Rock art of the Iberian Southern Tip

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Indicative map of the main rock shelters and location (in red) in relation to the Rock Art of the Iberian Mediterranean Basin (in pink).

The Rock art of the Iberian Southern Tip, locally known as arte sureño, refers to rock art existing primarily in the province Andalusian provinces of Cádiz and Málaga.

There are more than 180 caves and rock shelters in which there are prehistoric representations in the form of paintings and engravings. In the Cuevas de Nerja located in the town of Maro, municipality of Nerja (Province of Málaga), some paintings of seals that could be the first work of art have been dated known from the history of humanity, with 42 000 years old, [1][2] much older than the cave paintings of bison from the world famous Altamira Cave. Other parietal manifestations of these caves are postpaleolithic (Neolithic, Chalcolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age). Within the set it emphasizes the municipal term of Tarifa (province of Cádiz) with more than fifty caves and rock shelters of all the prehistoric eras.

The importance of this cave art lies in the fact that here there are prehistoric manifestations carried out in a period that lasted almost 20,000 years, which allows us to contemplate the changes in styles, techniques, evolutions and cultural influences that took place during such a long period of time.

Featured works[edit]


Rocky support of paintings and engravings[edit]

Paleolithic engraving: Head of a horse (Cueva del Moro, Tarifa).

The physical support of the rock manifestations of the south of the Province of Cádiz is constituted predominantly by siliceous sandstones (Areniscas del Aljibe). These sedimentary rocks, which are composed of fine sands and grains of quartz more or less thick, are characterized by the absence of limestone. The cementation in general is siliceous, observing also some of iron oxides.

The rock shelters of these mountain ranges are formed mainly by the effect of erosion and corrosion. These processes of physical and chemical nature are the result of several factors (water, wind, heat, cold, animal and plant life, tectonic processes, etc.) and are the predominant in the genesis of these cavities. Particularly noteworthy is the wind abrasion due to the strong levant wind that occurs in the vicinity of the Strait of Gibraltar under anticyclonic situations.

In regions of limestone formation and abundant rains, another kind of caves can be found: dissolution caves. The carbon dioxide dissolved in the water and acids derived from the organic components of the soil slowly dissolve the limestone, forming underground cavities over time.


The figure of Lothar Bergmann was key to formally register Southern art in the 90s.[3]

On April 25, 2001, the Commonwealth of Municipalities of the Campo de Gibraltar approved the request, addressed to the competent authorities, to urge the inclusion in the list of World Heritage Site of the Unesco of the manifestations of rock art located in the Campo de Gibraltar, La Janda and neighboring areas, as detailed in the study submitted by sociación Gaditana para el Estudio y la Defensa del Patrimonio Arqueológico (AGEDPA) , so as to extend the scope of the complex, already declared a World Heritage Site, Rock Art of the Iberian Mediterranean Basin. It was approved "to transfer the contents of this Agreement to all the Town Councils of the Comarca to support this initiative, as well as to the different Public Administrations that are competent to back this petition and complete their formal request before UNESCO". Also the government commission of the Commonwealth of Municipalities of the comarca de La Janda agreed, at its meeting on November 20, 2003, to adhere to the proposal.

The Commission of Culture of the Parliament of Andalusia approved on May 25, 2006 unanimously with the votes of all the parliamentary groups the Proposition no of Law 7-06/PNLC-000109, related to rock art in Cádiz and Málaga, in order to urge the Junta de Andalucía to initiate before the authorities of the Spanish Ministry of Culture the procedures to incorporate the rock art of the aforementioned provinces to the UNESCO World Heritage List as part of the Rock Art of the Iberian Mediterranean Basin. The first step should be the inclusion in the Indicative List of Spanish Tentatives, always bearing in mind that it is only possible to propose one set per year to UNESCO.

See also[edit]


Basic bibliography[edit]

  • Acosta, Pilar: "La pintura rupestre esquemática en España", Faculty of Philosophy and Letters of the University of Salamanca, Salamanca, 1968.
  • Bergmann, Lothar: "New caves with cave paintings in the municipality of Tarifa". III Workshop on the History of the Campo de Gibraltar, October 7, 8 and 9, 1994, ALMORAIMA No. 13, p. 51 - 61, Algeciras.
  • Bergmann, Lothar: "Report on experiences in the installation of the first bank of digitized images of cave paintings in the Campo de Gibraltar", III Workshop on the History of Campo de Gibraltar; October 7, 8 and 9, 1994; ALMORAIMA No. 13, pages. 62 - 64, Algeciras.
  • Bergmann, Lothar: "Paleolithic engravings of the Cueva del Moro ( Tarifa )", ALMORAIMA No. 16, Journal of Campogibraltarian Studies, Algeciras, 1996.
  • Bergmann, Lothar: "Treatment of images: Applications in the investigation of the Rock Art", COMPUTADORA, Magazine of diffusion computer, Cádiz, 11/1996.
  • Bergmann, L., Casado, A., Mariscal, D., Piñatel, F., Sanchez Tundidor, LF and Sevilla, L.: "Rock Art of the Campo de Gibraltar: New discoveries", IV Field History of the Campo de Gibraltar, 8, 9 and 10 November 1996, ALMORAIMA No. 17, Algeciras.
  • Breuil, H. and Burkitt, M.C. : "Rock Paintings of Southern Andalusia, A Description of a Neolithic and Copper Age Art Group", Oxford University Press, 1929.
  • Breuil, H., Obermaier, H. and Vernet, W.: "La Pileta a Benaoján (Malaga)", Institut de Paleontologie Humaine, Albert Foundation, I Prince de Monaco, Monaco, 1915.
  • Cabré, J., Hernández - Pacheco, E.: "Advance to the study of prehistoric paintings in the Southern Tip of Spain", Papers of the paleontological and prehistoric research commission, No.3, National Museum of Natural Sciences, Madrid, 1914
  • Cantalejo, P., Mirror, M., Ramos, J.: "Cueva de Ardales", City Hall of Ardales (Malaga), 1997.
  • Clottes, Jean: "UNESCO and the rock art", BARA, No. 2, Bulletin of Rock Art of Aragon, Zaragoza, 1999
  • Mas Cornellà, M., Ripoll López, S., Martos Romero, JA, Paniagua Pérez, JP, López Moreno from Redrojo, JR and Bergmann, L.: "Preliminary study of the cave engravings of the Cueva del Moro (Tarifa, Cádiz) and the Palaeolithic art of the Campo de Gibraltar ", Prehistory Works, Vol 52, No. 2, p. 61-81, Madrid, 1995, Higher Council for Scientific Research.
  • Ramos Muñoz, J., et al. : "The Final Upper Paleolithic of the River Palmones (Algeciras, Cádiz)", An example of the technology of the specialized communities of hunter - gatherers, Institute of Campogibraltareños Studies, Algeciras, 1995.
  • Ramos Muñoz, J .: "EUROPA PREHISTÓRICA : Cazadores y recolectores.", Sílex, Madrid, 1999.
  • Sanchidrián Torti, J. L., 1994: «Arte Paleolítico de la zona meridional de la Península Ibérica», Complutum 5, Publications of the Department of Prehistory of the Complutense University of Madrid.
  • Topper, Uwe and Uta: Rock art of the Province of Cádiz, publisher Diputación de Cádiz, Cádiz 1988

External links[edit]