A palaeolithic map from 13,660 calBP: engraved stone blocks from the Late Magdalenian in Abauntz Cave (Navarra, Spain)

J Hum Evol. 2009 Aug;57(2):99-111. doi: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2009.05.005. Epub 2009 Jul 21.


An engraved block from the cave of Abauntz is interpreted as a Magdalenian map in which the actual surrounding landscape, including mountains, rivers, and ponds, is represented. Some possible routes or avenues of access to different parts of the geography are also engraved on the landscape. The engraving seems to reproduce the meandering course of a river crossing the upper part of side A of the block, joined by two tributaries near two mountains. One of these is identical to the mountain that can be seen from the cave, with herds of ibex depicted on its hillsides, on both sides of the gorge in front of which the cave of Abauntz is strategically located. In the southern part of the gorge, there is a completely flat area where the watercourses slow down, forming meanders and flooding in springtime. The following elements are also represented on the block: tangles of concentric strokes and bundles of lines forming very marked meanders. In short, all of these engravings could be a sketch or a simple map of the area around the cave. It could represent the plan for a coming hunt or perhaps a narrative story of one that had already happened. This paper is provided in the context of recent discussions on early modern human capacities of spatial awareness, planning, and organized hunting.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Engraving and Engravings*
  • Hominidae*
  • Humans
  • Maps as Topic*
  • Paleontology
  • Spain