The universe seen 5,000 years ago

In the upper part of the oval room, 90 m², star shapes with suns and hidden idols, geometric elements, zigzags, linear strokes and circles.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
18 March 2023 Saturday 06:54
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The universe seen 5,000 years ago

In the upper part of the oval room, 90 m², star shapes with suns and hidden idols, geometric elements, zigzags, linear strokes and circles. Abstract elements, and, at the bottom, quadrupedal figures representing horses and cattle. From the earth to the sky, in a mural, as if it were a cave altarpiece, a cosmovision with more than a hundred figures, with the technique of engraving on the clay walls of an underground cave.

Prehistoric art preserved practically intact at a depth of ten meters in a natural area of ​​the Prades mountains, in La Febró (Baix Camp). Just as if time had stopped inside the room, discovered by chance by speleologists who were surveying.

"It is among the best compositions of schematic and abstract post-Paleolithic subterranean art of the Mediterranean basin", emphasizes the Catalan Institute of Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution (Iphes-Cerca). A curious look at the immensity of the universe. Prehistoric art created with fingers, sticks and some flint. A valuable vehicle of expression for the agricultural and pastoral communities between 5,000 and 3,000 years ago, in the transition period between the Chalcolithic and the Bronze Age.

"It is the most important find related to the agricultural and pastoral peoples of Europe. We enter a worldview and a way of understanding the world and life different from that of the hunter-gatherer peoples; it's a new way of understanding things", emphasizes researcher Ramon Viñas (Iphes-Crea), an expert in prehistoric rock art and symbolic behavior.

The discovery was made in an unexplored room of the Vila cave, excavated by Salvador Vilaseca 80 years ago but of which the track had been lost. The mural, which is eight meters long, forms "one of the most relevant sets of post-Paleolithic art in the Mediterranean region", added Iphes-Crea.

The discovery was made public yesterday, although the Sala dels Gravats was found on May 13, 2021. It will mark, they say, a historical milestone for prehistoric archeology in Catalonia.

The mural has six lines of engravings, one on top of the other, superimposed, and on each line there is a different type of sign. “They have to do with abstract things; imagine symbols like those of Miró or Tàpies. The research will last a hundred years, there will be several generations that will study it", warns Viñas.

A worldview on different levels. “It was a burial cave, so we will find the deceased buried there. The cave was a sanctuary and a burial place; this makes it special and singular", predicts the Iphes-Crea researcher.

Symbolically, it is as they saw their world 5,000 years ago. Stars, suns, stars and the eyes of a hidden idol that observes everything. In addition, they took advantage of the relief of the rock to make the eyes look like an abstract face. The dome of the cave also has its relevance, as if we were seeing a sky.

A unique find also because in the north-east of the Iberian Peninsula it is one of the few caves found with prehistoric art inside. This will make it possible to establish connections with the south of France and other points in the Mediterranean.

Also exceptional in terms of volume, what will be done first is the documentation and dating, with current techniques, and then the excavations will come, which could last two or three decades, predicts Iphes. It is expected to find human remains associated with Neolithic, Chalcolithic, Bronze and Iron Age ceramics because it could be a symbolic place shared by many generations. Declared a cultural asset of national interest by the Generalitat, the cave has been closed to the public to guarantee its preservation. The idea is to make virtual visits with the 3D technique. The town of Febró, with about forty residents, hopes to attract visitors.