Prehistoric Rock Art Trails
Certified "Cultural Route of the Council of Europe" in 2010
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.
Each year nearly 1.5 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 twentieth century. It consists of figurative manifestations and schematic forms and abstract shapes and is composed of drawings, paintings or prints on the walls of caves, rock-shelters and open-air rock outcrops, and also on some Megalithic constructions. Currently, Prehistoric Rock Art Trails has 132 sites around Europe.
More than 170 Rock Art sites are open to the public in Europe, concentrated in countries like Norway, Sweden, Ireland, Great Britain, Italy, Portugal and, particularly, France and Spain. Many are small sites (a cave, a rock shelter, a small museum ...), 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 paintings and engravings, including fully reproduced 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. Several regional (or thematic) routes have been established to facilitate access to the sites (these routes take between 2 and 6 days to travel).
Council of Europe values
Prehistoric Rock 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.