The cave art of the Mediterranean (1998)


These sites in the Mediterranean Arc of the Iberian Peninsula (Spain), and their cave art, which dates from the end of the pre-historic period, constitute an exceptional set of works and provide a fascinating insight into how people lived during what was a critical phase of human development. The lively, graphic representations are unique not only on account of their style, buy also because of the themes that they portray. The set of cave paintings from the end of the pre-historic period located in the Spain’s eastern Mediterranean arc forms the largest group of cave art locations in the whole of Europe, and offers an exceptional perspective of the live of man in an essential period of human cultural evolution.

In total 16 of Lleida’s archaeological sites have been recognised by UNESCO as depositories of cave paintings of great value. They are important because they represent both one of the first artistic manifestations of the primitive Mediterranean civilisation and because they constitute an embryonic form of later plastic art forms.
This distinction has been granted to remains found in Western Catalonia (Spain) that include La Roca dels Moros del Cogul, one of the best conserved pieces of cave art, which provides an excellent example of the art that developed in this territory during the Palaeolithic period. It also includes the Cova de Cogulló, at Vilanova de Meià; the Cova dels Vilasos, at Os de Balaguer, and the cave art of the Vall de la Coma and the Balma dels Punts, both at L'Albi. Elements with very unique characteristics can also be seen at the Roc del Rumbau at Peramola or in the Abrics of La Granja d'Escarp, which were found as a result of mining prospecting. Other sites include the Abric de la Vall d'Ingla, at Bellver de Cerdanya; the Roques Guàrdies, at Les Borges Blanques; the Aparets, at Alòs de Balaguer; the Cova d'Antona, at Artesa de Segre; the Balma del Pantà and Cova del Tabac, at Camarasa; the Balma de les Ovelles, at Tremp, and the cave paintings of Alfés. All of these sites are top level, cultural heritage sites on a world scale that can be found in the comarques (local districts) of Lleida (Spain).


Information provided by:

Departament de Cultura de la Generalitat de Catalunya


The Cova del Macià - Cogulló

Contact information:



The Cova del Macià - Cogulló

Ajuntament Vilanova de Meià - Carrer de l''Església, 1
25735, Vilanova de Meià
973 41 50 05




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  • Unesco


    These cave paintings constitute one of the best known examples of art produced by Bronze Age shepherds. They can be found on the walls of relatively shallow caves and are manifestations of the continuity of a long Neolithic tradition of paintings showing natural forms that gradually become more schematic and abstract. At the famous El Cogul (Spain) site, it is possible to observe the whole process of the evolution of these pictures. A number of paintings of similar characteristics and of quite good quality have been found near La Coma de Meià, between Baldomar and Alòs de Balaguer. In the municipal district of Artesa de Segre there are further minor remains of this type of art, but given the large number of caves and caverns in the area, it is possible that careful research will reveal more examples.  The schematic cave paintings that we currently know of can also be found at El Cogulló, at a place known as La Cova del Macià (Macià's Cave), which lies directly below the area's highest summit. It was discovered by J.R. González and J.I. Rodríguez, archaeologists from the IEI, and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, according to judgement (2.23.1998), along with 865 other Spansih cave paintings, 43 of which can be found in Tarragona province and 16 in Lleida: at Alfés, L'Albi (the Coma valley and Balma dels Punts), Les Borges Blanques (Roques Guàrdies), El Cogul (Roca dels Moros), Granja d'Escarp (Barranc de Sant Jaume and mina Federica), Peramola (Roca dels Moros), Tremp (Balma de les Ovelles), Alòs de Balaguer (Les Aparets), Artesa de Segre (Antona), Camarasa (Balma del Pantà and Cova del Tabac) and Os de Balaguer (Cova dels Vilars).The cavern ("balma" in Catalan) is very large, 12 metres wide, 8 metres high and between 7 and 8 metres deep. The entrance faces south-east. At the back of the cavern, the floor is smooth and slopes down at an angle of about 45º. There are two holes in the rock that would probably have held the large stakes or lances of the period in which the cavern would have been used as a dwelling. The front part of the cavern has an earth floor and it is possible to see stones that must have fallen from a section of the cave roof. The front part of the cavern is closed off by a dry stone wall, because in more recent times it has been used as a pen for enclosing livestock.

    The painted remains that have been conserved are: 

    a) A figure consisting of an 85 mm long vertical line and 12 mm wide form. Four shorter, 30 mm, and slightly inclined lines emerge from the left part of the form. The painting is a dark, wine red in colour and it has been drawn using the "tines planes" method. The upper part of the figure is incomplete, because the limestone of the cave readily exfoliates and falls. This explains why only a fragment of the painting remains; the rest has been lost. The figure is a vertical schematisation of a quadruped. The painting is 130 cm above the ground and about 145 cm from the right mouth of the cave. 

    b) Under this figure there are three small stains in the same colour, with the largest measuring about 15 mm.

    c) At the back of the cavern, on the left hand side, there is another fragment of the same coloured paint; a horizontal line about 66 mm long. This has been scratched into the surface using a hard instrument and has also damaged the rock surface.The schematic paintings that we have described date these remains within the Bronze Age, they were possibly made at a similar time to nearby remains associated with megalithic burial culture. Further archaeological explorations in the cave should make it possible to establish a more exact date and reveal more remains.Source: El municipi de Vilanova de Meià.

    Authors: Ramon Bernaus Santacreu and Ferran Sánchez i Agustí.