The Upper Palaeolithic rock art located in the Coa Valley is one of the best examples there is for the flowering creativity genius that gripped the dawn of human cultural revolution. The art sheds light on the social, spiritual, and economic life of the humanity ancestors in an exceptional manner.

The Upper Palaeolithic rock art located in the Coa Valley is one of the best examples there is for the flowering creativity genius that gripped the dawn of human cultural revolution. The art sheds light on the social, spiritual, and economic life of the humanity ancestors in an exceptional manner.

The earliest evidence of human occupation in the Coa Valley is found in a region known as the Alto Douro. Evidence shows that it was possibly occupied during the Lower Paleolithic period. At this area, you will find sudden increase of rock art and settlement along the banks of River Douro and its Coa and Aguiar tributaries. In the Coa Valley proper, known settlements are to be found in the area between Quinta da Barca and Salto do Boi. Unfortunately, intense cultivation on the banks of the river has destroyed some of the settlement sites without having ever been recorded.

The ancient settlements are characterized with pavements made of river pebbles and large schist slabs. Among the activities that were carried out on this site includes processing of animal carcasses and working of hide, bone, wood and stone. The people that dwelt here practiced hunter and gatherer economy. This way of life would come to an end during the Magdalenian phase of the Upper Paleolithic period. After 6th millennium BC, the sedentary Neolithic farming became widely accepted in the Iberian Peninsula. From then on the area has been continuously occupied to the present day.

The rock art of Coa Valley is located in 3 separate clusters that are separated by empty stretches. These include;

  • The small group of granite rock-shelter sites at Faia
  • On either side of the river at Quinta da Barca and Penascosa
  • The cluster consisting of a series of occurrences starting at Ribeira de Piscos and continuing down the Côa to its confluence with the Douro

In total, there are 214 decorated panels that feature 22 separate groups. The artwork depicts red deer, ibex, fish, horses, aurochs and humans. The depictions vary from panel to panel, showing that each of the settlers engaged in different economic activities. There is no example of domesticated animal such as sheep or chicken. These were absent in the faunal make-up in the Iberian Peninsula during the Pleistocene period.

The Coa engravings offer insightful depictions of the Prehistoric man in the Iberian Peninsula. This site is the most important archaeological site in Portugal and one that every tourist must have a chance of visiting.