Paintings in the Cova dels Cavalls cave in Valltorta. Castellón-Castelló © Turespaña
Tabla de Pochico prehistoric rock art. Aldeaquemada ©Turespaña
Rock paintings in the Abrigo de Navazo rock shelter. Albarracín, Teruel © Turespaña
The so-called Mediterranean Arc Cave Paintings of the Iberian peninsula is home to numerous examples of rock paintings and etchings. These works of art date from thousands of years ago, and share a common style and characteristics which make them genuinely exceptional. That is why they have been declared a part of our World Heritage by UNESCO.
This rock art was created between the Neolithic era and the Copper Age (10,000- 4,000 B.C.). The paintings and etchings are located in open air rock shelters and caves. They tend to be figurative motifs sketched on limestone rock, normally in red, black and white. Their main features include the schematic style of the figures and the intense action of the scenes, which depict episodes of war, hunting, daily life and dance rituals.
There are a total of 727 pictorial groups which have the UNESCO World Heritage designation, located in different areas of Andalusia, Aragon, Castile-La Mancha, Catalonia, Region of Valencia and Murcia. Below we offer a few of the most interesting ones.
The caves and rock shelters in the Río Vero Culture Park in the province of Huesca are well worth a special visit. In Colungo you'll find a visitor centre which arranges guided tours of the site. In the province of Teruel you should also make a point of visiting the cultural parks of Albarracín and Río Martín, which are home to a large number of sites. Among the most important are the Prado del Navazo rock shelter (Albarracín) and the rock shelters at the gorge of Val del Charco del Agua Amarga (Alcañiz).
The province of Lleida contains two prime examples: the cave of Els Vilars (Ós de Balaguer) and the Roca dels Moros (El Cogul). This last cave is particularly significant as it contains 260 etchings and 40 painted figures, and was inhabited for a period of 5,000 years. In the province of Tarragona, you'll find the Muntanyes de Prades Visitor Centre in Montblanc, containing a fine display of the 15 rock sites found throughout these mountains. In Ulldecona you can also drop in at the Abrigos de L'Ermita Visitor Centre, which is dedicated to the 386 painted figures discovered at the site in the Sierra de Godall mountains, depicting mainly images of archers and animals.
Region of Valencia
One of the most important sites is located in the interior of the province of Castellón in the region of El Maestrazgo, and is home to the rock shelters of the gorge of La Valltorta. The most famous paintings from this site were found in the caves of Remigia (Ares del Maestre), Cavalls de Valltorta (containing a stag hunting scene) and Civils (Tírig). The interior of the province of Valencia is also particularly rich in rock art. There are splendid paintings in the cave of la Araña (Bicorp), with its famous scene showing honey collecting. And don't go away without visiting the rock shelters of La Sarga (Alcoi) in the province of Alicante.
Murcia and Castile-La Mancha
The region of Murcia, together with the province of Albacete, is particularly outstanding for the number of representations of schematic art it contains. A good example can be found at the sites of Barranco de los Grajos gorge (Cieza), Cañaíca del Calar (Moratalla), El Milano (Mula) and Monte Arabí (Yecla).
In Castile-La Mancha, the province of Albacete is home to several interesting sites. Among others the paintings and etchings in Solana de las Covachas (Nerpio), the archaeological park of El Tolmo de Minateda (Hellín) and the rock shelters of Alpera, and particularly the cave of La Vieja. You should also make a note in your travel plans to see the paintings in the caves of La Batanera and Peña Escrita, in the municipal district of Fuencaliente (Ciudad Real), and the site of La Peña del Escrito in Villar del Humo (Cuenca).
Finally, in the land of Andalusia you'll find another three very fine examples. The first is in the province of Almería: this is the cave known as the Cueva Chiquita de los Treinta (María). To see the other two we have to go to the province of Jaén, where we'll find the Tabla de Pochico (Aldeaquemada) and the rock shelters of Cañada de la Cruz (Santiago-Pontones).