Archaeologists identify the first prehistoric figurative art of caverns in the Balkans: it is symbolic!

There was an explosion of symbolism in human culture during the Paleolithic period. Throughout the world, examples of rock art, some of them quite strange, began to emerge more than 35,000 years ago. But some places have been more willing to share their prehistoric works of art than others. A place where Palaeolithic rock art is still relatively unknown, and therefore highly valued, are the Balkans. It is there where an international team led by an archaeologist from the University of Southampton and the University of Bordeaux has finally unearthed the first example of Palaeolithic figurative rock art in the region.

Dr. Aitor Ruiz-Redondo worked with researchers from the universities of Cantabria (Spain), Newfoundland (Canada), Zagreb (Croatia) and the Archaeological Museum of Istria (Croatia) to study the paintings, which could have an age of up to 34,000 years.

Where was the rock art discovered?

Rock art was discovered for the first time in 2010 in Romualdova Pećina (& Romuald's cave & # 39;) in Istria in Croatia, when Darko Komšo, Director of the Istrian Archaeological Museum, noticed the existence of the remains of a red color in a deep part of cave.

Representation of rock art discovered in the Balkans. (Drbug / Public Domain)

Representation of rock art discovered in the Balkans. (Drbug / Public domain )

After its discovery, the team led by Dr. Ruiz-Redondo and financed by the French State and the Archaeological Museum of Istria, with the support of Natura Histrica, made a detailed badysis of the paintings and their archaeological context.

What drawings were discovered in the rock art in the Balkans?

This led to the identification of several figurative paintings, including a bison, an ibex and two possible anthropomorphic figures, which confirms the Paleolithic age of works of art. In addition, an excavation made on the ground beneath these paintings led to the discovery of a number of Paleolithic remains; a flint tool, an ocher crayon and several pieces of coal.

Representation of the discovered flint tool. (Fæ / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Representation of the discovered flint tool. (Fæ / CC BY-SA 2.0 )

The radiocarbon dating of these objects shows an estimated age of around 17,000 years and other indirect data suggest that the paintings date back to an even earlier period, about 34,000 to 31,000 years ago. More research will be conducted to establish the precise age of rock art.
The findings are published in the journal. Antiquity.

The oldest figurative art and the famous cave paleolithic art

The oldest known example of figurative art found in a cave was reported in November 2018 and comes from Borneo. It is there where archaeologists discovered reddish-orange cattle-like creatures painted on the walls about 40,000 years ago.

N. Rushton describes some of the most popular and strange designs in Palaeolithic rock art that archaeologists have discovered over the years:

"While many of the images are naturalistic images of humans, mammals and birds, there is also a broad representation of teriantropic beings, which is partly human, part animal changes shape. There are also many beings that seem to be distorted human beings, perhaps better described as humanoids. . These images suggest that Paleolithic artists tried to tell stories and incorporate messages and meaning into stories, which they considered important. The fact that many of the beings represented in the art of the cave are of a supernatural The quality is symptomatic of what we might call folklore. "

Some famous examples of rock art and rock art around the world include: the beings painted as aliens from the Sego Canyon, the brands of cups and rings found in the Highlands of Scotland, the disturbing figures called Wandjina painted by the Australian aborigines and the world The famous rock art of Lascaux.

Findings of the study of the figurative art of the caverns in the Balkans

This discovery expands until now the scarce record of paleolithic art in southeastern Europe. This makes Romualdova Pećina the first site where figurative Paleolithic cave art has been discovered in this area. Together with Badanj in Bosnia and Herzegovina, both are the only examples of Palaeolithic rock art in the Balkans.

The paleolithic art of the rock, similar to the figurative art of the cave in the Balkans. (Eric00000007 / CC BY-SA 3.0)

The paleolithic art of the rock, similar to the figurative art of the cave in the Balkans. (Eric00000007 / CC BY-SA 3.0 )

Dr. Aitor Ruiz-Redondo, a fellow of Newton International funded by the British Academy at the University of Southampton and a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Bordeaux, said:

"The importance of this finding is remarkable and throws a new light on the understanding of Paleolithic art in the territory of Croatia and the Balkan Peninsula, as well as its relationship with simultaneous information. phenomena Through Europe. "

A new project initiated by Dr. Ruiz-Redondo and his team, funded by the British Academy, will develop additional research at these two sites over the next few years.

Top image: Bison digital tracking in rock art. Source: Aitor Ruiz-Redondo

The article & # 39; Archaeologists identify the first prehistoric figurative art of the cave in the Balkans 'It was originally published in Science Daily. It has been edited for content and duration.

Source: University of Southampton. " Archaeologists identify the first prehistoric figurative art of the cave in the Balkans . "Daily science. Daily science , April 10, 2019.


Ruiz-Redondo, A., Komšo, D., Garate Maidagan, D., Moro-Abadía, O., González-Morales, M., Jaubert, J., Karavanić, I. 2019. Expansion of the horizons of paleolithic rock art: the site of Romualdova Pećina . Antiquity. [Online] Available at:

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