The modern regions of Montsia (Catalonia) and Baix Maestrat (Valencia) are located where the final part of the Catalan Pre-littoral mountains (oriented NE-SW) meet the Iberian System (oriented NW-SE).
The rock-shelters with the paintings look over the Ulldecona depression, between Sierra de Godal and Sierra de Montsia. The depression is quite flat, which means that the rivers draining the surrounding mountains form a series of lakes, particularly in the centre of the depression (lakes of Montsia, Llacuna, Ventalles, etc).
Regional Archaeological Context:
As well as the rock art, Ulldecona depression contains remains of many other periods. The Iron Age site of Ferradura is a small settlement with ten huts at Els Castellets (Sierra de Montsia). Other settlements of the same period are known, such as La Cogula. These are closely related to contemporary sites nearer the coast, like Moleta del Remei or Sant Jaume, in the municipality of Alcanar.
On March 31 1975, a young caver from Ulldecona Cultural and Recreation Centre discovered the first paintings in a small cave in the Sierra de Godal. The find was the start of a series of explorations that succeeded in identifying 14 decorated rock-shelters. Most of the art found to date belongs to the Levantine cycle. Only in Cova Fosca, also known as Shelter IV, do we find schematic-abstract paintings.
Abrics de’Ermita rock-art Visitors’ Centre was opened in October 2005, next to the Hermitage of the Virgin of Mercy.
Archaeological evidence at the site:
Levantine rock art.
Most of the decorated rock-shelters are situated along a cliff-line half-way up the eastern side of Sierra de Godal, to the south of Hermitage of the Virgin of Mercy. They were all painted with natural pigments in more or less dark shades of red and brown, and also in black (reddish, brown, red-brown, blackish-red, violet-brown, dark brown, black, etc). Most of the figures are in the Levantine stylised-naturalistic style of Post-Palaeolithic art, although there are also some figures in a schematic-abstract style.
Shelter I: This is a medium-sized shelter (7m long and 1.4-2m deep). The paintings must have originally covered all the inner and upper wall of the rock-shelter. However, most of these have now disappeared, although a total of 170 figures have been conserved.
Shelter II: About 7m long, 1-1.5m high and 1.5-2m deep. About 25 motifs have been conserved, on a surface 2.67m long and 1.4m wide. Archers, arrows and several animals can be identified.
Shelter IIIa: Like the previous two sites, Shelter IIIa is about 4m above the general base of the cliff. However, it is significantly smaller: 3m long, 1m deep and 1m high. It contains figures of archers and other human figures, and several animals (some ibex and fawns can be identified).
Shelter IIIb: This is one of the highest rock-shelters in the group, 11m above the base of the cliff. It is 5m long, 2m deep and 1m high. Only two figures can be identified, two archers, out of eleven motifs.
Shelter IV (Cova Fosca): Its name, Cova Fosca, which means “dark cave”, is appropriate for the site. Its size, 10m deep and 8m high, distinguishes it perfectly from the other rock-shelters. The figures belong to different styles, as some representations are schematic-abstract, while others are stylised-naturalistic. There are dots, serpentiforms, zigzags, ibex and other animals on the southern wall and a male ibex, dogs, other animals and branching motifs on the north wall.
Shelter V: A very small shelter, 2.5m wide, 3m deep and 1.5m high. It contains one of the best groups of figures; 66 of them in a stylised-naturalistic style, forming various scenes. The scene of several horses being chased by hunters carrying bows and arrows is unique in Catalonia. Outer Shelter V: A small hollow, outside Shelter V and immediately below the cornice protecting it. It contains nine motifs.
Shelter VI: A medium-sized rock-shelter which is very long (10m), but not very deep (maximum 2m) or high (1m on average). There are at least seven figures of which at least three are definitely archers.
Shelter VII: A small shelter, 7m long, 3m deep and 1.5m high, with nine motifs. Above all, there is an archer who appears to wear a hat with feathers, and other adornments, also possibly made with feathers, just below his knees.
Shelter VIII: A medium-sized rock-shelter (8m long, 1.5m deep and 5m high) with up to 38 figures, most of them in the upper part of the shelter. Many of them are archers in the typical situations of running, chasing animals, drawing their bows and firing. They are often adorned with hats and feathers, and pendants on their legs.
Shelter IX: This is the nearest rock-shelter to the Hermitage of the Virgin of Mercy. It is small (1m long, 0.5m deep and 1.5m high). An approximately circular hollow in the highest part contains a total of thirteen motifs. There are six human figures, four of which are archers, which suggests this is a hunting scene.
Other rock-shelters with paintings in Sierra de Godall: In the municipal district of Ulldecona, to the north of the Hermitage, there are another two rock-shelters (Esquarterades I and II), and further north, at Freginals, there are remains of paintings in the Rock-Shelters of Masets and Llibreres. They are similar to the other sites, and hunting scenes have been identified in them.
Nearly all the figures in the rock-shelters at the Hermitage of the Virgin of Mercy, in the Sierra de Godall, can be included in the stylised-naturalistic post-Palaeolithic cycle, also known as Levantine art. In fact the term post-Palaeolithic includes different styles, such as linear-geometric, stylised-naturalistic, schematic-abstract and macro-schematic, corresponding at different times to hunters, gatherers, farmers, animal-herders and even metal-workers in a period from about 6000 to 2000 BC.
Location: Sierra de Godal / Pietat Hermitage
Booking and access:
Abrics de l’Ermita rock-art visitors’ centre is located on the south side of the Hermitage in the Sierra de Godall. It is fully integrated with the main building, of which it really forms a substantial part, as pre-existing rooms have been restored and adapted to their new use. It is divided into three rooms, of which the first one is the largest and holds most of the exhibition about the rock art.
Nearby cultural destinations:
Iberian settlement of La Moleta del Remei, in Alcanar (8.4 km).
Iberian settlement of Roca Roja and Meravella Caves, in Benifallet (52.6 km).
Suda Castle, in Tortosa (29.6 km).
Nearby natural destinations:
Natural Park of Ports de Tortosa-Beseit (68.7 km).
Natural Park of the Ebro Delta (21 km).
Accommodation near the site:
Finca Revertera - Serra del Montsià. Ulldecona
Tel. 669 303 363/669 303 353
Hotel El Rajolar
Ctra. Vinaròs - La Sénia Road. Sant Joan del Pas
Tel. 977 573 170
Hotel Bon Lloc*
Vinaròs Old road s/n. Ulldecona
Tel. 977 573 016
Restaurants near the site:
Restaurant Les Moles
La Sènia Road, Km. 2
Tel. 977 573 224
Restaurant Antic Molí
Ulldecona-la Senia Road, Km. 10
Tel. 977 570 893
Restaurant El Cazador
C/ Major 50
Tel. 977 713 029
C/ Major 2
Tel. 977 570 669
UNESCO World Heritage Site