"The PACV has received over its 25 years of existence 271,626 visitors and 1,200 rocks have been discovered, 45 of which can be visited in four locations: Penascosa, Fariseu, Canada do Inferno and Ribeira de Piscos," the president of Côa Parque Foundation told the Lusa agency. On the 10 August, 1996, the government of António Guterres inaugurated the first Portuguese archaeological park, ensuring legal protection to what was already the Côa Valley rock art complex.
Aida Carvalho highlights the many ongoing works at the site and an ongoing research agenda. “In the near future, excavations will continue at the Pharisee's Paleolithic art site [rock 9] and at Cardina-Salto do Boi, where an occupation by Neanderthal Man for 100,000 years was recently evident. The surveys and excavations will be extended to the territory between the lower Côa and Siega Verde [Spain], to try to understand the forms of human occupation in this contiguous territory”, explained the official.
For the president of the Foundation that manages PAVC, this archaeological space has a fundamental role in the development of the territory, in the affirmation of its populations and in the creation of services in the region, namely hotels and restaurants. “We have seen a continuous evolution and transformation, over the 25 years, and a diversification in the profile of the visitors”, she observed.
Aida Carvalho says that currently, the visitor is no longer a mere consumer of closed products offered by travel agencies, he is very participative, whether in the planning of his trip, or in the type of 'products' he consumes, looking for new cultural offers, new territories and, above all, striking and challenging experiences. According to the official, PAVC and the Foundation were able to adapt to new demands, diversifying the types of visitation: all-terrain vehicles, kayaks, horseback riding and, recently, using electro solar vessels. "We placed great hope in the recovery of tourism, because we believe that there is a huge potential for growth in demand for tourist products based on cultural values such as the 'Gravura do Côa'", she said.
In statements to Lusa, the former director of PACV, António Martinho Batista, said that, after the public disclosure of the rock finds in the Côa Valley, in November 1994, the acceleration of history, born of an unusual mediation in which they opposed the Salvation of rock carvings in the face of the construction of a dam in Baixo Côa led to the identification of a vast group of sites, mostly with Paleolithic art, which soon became one of the great archaeological discoveries in the world at the end of the millennium.
After these relevant discoveries, and recognized throughout the world, the dam under construction in Baixo Côa quickly became history, at the end of 1995, which later resulted in the granting of a substantial indemnity to the construction company. "After this phase, civil society and the mass movements that were born, imposed on governments a reflexive halt to expansionist policies based on concrete and large works that took little account of the needs of an increasingly aging population, in a interior increasingly deserted”, recalled the archaeologist.
Martinho Batista, recalled that the first ten years were "hot", with unforgettable battles for heritage that took the name of Vale Côa and the country to all corners of the planet. For the archaeologist, as a whole, the PAVC and the Côa Museum constitute a consolidated project and should continue to do so in the coming years, without major upheavals. “It is enough to continue to manage well what has been achieved in the last 25 years”, he stressed.
On the other hand, archaeologist João Zilhão, another unavoidable name linked to the creation of PACV, former director of the former Portuguese Institute of Archeology, first director of the park, who was responsible for preparing the application process for the classification of World Heritage, guaranteed to Lusa that “there is no doubt about the great scientific significance and heritage value of the Côa Valley rock art.”
“Today, we arrive in Vila Nova de Foz Côa and the first thing we see are the posters of the municipality and other entities proudly proclaiming that Foz Côa is the only municipality in the country with two world heritage monuments, the Douro wine region and its Paleolithic art. I think that says everything about how common sense was the decision to abandon the project to build the dam, and keep the prints as an Archaeological Park”, he stressed.
The archaeologist argues that it is crucial that planning for the area of the Park is drawn up and put into effect, without which the landscape that frames the engravings runs the risk of being profoundly altered in the long term. "It is especially important for the State to complete the process of acquiring properties in which there are important nuclei of engravings (for example, Quinta da Barca), both for conservation reasons and to broaden the scope of the offer of sites that can be visited by the public" , creased.
The art of Côa was classified as a National Monument in 1997 and, in 1998, as a World Heritage Site, by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). As an immense open-air gallery, the Côa Valley has more than 1,200 rocks, spread over 20,000 hectares of land with rock manifestations, predominantly Paleolithic engravings, executed more than 25,000 years ago, and distributed over four municipalities: Vila Nova from Foz Côa, Figueira de Castelo Rodrigo, Pinhel and Meda.