Côa Valley, Portugal

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An extensive series of open‐air Palaeolithic rock‐art panels in the deeply incised valley of the River Côa, a tributary of the Douro, in northern Portugal. The first panels were discovered in 1992 during surveys for an environmental impact assessment in connection with the proposed construction of a major dam and hydroelectric power plant which would mean flooding the valley. Between 1992 and 1995 several thousand panels were discovered as well as four rock‐shelters and possible settlement sites dating to the Upper Palaeolithic. Following international pressure, the Portuguese government stopped the dam‐building proposals in 1995 and declared the valley a national archaeological park. Several different styles are represented in the way the images were executed, among them incised lines, pecking, and scraping. Most of the panels include motifs of animals, principally aurochs, horse, ibex, and red deer. Most are found on vertical rock faces with an aspect towards the river. Several different periods are represented, and the earliest are believed to span the Solutrean, Gravettian, and Magdalenian; some images, however, extend down into the local Iron Age of the later 1st millennium bc.


A. F. de Carvalho, J. Zilhão, and T. Aubry, 1996, Côa Valley: rock art and prehistory. Lisbon: Ministério da Cultura

Subjects: Archaeology.

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