Rock Art and the Côa Valley Archaeological
Park: A Case Study in the Preservation of
Portugal's Prehistoric Parietal Heritage
António Martinho Baptista and António Pedro Batarda Fernandes
REORGANIZATION OF PORTUGUESE ARCHAEOLOGY
Although Nelson Rebanda—the archaeologist working for the electricity company (EDP) that was building a dam in the Côa river—probably discovered the first Côa Valley engraved surface with Palaeolithic motifs (the now well-known Rock 1 of Canada do Inferno) in November 1991, the find was only revealed to the public in November 1994 (Jörge 1995; Rebanda 1995). Subsequently, the first reports on 'important archaeological finds in the Côa Valley' started to appear in the newspapers.
The Canada do Inferno engravings were located upstream and very near to the construction site of the Côa dam. The construction work advanced at a good pace and the completion of the dam would irremediably destroy the engravings. The public revelation of the find instantly triggered a huge controversy since the first specialists to visit the site immediately classified the engravings as being of Palaeolithic style.
As a result of the media attention on the Côa and right after the broadcast of the first TV reports, a pilgrimage to the Côa Valley rock-art surfaces began. Reacting to the first news on an affair that was starting to be known as 'the Côa scandal', IPPAR (the state body that, at the time, was in charge of managing archaeology in Portugal) created, at the end of November 1994, a committee to follow the archaeological rescue work being done in the Côa. Nevertheless, and considering the serious problem created by the