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Prehistoric Rock Art Sites in the Côa Valley and Siega Verde

Prehistoric Rock Art Sites in the Côa Valley and Siega Verde

The two Prehistoric Rock Art Sites in the Côa Valley (Portugal) and Siega Verde (Spain) are located on the banks of the rivers Agueda and Côa, tributaries of the river Douro, documenting continuous human occupation from the end of the Paleolithic Age. Hundreds of panels with thousands of animal figures (5,000 in Foz Côa and around 440 in Siega Verde) were carved over several millennia, representing the most remarkable open-air ensemble of Paleolithic art on the Iberian Peninsula.

Côa Valley and Siega Verde provide the best illustration of the iconographic themes and organization of Paleolithic rock art, using the same modes of expression in caves and in the open air, thus contributing to a greater understanding of this artistic phenomenon. Together they form a unique site of the prehistoric era, rich in material evidence of Upper Paleolithic occupation.

Sites d’art rupestre préhistorique de la vallée de Côa et de Siega Verde

Les sites d'art rupestre préhistorique de la vallée de Côa (Portugal) et de Siega Verde (Espagne) se trouvent sur les berges escarpées des rivières Côa et Agueda, deux affluents du Douro, documentant une occupation humaine continue depuis la fin du Paléolithique. Des centaines de parois ont été gravées de  milliers de figures animales par l'homme durant plusieurs millénaires (5 000 à Côa, environ 440 à Siega Verde) représentant l'ensemble d'art paléolithique en plein air le plus remarquable de la Péninsule Ibérique.

Les Vallées de Côa et de Siega Verde offrent la meilleure illustration des thèmes iconographiques et de l'organisation de l'art rupestre Paléolithique, qui adopta les mêmes modes d'expression dans les grottes et en plein air. Elles contribuent ainsi à une meilleure compréhension de ce phénomène artistique, formant ensemble un lieu unique de l'ère préhistorique, riche en témoignages matériels d'occupation au paléolithique supérieur.

المنطقة الأثرية للفن الصخري في سييغا فيرده

تمثل مواقع الفن الصخري ما قبل التاريخ في وادي كوا، المُدرجة في قائمة التراث العالمي في عام 1998، مجموعة مركزة من النقوش الصخرية تعود إلى العصر الحجري القديم الأعلى (من 22000 إلى 10000 سنة قبل الميلاد) وتتميز بكونها فريدة في العالم بمثل هذا المستوى، كما أنها تشكل أبرز الأمثلة على المظاهر الأولى للإبداع الفني الإنساني. وتُكمِّل المنطقة الأثرية في سييغا فيرده، الواقعة في إقليم كاستيل وليون، هذا الموقع. فهي تشمل 645 نقشاً منحوتة على منحدر محفور بفعل الانجراف النهري. وهذه النقوش هي نقوش تصويرية بصفة أساسية، إذ أنها تمثل حيوانات وأشكال هندسية وتخطيطية تم تحديدها. ويُمثل الموقع العابر للحدود في سييغا فيرده، الذي يُطول " مواقع الفن الصخري مما قبل التاريخ في وادي كوا" في البرتغال، جملة الفن الصخري الأكثر شهرة للعصر الحجري القديم الموجود في الهواء الطلق بشبه الجزيرة الأيبيرية.

source: UNESCO/ERI

席尔加•维德(Siega Verde)岩石艺术考古区

科阿峡谷史前岩石艺术遗址于1998年列入了《世界遗产名录》,是一处集中体现旧石器时代晚期(公元前 22000年至10000年)岩刻艺术的遗址,而且其规模之大也为世界少有。就此而言,这一文化遗址也是反映人类早期艺术创作的一项最突出的实证。位于卡斯蒂利亚-莱昂自治区的席尔加•维德(Siega Verde)岩石艺术考古区,现在也补充到这一遗产之中。考古区内包括645件岩刻艺术作品,全部雕刻在因河流侵蚀冲刷形成的陡峭岩石上。作品主要是对动物形象的描绘,但其中也可以找到几何图案与概括抽象图案。席尔加•维德与科阿峡谷的史前岩石艺术遗址代表着伊比利亚半岛旧石器时代露天石刻艺术所达到的最高水平。

source: UNESCO/ERI

Наскальное искусство эпохи палеолита Сиега Верде

Включенные в Список всемирного наследия в 1998 году, памятники доисторической наскальной живописи долины Коа представляют собой уникальную по числу наскальных рисунков коллекцию периода верхнего палеолита (22 000-10 000 лет до нашей эры.). Она является наиболее ярким примером, иллюстрирующим зарождение художественного творчества человека. Археологическая зона Сиега Верде, расположенный в области Кастилья-е-Леон, дополняет этот памятник. Здесь находятся 645 гравюр, вырезанных на стенах пещер, образовавшихся под воздействием водной эрозии. Эти гравюры, в основном символические, изображают животных. Однако некоторые из них представляют собой также геометрические фигуры и схематичные изображения. Доисторический ансамбль наскального искусства долины Коа и Сиега Верде образует самый значительный объект наскальной живописи периода палеолита под открытым небом, расположенный на Пиренейском полуострове.

