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Portuguese Petroglyphs Volume 53 Number 2, March/April 2000
Elizabeth J. Himelfarb

[image] [LARGER IMAGE] Archaeologists, left, uncover a petroglyph depicting a horse in motion, right. (Institute Português de Arqueologia) [LARGER IMAGE] [image]

When construction workers laboring on a bridge in northeastern Portugal's Côa Valley lowered the Pocinho Dam lake by nine feet in early December, archaeologists and rock art experts jumped at the chance to nose around. Their investigations were rewarded with the discovery of a new petroglyph panel to add to the array of local rock art dating from Palaeolithic times to the 1950s (see "Rock Art Saved," March/April 1996).

The latest discovery, at Fariseu, is a vertical outcropping incised with bovine and horse images, some sporting two or more heads on single bodies to suggest animation. The Fariseu panel, covered at the base by undisturbed Palaeolithic strata, has been dated to 21,000 years before present.

"Until now," Joao Zilhao of the Instituto Português de Arqueologia told ARCHAEOLOGY, "the dating of the stylistically Palaeolithic Côa Valley rock art to the Palaeolithic was supported only by indirect evidence. This was very strong evidence, but, in the language of the courts, only circumstantial. Now we have the strongest possible evidence: stratigraphy. After the Fariseu finds, no one in good faith can question the Palaeolithic chronology of the Côa Valley rock art."

At the end of December the art was reburied and water levels restored. Archaeologists hope to lower the lake again this summer.

© 2000 by the Archaeological Institute of America