Findings of a cave painting with the best scene of honey harvesting in the Levantine art

Image of the honey extraction.
Image of the honey extraction.

The findings of a new site of cave paintings in Castellote (Teruel) have brought to light the scene of a person climbing a ladder to get honey from a beehive about 7,500 years ago. This is the most elaborate and well-preserved painting on this gatherer activity documented to date within the Levantine art, developed on the Mediterranean coast of the Iberian Peninsula. The research took place as part of the European project "Breaking barriers between science and heritage approaches to Levantine rock art through archaeology, heritage science and IT" (LArcHER), led by the ICREA researcher of the UB Inés Domingo. The discovery has featured the front page of the journal Trabajos de prehistoria with an article signed by Manuel Bea, from the Jaume I University; Inés Domingo, member of the Prehistoric Studies and Research Seminar (SERP) of the UB, and Jorge Angás, from the Polytechnic University of Madrid.

The found site is specifically the shelter of Barranco Gómez, with a central section of about twelve and a half meters where the paintings are in three different panels. The first is where we can see the figure of a person, with well-defined facial traits, who climbs up a ladder to reach a beehive. The scene depicts that during the painting period, they used advanced techniques to climb: before going up, the ladder has been fixed at the top, near the beehive, while there is a pole at a mid-height to secure the ladder to the rock and provide more stability. The set of paintings includes hunting scenes with archers and deer. Actually, the third panel features the silhouette of a hind. Both in the hind picture and the scene of the honey extraction feature elements of the same cave in the composition of the painting: the honey harvesting is painted in the wall and the ceiling and it uses both supports to better represent the scene, while the mouth of the hind is insinuated by leaving a piece of rock unpainted.

The site of Barranco Gómez is located in the riverbanks of the Guadalope river, an area with several Levantine art sites. The authors of the article note that discoveries like this "stress the need for reviewing new and old territories through systematic prospections"; so that Levantine art gets redefined "according to its technical and stylistic and territorial relations".

The European research project LArcHer aims to understand Levantine rock art, one of the most extraordinary prehistoric art collections in Europe, included in the UNESCO World Heritage list since 1998. One of its keys is the systematic recording and analysis of Levantine rock art through 3D digital technologies, data management and storage systems, geographic information systems (GIS), physicochemical analysis of pigments and supports, and comparative analysis with other corpuses of rock art worldwide with equivalent thematic developments. It is coordinated by the lecturer Inés Domingo, ICREA researcher at the University of Barcelona, in collaboration with the Jaume I University.

Article reference: Manuel Bea Martínez, Inés Domingo Sanz y Jorge Angás Pajas. "El abrigo de Barranco Gómez (Castellote, Teruel), un nuevo conjunto con arte levantino en el núcleo rupestre del Guadalope". Trabajos de prehistoria, January-July 2021. DOI:­2021.12271