L'Art Rupestre a Catalunya | Cultural Heritage. Goverment of Catalonia.

Rock Art in Catalonia

The first records of prehistoric Europe

Human beings have always needed to express their concerns and thoughts. When writing did not yet exist, visual art was the perfect tool for transmitting these ideas. The rock art of the Mediterranean Basin of the Iberian Peninsula includes 757 sites, and was registered as part of UNESCO’s World Heritage in 1998. It is Europe’s largest set of rock paintings. In Catalonia, it includes the cave hermitages of La Serra de la Pietat (Ulldecona), Roca dels Moros (El Cogul) and La Cova dels Vilasos or dels Vilars (Os de Balaguer), among others.

The humans that inhabited the coastal and interior mountain ranges of Aragon, Catalonia, Valencia, Castile-La Mancha, Murcia and Andalusia chose shallow rock overhangs and caves to paint and carve symbols and scenes representing their everyday lives. These decorated rock faces inspire a great many questions regarding their beliefs, organization and other aspects of their lives that we know little about.

The paintings found in the Mediterranean Basin date back from the late Palaeolithic to the Bronze or Iron Age. These are the first records of prehistoric Europe, and they express ideas that did not before exist: for the first time, humans show their relationship with their surroundings, their connections to nature, their beliefs, and, at the same time, they show their dominion over and participation in the environment they inhabit.

These humans used a number of techniques and colours to create different styles that can be classified as naturalist, schematic or macro-schematic. The last two dominated in the later period and tended towards increasingly stylized expressions and a growing predominance of signs and symbols. The colour most often used is red, in its many different shades.

This year, Rock Art of the Mediterranean Basin on the Iberian Peninsula celebrates 20 years as a part of UNESCO’s World Heritage.