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Detail of one of the semicircular engravings recently discovered and interpreted as a hut.

Paleolithic Stone Slab Discovered in Spain May be the First Map of a Hunter-Gatherer Campsite


The Spanish archaeological site Moli del Salt (Vimbodi i Poblet, Tarragona) continues to provide new and pleasant surprises. The latest discovery is a stone slab that is over 13,000 years old. The artifact features seven semicircular engravings, which, according to experts, may be interpreted as huts. If they are correct, this could be the first representation of an ancient hunter-gatherer campsite.

As published by Agencia SINC, the first excavations at El Moli del Salt took place in 1999. Since then, there has been annual work at the site. Through their continuous efforts, archaeologists have recovered more than 5,000 artifacts dated to about 14,000 years ago. Most of the material consists of tools made ​​from flint and several fossils, but they have also found remains of artistic pieces, and pendants made ​​of shells. Furthermore, the presence of what appear to be several prehistoric households suggests that about 14,000 years ago, the Moli of Salt was a campsite for hunter-gatherers.

The excavations have been carried out thanks to the collaboration of the Generalitat de Catalunya, the Regional Council of La Conca de Barbera, the City Council of Vimbodí i Poblet and the company SOREA. Since its inception, the excavations have been directed by Manuel Vaquero, researcher at the Department of Prehistory of Universitat Rovira i Virgili (URV) and the Catalan Institute of Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution (IPHES) .

A selection of the artifacts found at the Molí del Salt site.

A selection of the artifacts found at the Molí del Salt site. (IPHES / SINC)

Now, researchers have found a unique artifact in a stratum belonging to the Upper Paleolithic, with a date ranging between 13,000 and 14,000 years ago. The study conducted on this object has been published recently in the journal PLoS ONE.

The artifact is a schist slab measuring 18 cm (7.1 inches) long and 8.5cm (3.3 inches) wide, with seven semicircular engravings. The shape and proportions of these engravings have led to them being interpreted as huts, forming the representation of a hunter-gatherer campsite: the first of its kind known so far.

Marcos García-Díez (Universidad del País Vasco) and Manuel Vaquero completed the analysis of the schist slab, noting that the semicircular motifs represented on the plate are very similar to huts built by various groups of modern hunter-gatherers, such as the Kalahari Bushmen or the Australian Aboriginals. In addition, the number of huts, seven, coincides with the usual size of a group of hunters.

Furthermore, this is a finding of great importance as it steps away from the common themes found in Paleolithic art - figures of animals and abstract signs. This artifact demonstrates a more secular form of art, far from the ideological, animist, and religious implications that are often attributed to other Paleolithic representations.

Location and current status of the Moli del Salt site

Location and current status of the Moli del Salt site

Location and current status of the Moli del Salt site (Manuel Vaquero / PLOS ONE)

"Given that campsites are the spatial manifestation of the social structure of hunters, the Moli Salt platelet can be considered the first representation of a social group known to date," said Manuel Vaquero on the blog IPHES noticias . Here are his concluding statements on the find:

“By studying the slab, it is also evident that the engraved motifs were all created with the same tool and using the same technique, indicating that etching was performed by a single individual in a short time. This suggests that the engraving is depicting a reality that the artist had before their eyes at the moment of their work. It could, therefore also be one of the first examples of landscaping documented in the history of art, with the distinction that this time it is portraying an exclusively human landscape.”

Featured image: Detail of one of the semicircular engravings recently discovered and interpreted as a hut. (Manuel Vaquero / IPHES / SINC)

By Mariló T.A.

This article was first published in Spanish at and has been translated with permission.

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Mariló T.A.

Freelance writer, blogger and expert in social networks, Mariló has been working and collaborating with online media for several years. Fond of nature, pets, history, photography, ecology, byodinamics, spirituality, ancient civilizations, travelling and parapsychology, you can contact her via e-mail... Read More

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