The cave is known as Cova Dones and is situated close to the shore of the Mediterranean in Spain. Inside the cave are several examples of beautifully preserved rock art that was created by people over 24,000 years ago. Among these examples are at least 19 depictions of various animals. Researchers from the Universities of Zaragoza and Alicante in Spain discovered more than 110 engravings and paintings in the cave back in June 2021, around 400 meters from the cave’s main entrance. Although the cave is famous to residents, the paintings and engravings were unnoticed until that time.
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Researchers have discovered a total of 110 unique graphical units spread throughout three separate areas of the cave. These graphical units feature a wide variety of themes and creative techniques, leading them to believe that this location may be among the most significant for rock art along the Mediterranean coast of the Iberian Peninsula. The majority of the cave’s murals were created with iron-rich red clay rather than the more typical faded manganese or ochre powder, making them another unique aspect of the cave. It is possible that it represents the biggest total of Paleolithic themes identified at any cave in Europe since 2015, when researchers exploring Atxurra cave also revealed a treasure trove of paintings and engravings, many of which depicted animals.
The researchers discovered two pictures of aurochs, which is a kind of extinct bovine considered to be the origin of contemporary cattle. In addition to multiple horses and red deer, as well as a couple of creatures that could not be recognized, the researchers unearthed these depictions. It is quite unusual to find such a large quantity and diversity of Paleolithic art in a cave in Eastern Iberia, which, in general, does not have the impressive halls of prehistoric cave paintings that are seen in neighboring regions to the north.
However, the actual shock of realizing its significance came long after the first discovery. Once we began the proper systematic survey, we realized we were facing a major cave art site, like the ones that can be found elsewhere in Cantabrian Spain, southern France, or Andalusia, but that totally lacked in this territory, stated Aitor Ruiz-Redondo, senior lecturer of prehistory at the University of Zaragoza in Spain, co-author of the recent study, and research affiliate at the University of Southampton in the U.K.
The researchers note that the Franco-Cantabrian territory hosts more than 70 percent of the world’s Paleolithic cave art locations. Despite this, fresh finds have been made in recent years abroad in Europe and Asia, providing a more comprehensive perspective of the Late Pleistocene art landscape.