The Hunter-Gatherer Societies gallery at the Prehistory Museum of the Valencia Provincial Council
The newly inaugurated Hunter-Gatherer Societies gallery at the Prehistory Museum of the Valencia Provincial Council presents material evidence of the first humans to inhabit the Valencian lands. The exhibit bears the fruit of the intensive work carried out by the Prehistory Research Service and the Museum since it was founded in 1927, encompassing excavations, interdisciplinary research projects, conservation and dissemination. This work is reflected in the enormous scientific and heritage value of the Museum’s collections, of anthropological remains, stone and bone tools, artistic creations, flora and fauna, each of which gives direct and indirect testimony of early human societies and the world in which they lived.
Research into Valencian prehistory has changed substantially over the last decades, as has the discourse of the Museum’s collection, which has evolved to frame recent archaeological findings in new perspectives of scientific inquiry. The Hunter-Gatherer Societies gallery is a new area for reflection, learning, culture and enjoyment, where visitors are encouraged to engage with the exhibits through a communicative design combining audio-visual installations, tactile models and scientific illustrations.
The Hunter-Gatherer Societies gallery opens into a space devoted to the beginnings of Valencian archaeology, in a period when the drive of the recently created Prehistory Research Service and its Museum was crucial to constructing an understanding of Prehistoric life in the Valencian region and the wider Mediterranean area of the Iberian Peninsula.
The space devoted to The origins of humanity takes us back seven million years to the beginnings of hominisation in Africa, when the most significant developments in the evolution of hominids took place: physical transformations, the development of technological skills and social changes. These developments lead to questions about what it is that makes us human, where we come from and what we have inherited from Homo sapiens.
The third space is an introduction to the Palaeolithic in the Valencian region that brings together exhibits dating from 350,000 years ago to the end of the Pleistocene approximately 12,000 years ago.
The space is articulated around two exhibitions. The first is a diachronic itinerary through changing landscapes, which reconstructs the successive ecosystems recorded across the region. It presents a sizeable part of the Museum’s Palaeontology collection and human fossils, including significant Neanderthal remains from the Cova del Bolomor in Tavernes de la Valldigna, the Cova Negra in Xàtiva and the Cova Foradada in Oliva.
The second exhibition in this space takes us through the major Palaeolithic sites in the Valencian region, the origin of the Museum’s collections and the main focus of its research: the Cova del Bolomor in Tavernes de la Valldigna, the Cova Negra in Xàtiva, the Abrigo de la Quebrada in Chelva, the Cueva de les Malladetes in Barx, the Cova del Parpalló in Gandia and the Cova del Volcán del Faro in Cullera. The exhibition examines cross-disciplinary aspects of human groups, such as socialisation and group size, issues of gender and the transmission of knowledge, as well as elements of early human life such as the appropriation of land, the use and control of fire, habitat, technology, hunting and gathering, beliefs and artistic manifestations.
The central part of the gallery marks a meeting point and provides a space for reflection between the world of the Neanderthals and the world of Homo sapiens, in which visitors are encouraged to engage with some of the major questions in contemporary scientific research in this field: Why did the Neanderthals disappear? Are we so unalike?
The final space in the gallery presents a series of artistic creations that place us before the complexity that characterises the symbolic world of hunter-gatherer societies in the Upper Palaeolithic. The varied manifestations testify to the diversity of beliefs among different groups and the personal ornamentation through which these were reflected. The most important exhibits in this space are the painted and engraved plaquettes from the Cova del Parpalló in Gandia, which has yielded one of the preeminent collections of Prehistoric portable art in Europe.
The Prehistory Museum of Valencia invites you to visit the new gallery and enjoy an adventure into humanity’s past, to examine the archaeological collections and reflect on the profound nature of time and our enduring proximity to early human life.