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


St. James' ravine shelter

Contact information:



St. James' ravine shelter

Departament de Cultura de la Generalitat de Catalunya - Serveis Territorials de Lleida - Rambla d''Aragó, 8
25002, Lleida




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  • Unesco

    These remains are located on the right-hand side of the barranc de Sant Jaume, near to the hermitage of Sant Jaume. This is a wilderness area, which has recently suffered considerable modifications due to the building of tracks (La Granja d’Escarp - El Segrià - Spain).
    The paintings can be seen on a flat rock wall formed by cracked and modified layers of calcareous rock. The figures are arranged horizontally, one next to another, at a height of about 1.60 m from the foot of the shelter and occupy a south-facing wall. It seems that they could originally have been grouped in two blocks, but the frieze has since been divided by a deep crack in the rock.
    The 8 individual figures correspond to 5 double triangular shapes, a double triangular cut, a radial engraving and an undetermined motif in a schematic style. The technique used consisted of simple lines, except in the case of the double triangular cut and the radial engraving, where engraving was involved. The colours used were red, chestnut red and reddish-chestnut.
    Vertical double triangles are quite numerous in schematic cave art, but this is not the case with horizontal double triangles, which are hardly ever found. This motif is therefore innovative, which makes it difficult to date. The resemblance with certain letters of the Iber alphabet is also something that needs to be considered. The undetermined motif –with the form of an inverted trident- really lacks definition and has been found in many other shelters but without being assigned a specific chronology.