Discovered in Montsant a ‘book of animals’ from around 13,000 years ago

Discovered in Montsant a ‘book of animals’ from around 13,000 years ago
Discovered in Montsant a ‘book of animals’ from around 13,000 years ago

It is one of the first artistic representations discovered in Catalonia. A small stone plate found in an archaeological excavation in the Coves del Fem, in the Montsant mountain range, hid six figures of animals, with two deer (male and female), two caprids or bovids and two other indeterminate critters, all underlined by a system of lines that intrigues archaeologists. The find was presented this morning at the Museu d’Arqueologia de Catalunya.

These drawings were made between 15,000 and 11,700 years ago on a small slate of slate, oval and flat, 18 centimeters long by 12 wide.

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FAUNA OF THE PLACE

Two deer, two goats or bovids and two other indeterminate critters make up the scene

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The ‘canvas’ was safely etched using flint points. Archaeologists highlight the great precision of the line, with anatomical details such as eyes, ears, snouts or antlers; these allow to distinguish male deer (one of them has complete seven-pointed horns) and female deer.

The age of the work cannot be specified further, at least for now, because it was located outside of an archaeological context, in an area of ​​the site altered by rising water in the area. In any case, the type of line and representation leaves no doubt about its age, at the end of the Paleolithic. Similar engravings have appeared in other sites whose antiquity could be established with all certainty.

A FIELD OF LARGE CHRONOLOGY

In the Coves del Fem the Neolithic was investigated, until about 5,500 years ago,
but the finding suggests that
the site is much older

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The piece is especially valuable for its symbolism. It possibly explains what was most important – food – for those human groups. This type of representation is shared with other sites from that period.

The team of archaeologists, with specialists from the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB), the Museu d’Arqueologia de Catalunya (MAC) and the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC), coincide in considering this work “exceptional”. There are not many more of such antiquity in Catalan deposits, so that it places the Coves del Fem, in the municipality of Ulldemolins, on the map of the oldest art of the Iberian Peninsula. Until now, artistic representations of such antiquity had been located between Priorat and Conca de Barberà.

The discovery also makes it possible to extend the chronology of this site very considerably until the end of the Upper Palaeolithic. Until now, archaeologists had been able to certify occupations in this cave from the end of the hunting and gathering period and the beginning of the agricultural period, between 6,000 and 5,500 BC, with somewhat more recent populations, from 4,500 BC.

For this reason, the Coves del Fum site is an excellent film of the first settlers in the area. And more so now, given the indication that it may have been busy long before. Although the drawn plate appeared in isolation and out of context, archaeologists are convinced that it belongs to earlier periods, that is, deeper layers, from the same site.

The piece will immediately be incorporated into the Art Primer exhibition, at the Museu d’Arqueologia de Catalunya. This exhibition, which has been selected for the final vote of the Global Fine Art Awards, which recognize the best in the world, opened on February 6 and will close on January 24.

IT IS ALREADY ON EXHIBITION

From now on it is part of the exhibition of the Museu d’Arqueologia Art Primer, which is open until January 24

The excavations of the Coves del Fem are coordinated by the UAB, the MAC and the CSIC and are financed with the quadrennial program of the Department of Culture of the Generalitat; They are also part of a research project of the Ministry of Science and Innovation and have the support of the town hall of Ulldemolins, the Parc del Montsant and the owners of the land, the Borrull family.

Since the beginning of the work, in 2013, there have been five excavation campaigns.

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