Prehistoric Rock Art Trails

Prehistoric Rock Art Trails

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Prehistoric Rock Art is the art of the first Europeans. It appeared in Europe 42,000 years ago and continued until the Early Iron Age in some regions.

Since the scientific recognition of the Cave of Altamira in 1902, Prehistoric Art has constituted an important cultural and tourism resource for Europe, as the first major cultural, social and symbolic expression of humankind.


Council of Europe values

Cultural Route of the Council of Europe logoPrehistoric Rock Art is one of the oldest form of cultural heritage, present in almost all regions of the planet and living testimony of past life forms. Europe hosts some of the best known and most significant evidences of Prehistoric Rock Art, representing over 40% of all the world’s rock art sites. This Art is closely linked to the landscape. Culture and Nature therefore come together in this route, which also contributes to the sustainable development of the rural communities where all the sites that compose the Cultural Route are located.

Prehistoric Rock Art Trails is certified Cultural Route of the Council of Europe since 2010.

Each year nearly 3.1 million visitors come to the places where the first inhabitants of Europe produced their transcendental rock art, an art full of symbolism motivated by religious belief and full of references to nature. This was initially a naturalistic art form, but later also became schematic and with a capacity for abstraction that would not be repeated until the early 20th century. It consists of figurative manifestations, schematic forms and abstract shapes composed of drawings, paintings or prints on the walls of caves, rock-shelters and open-air rock outcrops, and on some Megalithic constructions too.

More than 200 rock art sites are open to the public in Europe, concentrated in countries like Norway, Sweden, Italy, Portugal, Georgia, Azerbaijan, France and Spain. Many are small sites, but there are locations with significant tourism infrastructure where it is possible to visit large archaeological sites. In addition, the traveller can also see some excellent facsimiles of caves and rock shelters, which make it easy to display this art without endangering the original sites, many of which can only receive a few visitors per day or no visits at all.

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