Countries<Spain<Comunidad Valenciana<Gandia< Cueva del Parpalló

Cueva del Parpalló(Gandia)

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The Parpalló cave is located within the Parpalló-Borrell Municipal Natural Park, a protected natural area of 560 ha. located in the municipality of Gandia, which was declared by the Consell de la Generalitat Valenciana as a Protected Natural Area. It is listed as an Asset of Cultural Interest and, since 2008, is in the process of review by UNESCO to be declared World Heritage of Humanity. It is about 400 meters above sea level on the southern slopes of Mondúber, a mountain massif from the Cretaceous period.

In the Parpalló cave, the largest collection of prehistoric movable art in Europe has been found. Its chronology covers the entire Upper Paleolithic. It is made up of more than 6,000 limestone plaquettes with symbolic and animal representations. It is therefore one of the most important archaeological treasures of the Iberian Peninsula, and makes it one of the most important archaeological sites on the continent. In the Museum of Prehistory of Valencia and in the Archaeological Museum of Gandía (MAGa) some of the best plaquettes of the cave are exhibited. We can also see some reproductions in the Parpalló-Borrell Interpretation Center.

The entrance to the cave is presented as a large crevice 15 meters high and 4 meters wide, named after a bird that used to live near the cave. In Spanish it is known as "avión" (Riparia, riparia). It differs from the swift and the swallow because the plane has a black body and white belly, the swallow also has a black body and white belly but a reddish throat, and the swift is completely black.21,000 years ago begins the most important stage of occupation, the period known as Solutrense, until about 17,000-15,000 years ago, coinciding with the period of maximum glacial cold. It is the stage that has offered more archaeological remains and the one of the maximum production of engraved and painted plaques. From 17,000-15,000 years ago until 11,000 years ago, during the Magdalenian period, the cave continued to be occupied with the same intensity.
Before being discovered as an archaeological site, the cave was used as a shelter for shepherds and their flocks. It was also known for having "fire stones", i.e. flints, which were used by the nearby peasants for their lighters.

The site was discovered by Joan Vilanova i Piera during a survey in 1872. Shortly after, he published some of the material discovered. After this news, the cave was visited by some amateurs and researchers, such as the naturalist Eduard Boscà or Father Leandro Calvo, who also collected some archaeological materials. The inhabitants of the Upper Paleolithic were Homo sapiens sapiens, intellectually and physically similar to us. They were nomadic and had a high territorial mobility since their main prey also had constant movements. The places where they lived, such as the Parpalló, would have been occupied seasonally.

The inhabitants of Parpalló lived by specialized hunting, gathering plants and vegetable fruits and, occasionally, fishing for fish or mollusks. They perfected hunting techniques, especially through the development of new throwing weapons, such as the propeller and the bow. They also perfected the manufacture of lithic and bone tools, and to hunt deer and goats, they watched and followed them. This is not at all easy and implies a good social organization and a network of surveillance and control of the habits of the fauna.
The slaughtered animals were transported whole to the cave, which indicates that the hunting sites were close to the cave. Natural food preservation techniques such as filleting and subsequent smoking or air-drying were known. Bone marrow was also consumed by fracturing or boiling the bones.

Preferred prey were deer, wild goats and rabbits. To a lesser extent horses and aurochs. Rabbits and other small prey, such as birds, played a complementary role in the diet, as did marine and river resources, especially at the end of the cave occupation period.

Image of Cueva del Parpalló