source: UNESCO/ERI

Sitios de arte rupestre prehistórico del Valle del Côa y de Siega Verde

Los sitios de arte rupestre prehistórico del Valle del Côa, inscritos en la Lista del Patrimonio Mundial en 1998, poseen una extraordinaria concentración de petroglifos del Paleolítico Superior (22.000-10.000 a.C.), que es única en su género en el mundo y constituye uno de los ejemplos más notables de las primeras creaciones artísticas del ser humano. La zona arqueológica de Siega Verde, ubicada en la comunidad de Castilla y León, completa esos sitios con sus 645 grabados ejecutados en una escarpadura formada por la erosión fluvial. Esos grabados son esencialmente figurativos y representan animales, aunque también se han identificado algunas figuras geométricas y esquemáticas. Los sitios del Valle del Côa y el sitio de Siega Verde forman el conjunto más importante de arte rupestre paleolítico al aire libre de la Península Ibérica.

source: UNESCO/ERI

Prehistorische petrogliefen in de Côa vallei en Siega Verde

De twee plaatsen met prehistorische petrogliefen in de Côa-vallei (Portugal) en Siega Verde (Spanje) bevinden zich aan de oevers van de rivieren Agueda en Côa, zijrivieren van de rivier de Douro. Ze bewijzen dat het gebied sinds het einde van de oude steentijd onafgebroken door mensen werd bewoond. Er zijn honderden plekken te vinden waarin gedurende meerdere millennia duizenden dierfiguren zijn gekerfd (5.000 in Foz Côa en ongeveer 440 in Siege Verde). Hierbij werd zowel in de grotten als daarbuiten dezelfde expressieve stijl gebruik. Het gebied geldt daardoor als het meest opmerkelijke ‘openluchtmuseum’ van Paleolithische kunst op het Iberisch schiereiland.

Source: unesco.nl

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© Fiona Starr
Outstanding Universal Value

Brief synthesis

The property includes the two Prehistoric Rock Art Sites in the Côa Valley (Portugal) and Siega Verde (Spain), consisting of rocky cliffs carved by fluvial erosion and embedded in an isolated rural landscape in which hundreds of panels with thousands of animal figures (5,000 in Foz Côa, around 440 in Siega Verde) have been engraved over several millennia. The rock-art sites of Foz Côa and Siega Verde represent the most remarkable open-air ensemble of Palaeolithic art on the Iberian Peninsula within the same geographical region. Foz Côa and Siega Verde provide the best illustration of the iconographic themes and organization of Palaeolithic rock art, which adopted the same modes in caves and in the open air, thus contributing to a greater understanding of this artistic phenomenon. Together they form a unique place of the prehistoric era, rich in material evidence of Upper Palaeolithic occupation.

Criterion (i): The rock engravings in Foz Côa and Siega Verde, dating from the Upper Palaeolithic to the final Magdalenian/ Epipalaeolithic (22.000 – 8.000 BCE), represent a unique example of the first manifestations of human symbolic creation and of the beginnings of cultural development which reciprocally shed light upon one another and constitute an unrivalled source for understanding Palaeolithic art.

Criterion (iii): The rock art of Foz Côa and Siega Verde, when considered together, throws an exceptionally illuminating light on the social, economic, and spiritual life of our early ancestors.

Integrity and authenticity

The integrity of the property is expressed primarily by the homogeneity and continuity in development within the spatial limits of the engraved rock surfaces as well as by the adoption of the typical patterns of prehistoric paintings inside caves, thus confirming the argument for the integrity of this outdoor ensemble.

The authenticity of the property is demonstrated by stylistic and comparative considerations, which also include the examination of artistic themes and organization of rock engravings in caves. The only doubts relate to the interpretation of certain animal figures (e.g. woolly rhinoceros, bison, megaceros deer, reindeer, and felines).

Protection and management requirements

Siega Verde is protected under various national laws for heritage protection and planning and has been declared a BIC (Bien de interés cultural – property of cultural interest). Protection has been implemented since the BIC designation. Management is delegated to the local action group ADECOCIR (Association for the Development of the Region in Ciudad Rodrigo). The ADECOCIR manager is responsible for the overall management and maintenance of Siega Verde, while security is provided by the Junta de Castilla y León, which is also responsible for the maintenance of equipment. The Junta de Castilla y León has developed joint programmes with the Portuguese institution of IGESPAR (Istituto de Gestão do Património Arquitectónico e Arqueológico – Institute for the Management of the Architectural and Archaeological Heritage), which is responsible for the Côa Valley site, with the object of studying and presenting Siega Verde and Côa Valley together.

Long Description

The Upper Palaeolithic rock art of the Côa valley is an outstanding example of the sudden flowering of creative genius at the dawn of human cultural throws light on the social, economic, and spiritual life on the life of the early ancestor of humankind in a wholly exceptional manner.

