An exploration of the Cova de la Vila de la Febro in the Baix Camp area of Tarragona has unearthed an unprecedented prehistoric work of art. Another part of the hidden treasure of the Mediterranean arc has been discovered, consisting of animal figures, objects that could represent idols, and mysterious symbols whose meaning we cannot understand. Due to their style and characteristics, we estimate that they were made between 5000 and 3000 years ago.
language set in stone
What if time weren’t an arrow, inexorably directed towards the future? What if we could stop it, manipulate it, even travel through it?
Movie Arrival, directed by Denis Villeneuve, explores the idea of a language that can transcend the time constraints of a human being. It’s not just science fiction: archaeological finds at Cueva de la Vila in La Febro (Baixe Camp, Tarragona) show that language and time can be set in stone.
More than 8 meters long panel with more than a hundred prehistoric engravings takes us back to the time when the ancient inhabitants of the area expressed their thoughts and beliefs through rock paintings.
What stories do these drawings tell us? What hidden messages are transmitted to us from the past?
For the past decade, we at the Catalan Institute of Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution (IPHES-CERCA) have been working at the headwaters of the Siurana River, following in the footsteps of the last Paleolithic hunter-gatherer societies that disappeared over ten millennia ago. and the first peasant communities that later settled in Muntania de Prades.
In 2014, we crawled through the narrow galleries of Cova de la Vila from the entrance known as Boca d’en Peixet. At the end of the gallery, we found a dead-end room, where bones of animals and people were visible everywhere, as well as fragments of huge prehistoric ceramic vessels that could not get there because of the narrow passages and nooks and crannies we had left. behind. .
But the great secret that jealously guarded the deposit had not yet been revealed.
Arrival at the oval hall
May 13, 2021 will be remembered as a historic milestone in the prehistoric archeology of Catalonia. In the course of research carried out by the speleological group ERE of the Center for Tourists of Catalonia and the Center for Guides of Aliga (SIE-CEA), it was possible to open access to a small hole between blocks and sediments.
Once inside, they found a large oval room. The caver Julie Serrano entered first, and his great surprise was enormous when he discovered a fresco, full of lines and figures, on one of the walls of the room. Although he did not know how to interpret them, he understood that what he saw might be very old. “When I saw the engravings, I experienced strong emotions that will stay with me for the rest of my life,” he recalls excitedly. He has just discovered one of the most important sets of prehistoric rock art in Catalonia and he joins the world heritage site Mediterranean Arc rock art collection.
Speleologists, puzzled by the find, contacted us and the authorities.
Engraving room Cova de la Vila
Our colleague Ramon Vinas, a specialist in prehistoric art and an employee of IPHES-CERCA, was the first to examine the marks on the walls. He was immediately fascinated by the relevance of the composition and its preservation.
The set of prehistoric art in the Hall of Engravings is unique in its composition, divided into five horizontal lines with different engraved figures, each with its own meaning and symbolism. Although not yet studied in depth, it is considered one of the finest examples of abstract schematic art in the Mediterranean basin. According to Vinyas, “this composition is completely unusual and shows the worldview of the population during the neolithization period of the territory.”
The panel features more than a hundred schematic motifs. Images made exclusively using the engraving technique are divided into two types: those made with dihedral or pointed tools and applied directly with a finger on a soft wall.
The set is distinguished by a series of quadrupedal, steliform and reticulated zoomorphs, as well as a composition reminiscent of a big-eyed idol.
We believe that the set has not been used for too long due to a slight overlap in motifs and its stylistic uniformity. These motifs are recognized in other parts of the peninsula between 4000 and 1000 BC, although at present it is difficult to indicate their antiquity.
Why has this panel survived to this day?
In cooperation with the Department of Culture of the Generalitat of Catalonia and the City Council of La Febro, we are engaged in the exploration and conservation of this unique place.
The excavations began last year and are already giving us some clues. We know that the ground that our fellow cavers set foot on on opening day is the same ground that people walked on, drawing strange symbols on the walls with their fingers. An unusual fact that has yet to be confirmed brings us closer to this moment. This is a lamp made from a sea shell, which turned out to be under a panel with engravings. It was probably used to light the room and was left there just before a landslide closed the entrance to the room for several millennia, preserving the complex to this day.
We lack a guide to decipher its symbols.
Movie Arrival It was inspired by the relativistic Sapir-Whorf linguistic hypothesis that the language we speak determines our way of understanding and perceiving reality. So when people learned the language of the heptapods, their perception of time changed. These squids have crossed the galaxies to share their language and their way of understanding reality. Unfortunately, prehistoric communities did not do this, or rather, did not do it consciously.
If this linguistic hypothesis is correct, when language dies, a certain way of understanding reality disappears. Rock paintings were a way of communication, a way of expressing and understanding reality for these prehistoric communities, which, when they disappeared, left us their fingerprint, unconsciously, a code with their way of understanding the world. And to us, archaeologists, they bequeathed to answer a million questions, but they took with them a manual or a dictionary in order to be able to decipher it.
Antonio Rodriguez-Hidalgo, Research Fellow, Catalan Institute of Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution (IPHES); Diego Lombao Vasquez, Research Fellow, University of Santiago de Compostelaand Josep Valverdu Poh, archeology, University of Rovira i Virgili
This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original.
I am Ben Stock, a passionate and experienced digital journalist working in the news industry. At the Buna Times, I write articles covering technology developments and related topics. I strive to provide reliable information that my readers can trust. My research skills are top-notch, as well as my ability to craft engaging stories on timely topics with clarity and accuracy.