A unique concentration of rock etchings and settlement sites in the Douro Valley region represents some of the world’s earliest evidence of recurrent human occupation.
In the 1990s, the Upper Palaeolithic rock art of the Côa Valley looked destined to be submerged and lost forever on account of a proposed hydro-electric dam project until Portugal’s newly-elected socialist government stepped in and scrapped it at the last minute.
There’s much to thank them for because this system of settlement sites along the River Douro and its tributaries represents some of the world’s earliest evidence of recurrent human occupation, prompting UNESCO to classify the area as a World Heritage site in 2010.
A total of 214 decorative panels have been found in 22 separate groups, representing aurochs, horses, red deer, ibex, fish and one apparent human caricature discovered at Ribeira de Piscos.
In short, the rock art preserved at the Parque Arqueológico do Vale do Côa is an outstanding example of the sudden flowering of creative genius at the very dawn of human civilisation, a point expertly illustrated at the Museu do Côa in the nearby village of Vila Nova de Foz Côa.