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Discovery of figurative rock art in the Balkans
Thursday 11 April 2019

An article on heritagedaily.com - Archaeologists identify first prehistoric figurative cave art in Balkans - reports on the first example of Palaeolithic figurative cave art found in the Balkan Peninsula.

Dr Aitor Ruiz-Redondo, a British Academy-funded Newton International Fellow at the University of Southampton and postdoctoral researcher at the University of Bordeaux, led the team of researchers from the universities of Cantabria (Spain), Newfoundland (Canada), Zagreb (Croatia) and the Archaeological Museum of Istria (Croatia) to study the paintings, which could be up to 34,000 years old.

Bison Ibex Cave Art Paintings Palaeolithic figurative Balkans Balkan Peninsula
Composite of digital tracings of 1 Bison, 2 ibex and 3 possible anthropomorphic figures found in the cave. Credit Aitor Ruiz-Redondo

The cave art was first discovered in 2010 in Romualdova Pećina - Romuald's cave - at Istria in Croatia, when Darko Komšo , Director of the Archaeological Museum of Istria, noticed the existence of the remains of a red colour in a deep part of the cave. Following his discovery, the team led by Dr Ruiz-Redondo and funded by the French State and the Archaeological Museum of Istria, with the support of Natura Histrica, undertook a detailed analysis of the paintings and their archaeological context.

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This led to the identification of several figurative paintings, including a bison, an ibex and two possible anthropomorphic figures. The team believe this confirms the Palaeolithic age of the artworks, supported by an excavation made in the ground below the paintings revealing a number of Palaeolithic age artefacts; a flint tool, an ochre crayon and several fragments of charcoal.

Whilst the radiocarbon dating of these objects show an estimated age of around 17,000 years, other indirect data suggest the paintings date to an even earlier period, possibly 34,000 to 31,000 years ago. Further research will be conducted in order to establish the precise age of the rock art. The findings are published in the journal Antiquity.

The discovery adds to the sparse register of Palaeolithic rock art in south east Europe. Together with Badanj in Bosnia and Herzegovina (with its carvings depicting animals and symbols), the two are the only examples of rock art from the Palaeolithic period in the Balkans. Further study in this region will shed light on its relationship with simultaneous phenomena throughout Europe.

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