The earliest evidence for recurrent human occupation by a small group, possibly on a seasonal basis, in the Alto Douro region is from the Lower Palaeolithic period. There is a concentration of rock-art and settlement sites along the main rivers, the Douro and its tributaries, the Côa and the Aguiar. In the Côa valley the known settlements are located in the short section between Quinta da Barca and Salto do Boi, but this does not reflect the situation in early prehistory, owing to the differences in lithology between this area and that further downstream. More intensive cultivation in recent years has also destroyed many settlement sites without record.

The settlements are characterized by pavements of river pebbles and large schist slabs, on which were found thick deposits of the waste from making and trimming stone tools; the acid soil conditions militate against the survival of organic materials such as wood or bone. The activities carried out on these sites were the processing of animal carcasses and the working of hide, bone, wood, and stone. The sources of the stones used indicate that these groups would have moved over a large territory more than 200 km in extent. This form of hunter-gatherer economy ended in the Magdalenian phase of the Upper Palaeolithic period. The region appears to have been devoid of human occupation until the 6th millennium BC, when incoming groups brought a sedentary Neolithic farming culture to the north-west of the Iberian Peninsula. From then on there was continuous occupation through to the present day.

Rock art began with the Upper Palaeolithic in the Iberian Peninsula, but the Côa material is not all Upper Palaeolithic; certain groups or panels are of later date, from the Neolithic to the early modern period, while many are palimpsests. The rock art of the Côa valley occurs in three clearly defined clusters, separated by empty stretches. Furthest south is the small group of granite rock-shelter sites at Faia. Some 8 km further downstream is the cluster on either side of the river at Quinta da Barca and Penascosa, where the rock is schist. Finally, there is a cluster consisting of a series of occurrences starting at Ribeira de Piscos and continuing down the Côa to its confluence with the Douro. It is postulated, however, that the gap between Faia and Quinta da Barca/Penascosa may be artificial, the Palaeolithic rock art on the soft stone in this stretch not having been capable of resisting natural weathering. In all 214 decorated panels have been found in 22 separate groups. The species represented are aurochs, horses, red deer, ibex and fish (with one apparent human caricature at Ribeira de Piscos). The proportions of each species represented vary from panel to panel and site to site. There is no example of any unequivocally domestic animals such as sheep or chickens, which were absent from the Pleistocene fauna of the Iberian Peninsula. The conventions used are also identical - size, invariable lateral views, twisted rendering of horns, distended bellies, absence of ground lines, etc. One convention unique to this group is the frequent use of single bodies with two or three heads, in an attempt to convey a sensation of movement. This is usually associated with horse figures.

The Palaeolithic artists used several different engraving techniques: fine-line incision using a hard resistant tool, pecking, with direct or indirect percussion, abrasion of the surface, and scraping, a technique for producing colour differentiation by the selective removal of surface layers. In cases where only outlines of figures can be discerned, it is suggested that these may originally have been painted with mineral and vegetable pigments. The number of engravings outlined by pecking and incision is almost identical. The Côa engravings represent a fully outdoor art (with the exception of those in the Faia rock shelters). This is usually the case in later prehistory, but it is almost unknown in the Palaeolithic. The engraved panels are always on vertical rock faces, but the possibility of their having disappeared from horizontal or inclined surfaces cannot be ruled out. Following the Palaeolithic tradition, surface variations of the rock itself is used effectively in order to impart relief to the figures.

Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC
Historical Description

The earliest evidence for human occupation in the Alto Douro region is from the Lower Palaeolithic period (90,000 years ago). There has as yet been no Middle Palaeolithic site found, but the region was clearly favoured in the Upper Palaeolithic. There is a concentration of rock-art and settlement sites along the main rivers, the Douro and its tributaries, the Côa and the Aguiar.

In the Côa valley the known settlements are located in the short section between Quinta da Barca and Salto do Boi, but this does not reflect the situation in early prehistory, owing to the differences in lithology between this area and that further downstream. More intensive cultivation in recent years has also destroyed many settlement sites without record.

Analysis of the archaeological evidence suggests that the valley was occupied recurrently, possibly on a seasonal basis, by small human groups during the Upper Palaeolithic. Their settlements are characterized by pavements of river pebbles and large schist slabs, on which were found thick deposits of the waste from making and trimming stone tools; the acid soil conditions militate against the survival of organic materials such as wood or bone. The activities carried out on these sites were the processing of animal carcasses and the working of hide, bone, wood, and stone. The sources of the stones used indicate that these groups would have moved over a large territory more than 200km in extent.

This form of hunter-gatherer economy lasted from around 22,000 BC for 10,000-12,000 years, at the end of the Magdalenian phase of the Upper Palaeolithic.

The region appears to have been devoid of human occupation until the 6th millennium BC, when incoming groups brought a sedentary Neolithic farming culture to the north-west of the Iberian peninsula. From then on there was continuous occupation through to the present day.

Source: Advisory Body Evaluation
Notes
  • (extension de « Sites d'art rupestre préhistorique de la vallée de Côa », Portugal)