The rock paintings of the Foz Côa valley, a UNESCO heritage site, is the largest open-air collection of Paleolithic art (dating from 29,000 to 20,000 years ago) in Europe. About five dozens art specimens are spread along the last 17 kilometres of the River Douro (pictured below).
The Côa Valley Archaeological Park (PAVC) was created in August 1996 and the cave art was listed as a National Monument in 1887, and attributed a place on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1990 on the basis that :
“The Upper Palaeolithic rock-art of the Côa valley is an outstanding example of the sudden flowering of creative genius at the dawn of human cultural development;
The Côa Valley rock art throws light on the social, economic, and spiritual life on the life of the early ancestor of humankind in a wholly exceptional manner”.
There is now a magnificent museum which houses replicas of some of the cave paintings and a wealth of information about these and other cave paintings in the region. The caves boasts engravings dating back to the Upper Palaeolithic Age (over 10.000 years ago); though the valley also bears witness to paintings and engravings from the Neolithic and the Calcolithic, engravings from the Iron Age, as well as from the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, when the millers, the last Côa engravers, abandoned the valley. Different men and women left their mark on the rock formations dating back 25.000 years.
More information about the site is available on the UNESCO World Heritage website