Near the city of Lleida in Catalonia, Spain, archaeologists from the Autonomous University of Barcelona have uncovered an engraved plaque which reveals that artisans living in the region 14,000 years ago were more technically advanced than previously considered, even employing visual tricks in their imagery.
The plaque was found at the Cova Gran de Santa Linya cave in the region, where last year archaeologists also uncovered an ancient skeleton of a woman. Carbon dating has revealed that the plaque is a few centuries older than the skeleton, but both belong to the Upper Paleolithic era.
Of most interest to researchers is the engraved compositions on either side of the plaque. Jose Martínez-Moreno, a researcher who worked on discovery, noted that the compositions indicate that “the person or persons who executed them were intelligent and technically skilled”. The plaque only measures 11 by 8cm, and at first it was not clear to researchers what the lines represented. Using 3D scanners, along with other visual techniques, they discovered that on one side is a large-horned animal identified to be a Pyrenean ibex, a species which became extinct in 2000. It also seems that the artisan who created this design used the grooves from the ibex to overlay another figure onto the stone. The visual trick is not only rare, but seems to be incredibly advanced for what is known of the visual art of this period. In a statement, researchers suggested that this could be evidence of a “new style” that was developing amongst the first hunter-gatherers in the North East of the Iberian Peninsula. The other side of the plaque shows another composition, which has been identified as being the first ever representation of the landscape of this area.
Not only are the two compositions both fascinating material insights into the community living in this region 14,000 years ago, revealing that they were likely more technically advanced than previously considered, but the depiction of the ibex actually contributes to another field of study. The engraving could possible assist with charting the evolution of this animal as a species. Scientists were unable to properly investigate this species before it became extinct, and whilst this artistic depiction is not accurate, it could help with filling in more information about the animal’s historical timeline.
This is not the only recent archaeological find to come out of Pyrenees area. Earlier this month it was revealed that an urban complex featuring “buildings of enormous proportions” has been identified in the Zaragoza province, which dates to between the 1st and 2nd centuries.