Discovery in the Alqueva Dam Zone of the River Guadiana in Spain and
International Federation of Rock Art Organizations applauds the
important discovery of rock-engravings by the river Guadiana in Spain
and Portugal, in a zone that will be flooded by the Alqueva dam.
A Spanish archaeologist disclosed the rock engravings in Spain early
last April at a course on European prehistoric art, held at the
Polytechnic of Tomar (IPT) in Portugal. His talk was on fieldwork
carried out at Cheles during January and February this year.
IFRAO rock-art researchers promptly went to Cheles and confirmed
the importance of the discovery. The Spanish archaeologist sent them a
report, which they forwarded to the president of the Federation.
An absence of similar engravings further downstream in Portugal
puzzled the researchers. There was not any presentation about
engravings like these at last February's archaeology colloquium of the
Alqueva Development and Infrastructure Enterprise (EDIA), the agency
building the dam that also handles the archaeology and other impact
Then the Liga para a Protecção
da Natureza (LPN),
a nature protection league founded in 1948, received an anonymous
tip-off about engravings just like those of Cheles, except they were
spread along ten kilometres by the Guadiana river in Portugal.
In response, members of Movimento Cota 139, a movement aiming to limit
the level of the Alqueva dam reservoir level to 139 metres, went to
see the engravings on Wednesday 25 April (Portugal's Liberty Day) and
called in Manuel Calado, an archaeologist from the University of
An environmental Web site called Ambiente Online broke the news
of the engravings on Thursday evening, 26 April. Next morning, the
rest of the Portuguese mass media pounced on the scoop.
Position of IFRAO
Although people from the international scientific community are
delighted by the discovery, they are also very concerned because the
dam is nearly finished and it will be difficult to avoid the
destruction of this important rock-art area.
IFRAO, with thousands of amateurs and specialists on five continents
that belong to the Federation's organisations, now calls for the
prompt nomination of a genuinely independent international commission
to follow the situation and ensure international participation in the
exploration and documentation of the rock-art area.
The Federation considers the plight of the Guadiana rock-art area to
be far worse than that of the Côa
rock-art area, in
Portugal, in 1994-5 for the following reasons: -
Work on the dam is nearing completion.
It seems that the lesson of Côa
dam was completely
forgotten, resulting in an appalling threat to or loss of the rock-art
and a massive burden on citizens and taxpayers that pay the colossal
cost of such mistaken projects.
Today there are bodies that did not exist in 1994: IPA (Instituto
Arqueologia), the Portuguese Institute of Archaeology; and CNART
(Centro Nacional de Arte Rupestre), the National Centre of Rock-Art.
These bodies are responsible for keeping an inventory and register of
all rock-art in the country and advancing the conservation and public
awareness of it (law no. 117/97, 14 May 1997).
IPA and CNART should have been constantly inspecting what EDIA
was doing. As the current president of IPA, Prof. Dr. João
was severely critical of a similar situation during the fight to save
the Côa rock-art
area, IFRAO fails to understand why he does not resign-so showing his
total opposition to the destruction of the Guadiana rock-art area.
IFRAO upholds the protection, study, and public awareness of
rock-art on all continents, irrespective of its age or connected
traditions. We are therefore once again deeply concerned that an
attributed age is once again being used as criteria in determining the
importance of rock-art and whether or not it is worth protecting.
Rock-art areas like the Guadiana, stretching two kilometres in Spain
and ten in Portugal, are always of great value and importance. If
claims that most of the engravings are Neolithic (New Stone Age) prove
to be true, this corpus would be quite rare because there is very
little rock-art in Europe attributed as Neolithic-Chalcolithic (Copper
and Stone Age). Corresponding epochs only exist in Valcamónica,
Italy (UNESCO World Heritage Site) and Mont Bego, France.
Position of IFRAO (ctd)
IFRAO asks the Prime Minister and Minister of the Culture in Portugal
to consider the following points: -
A need for timely action to do everything possible to
investigate the engravings with the most appropriate and up-to-date
methodology and with adequate time to do so, even if this means
delaying or suspending the filling of the dam reservoir.
The merit of creating a genuinely independent international
commission to assess the importance and value of the rock-art. Aside
from questions over the competence of IPA, CNART and EDIA, the
commission should not fall under these or other state bodies-thus
helping to ensure the integrity of the commission is not compromised.
State bodies cannot be both players and referees. This was one
of the most heavily criticised aspects of the Côa
IFRAO has formed an emergency delegation with specialists from
four continents to follow the situation. It would be extremely
beneficial if this delegation were part of an enlarged commission with
representatives of Portuguese universities, archaeology associations
and other groups.
IFRAO can promptly indicate suitable specialists to organise
training courses for all the archaeologists and students who will be
needed for the tremendous effort a time sensitive investigation
We remember the political courage shown by the Prime Minister,
Guterres, in saving the Côa rock-art
area. To enable constructive dialogue, IFRAO requests an audience with
the Prime Minister and his Excellency, the President of Portugal.
Finally, IFRAO wants to tell people in Portugal they can and should be
proud of this discovery.
When people respect the past, there is hope for the future.
Representative in Portugal of IFRAO
Department of Geology
University of Trás-os-Montes
and Alto Douro (UTAD)
Phone: 254 92 09 21
Phone: 259 35 01 79 (weekdays only)
Cell Phone: 96 295 56 08 (weekdays only)
- Stone Age find will not halt dam - by Eduardo Gonçalves in Outeiro,
Portugal and Giles Tremlett in Madrid - The Guardian, Saturday 28
- H?gravuras neolíticas no Alqueva - News scoop by João Rabaçã -
Ambiente Online, Thursday 26 April 2001
- Descobertas gravuras rupestres na área do Alqueva - PÚBLICO
Online, Friday April 27 2001
- Figuras Rupestres Descobertas no Vale do Guadiana - by Carlos Dias -
PÚBLICO, Saturday 28 April 2001
"Instituto Português de Arqueologia e Centro Nacional de Arte
Rupestre acusados de negligenciar Alqueva" PÚBLICO Online,
Saturday 28 April, 2001
- Descobertas de Arte Rupestre no Guadiana - Instituto Português de
Arqueologia (N.B., large picture files slows page loading)
http://www.lpn.pt - Liga para a
Protecção da Natureza (LPN), a nature protection league founded in