A Palaeolithic site
Date of World Heritage Declaration: 1998 and extended the 1st of August 2010.
Site: Siega Verde.
Location: Vilar de la Yegua, Salamanca province.
Opening hours: Saturdays and Sundays from 10:30 to 14:00 and from 16:00 to 18:00.
Fares: General entry 6 euros and reduced fare 5 euros.
• Technical Specifications
One of the main showcases of paleontological art is without a doubt Siega Verde, in the region of Villar de la Yegua, Salamanca, which celebrates its 25th year anniversary of its discovery in 2014.
This archeological zone, declared World Heritage by UNESCO in 2010, is an extension of the Valle del Coa archeological park, located in the marginsof the Agueda River, just 15km from Ciudad Rodrigo, a well-known Salamanca region.
In this area, next to a bridge and an old mill, the course of the river has its last ford before joining onto the Arribes. In this zone, the pools of water are full even during times of drought.
It is speculated that the reason this area was chosen is due to it being a traversable zone as well as being a privileged control and observational point of animals which frequent the watering trough.
Today the site, appropriately studied, protected and signaled, offers us the possibility of walking through it and learn more about the living conditions of the prehistoric artists that inhabited this zone and left us one of the most important sets of paleontological art in all of Europe.
The site was discovered in 1988 by Manuel Santoja and Rosario Perez, prehistoric art teachers that work for the Salamanca archeological inventory. The first thing they found were engraved figures on the rocks: representations of horses, goats, bulls and deer. There also exist representations of extinct species that belong to glacial environments such as reindeers, wooly rhinoceros and bison.
All of the artwork is exposed to the air, next to the Agueda river shore. It is believed that the prehistoric men chose this place due to it being a highly traversed area by animals. The enclave therefore become a privileged point of observation and hunting ground for the Paleolithic population.
Since then over 500 zoomorphic engravings have been catalogued which are calculated to date to the superior Paleolithic Gravettian period (20.000 years ago) and more recent antropomorphs, from the Magdelenian period (12.000 years ago) in a total of 94 panels that stretch over 3km.
Declared Cultural Heritage by the Castilla y Leon regional government in the year 1998, World Heritage by UNESCO in the year 1998, and extension of the declaration in the year 2010. Without a doubt it is one of the most important findings of paleontological art in the world.
Engraving techniques of Siega Verde
Drawing and etching on rock
The techniques used in Siega Verde include staking, fine incision, abrasion and scraping. Staking involves marking off the contour of the figure with points, hitting the rock with a sufficiently hard object.
Another of the methods they used was incision, a drawing conveyed in a finely engraved line. On occasions, they combined both of these techniques with either abrasion or scraping, creating wider and deeper grooves which added more depth and spatial detail to the images.
Fine incision was used predominantly for small figures, between 15 and 20 cm, while the figures of medium and large size, between 50cm and 2m, have contours engraved through staking or scraping.
In the large bulls depicted one can distinguish traces of red paint, which suggest the Paleolithic representations were treated chromatically. This theory was elaborated by the findings of ocher red pigment as well as yellow and manganese.
Stylistically, paleontologic art in the zone presents a particularly interesting characteristic that is unknown in the French Cantabric zone: the juxtaposition of two, sometimes three heads over the same body, with the purpose of transmitting the idea of movement.
In other images this represents the movement of the animal as it looks backwards, a technique used mostly on mountain goats, wild bull and deer. The first thing they found were engraved figures on the rocks: representations of horses, goats, bulls and deer.
The poor visibility of the engravings
Hidden from naive look
The engravings in Siega Verde were carried out on rocky vertical walls, the majority of them oriented North-South, which complicates the visibility of the engravings depending on the time of day. For example, in Penascosa, the engravings are in shadow during the morning and the strokes and the numerous overlays complicate its readability.
The best solution to this problem has been to not allow public Access without guided tours, which take place in the hours of best visibility in small groups of a maximum of 8 people.
To facilitate their recognition, the tour guides show each visitor a folder with informational index cards that provide information as well as visual aids to interpret the figures.
Objective With the objective of preserving and spreading awareness of the area, the Archeological Classroom was created from the initiative of the Rei Alfonso Henriques foundation in collaboration with the Castilla y Leon regional government.
The original building excavated into natural rock has a grand central hall around which the rest of the dependencies are situated. The exhibition at the central room withholds a recreation of the Paleolithic age, bringing it to life with mannequins displaying the clothes and utensils of that age, as well as a model of the archaeological site in which the position of the paintings can be located. Various illuminated panels filled withdidactic information about the Paleolithic, as well as its art and the meaning of the inscriptions fill the hall.
Archeologic classroom A particular area of interest within the Archeologic classroom is the didactic workshop for kids, in which they are taught the techniques which the Prehistoric men used to engrave the walls, build their tools etc.
Engravings Following a guided tour, it is possible to see the most accessible engravings in Siega Verde, a total of 14 panels. The center offers two different itineraries: a half an hour duration tour, and an hour long tour.
The river Agueda The main problem that the archaeological sites face is the river Agueda itself, as the engravings are all located around its course, and they could be damaged by floodwaters as well as the humidity and the erosion caused by the passing of time.
Cultural Heritage Declared Cultural Heritage by the Castilla y Leon regional government in the year 1998, World Heritage by UNESCO in the year 1998, and extension of the declaration in the year 2010. Without a doubt it is one of the most important findings of paleontological art in the world.
3D Technology for the conservation of the archeological sites
A tech scanner
Matching with the 25th year anniversary of its Discovery, the individuals responsible for the site are considering possible measures to preserve them in the best possible state.
One of the most widely accepted ideas has been the use of 3D technology to scan the less accessible areas in high resolution. This innovation will be used as a verification system, and will help to figure out if there are any modifications on the surface, for example if cracks appear or if there is any movement in the blocks of rock.
The main problem that the archaeological sites face is the river Agueda itself, as the engravings are all located around its course, and they could be damaged by floodwaters as well as the humidity and the erosion caused by the passing of time.
At the same time, documentation work is being carried out, as well as mapping of the damage and risk assessment. The main objective is to control the vegetation to avoid big interventions that could modify that which is being protected.