Siega Verde and the open-air rock art of the northern Iberian Peninsula (Spain)


en Comptes Rendus Palevol 20 (24) - Pages 507-538

Published on 14 June 2021

This article is a part of the thematic issue Palaeolithic of Northwest Iberia and beyond: multidisciplinary approaches to the analysis of Late Quaternary hunter-gatherer societies

Siega Verde was the third open-air rock art site to be discovered in the Iberian Peninsula, even before Côa and the controversy that followed that discovery. Its practicable size and the study carried out without any publicity allowed the analysis of a new reality that would change the interpretation of Palaeolithic art. From the start of the research, stylistic criteria were used to date the art in the absence of archaeological excavations. Although this has often been criticized, it meant that Siega Verde and Côa could be dated from Leroi-Gourhan’s Style II onwards. Excavations at Fariseu, a site belonging to Côa in Portugal, have proved that hypothesis archaeologically, as well as supporting the applicability of Leroi-Gourhan’s styles. Siega Verde is a good representative of Palaeolithic art in the open, on rocks by a river-bank or on prominent hills, but it is not the only form that can be catalogued as open-air rock art, because there are intermediate forms. These are found in cave entrances and in rock-shelters all over the Iberian Peninsula, especially in areas where little evidence of Palaeolithic art used to be known, such as on the southern Mediterranean coast and in Andalusia. This site possesses an exterior Upper Palaeolithic art ensemble, similar to the art found inside caves and of the same age, but in a different location. Formal relationships are usual inside and outside the caves and in both cases they represent a communicative code that did not need the dark and mystery to be expressed.


Palaeolithic art, open air, religion, motifs, communication

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