gotland district. In...

4500-year-old tiger-patterned ritual weapon uncover in east China

4 April 2023

4 April 2023

Archaeologists discovered an extremely rare stone relic, an axe-shaped weapon used for rituals in ancient China, engraved with a tiger...

Egypt unearths 2,300-year-old remains of Greco-Roman town in Alexandria

28 August 2021

28 August 2021

An Egyptian archeological team discovered the ruins of a Greco-Roman residential and commercial town in the north coast city of...

New Study shows Early Native Americans in Alaska were freshwater fishermen 13,000 years ago

15 June 2023

15 June 2023

A team led by the University of Alaska Fairbanks researchers has discovered the earliest known evidence that Native Americans living...

12,000-Year-Old rock art may depict extinct giants of the ice age

13 March 2022

13 March 2022

South America was filled with ice age animals more than 12,000 years ago, including car-sized ground sloths, elephantine herbivores, and...

A statue of God Apollo was found during sewerage works in Afyon city in western Turkey

30 May 2021

30 May 2021

A statue thought to belong to God Apollo was found during sewerage works in Afyon city in western Turkey. During...

Archaeologists discover a hidden Maya burial chamber in the walled enclosure of Tulum

28 December 2023

28 December 2023

Archaeologists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) have discovered a hidden Maya burial chamber concealed within a...

The 1800-year iron mask unearthed in Turkey is proof of the first military base of the Roman period in the Western Black Sea Region

23 November 2021

23 November 2021

An iron face mask used by a skilled member of the Roman cavalry 1,800 years ago has been discovered in...

2100-year-old women skeleton found lying in bronze ‘Mermaid Bed’

4 June 2022

4 June 2022

Archaeologists have discovered the 2100-year-old skeleton of a woman lying in a bronze ‘Mermaid Bed’ near the city of Kozani...

Shackled skeleton identified as rare evidence of slavery found in Rutland

7 June 2021

7 June 2021

In Rutland, archaeologists discovered an ‘unusual’ skeleton of a Roman slave, who might have been a criminal sentenced to death....

Unique 2700-year-old mosaics unearthed in illegal excavations

17 November 2021

17 November 2021

Two 2700-year-old mosaics, which are thought to belong to a Roman rich man and symbolize magnificence, were found in a...

A sanctuary for Cult God Mithras discovered in Germany

13 April 2023

13 April 2023

A place of worship for the Roman god of light, Mithras, was discovered during archaeological excavations in Trier, in southwestern...