June 19, 2012

Firefighter discovers Neolithic rock art at the Spanish-Portuguese border

Destiny seems obsessed with rock-art these days. Juan Carlos Jiménez, forest firefighter at Valencia de Alcántara at the Spanish-Portuguese border, in Extremadura, discovered several Neolithic rock art weeks ago at San Roque pass and other mountain locations (Sierras of San Pedro and Santa Catalina).

Archaeological experts from the regional government estimate the age of these paintings on 3500 to 2250 years BCE. 

Examples of the findings:

Source: Pileta[es].


  1. The dates and location alone ought to strongly suggest associations with particular archaeological cultures, and presumably there is other evidence which also supports such links, but since a couple of cultures can co-exist side by side for long periods of time, this isn't necessarily definitive.

    In your opinion, which archaeological culture produced this kind of rock art and what else do we know about that culture that could provide additional context for the recent (and cumulative) discoveries?

    1. I do not think that the cultures of that period and area are too well defined. It's generic Megalithic and South or SW Iberian late Neolithic and Chalcolithic. Say "Epicardial" if you wish, or "Megalithic"... but they are a bit catch-all terms.

      In general that area is most tightly related to the Portuguese Alentejo region, which, as I mentioned in a comment at Valera's blog earlier, is:

      1. The origin of the Megalithic phenomenon (Dolmenic Megalithism, I understand), which according to the dates I have read is the oldest not just of Iberia but of all Earth.

      2. The region where (later, in the Chalcolithic) the burial in tholoi is most common (it pre-dates Greek tholos burials, which may have been a conceptual import from Iberia in the Bronze Age, although the construction style has precedents in Syria and Cyprus but with a huge chronological hiatus that makes any connection with Iberia [rather] unlikely)

      But then this kind of schematic art is common in all Southern Iberia, with irregular local variations that are hard to discern if you are not an expert, or even if you are one. Even if there were regional distinctions, not always clear cut anyhow, there's a lot of generic South Iberian or Iberian or Atlantic... trends that criss cross over these regional differences and largely dilute them.

      I'd say it was a mostly pastoralist area, without many urban sites even when urbanization begins since c. 2600 BCE. I think there's then a settlement or two in the Spanish side of the border, not big and not walled.

      This map may give an idea of how the region was c. 2000 BCE. Valencia de Alcántara is at the pointy border penetration of Spain into Portugal. The mentioned sierras are probably the small mountain area towards the south of it, where there is one tholos at least.

      Hopefully this helps.


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