The Côa Valley affair

Print Friendly

Upper Palaeolithic sites

TRACCE no. 4 – by João Zilhão


At the request of the editor of TRACCE, I comment here on the text by Robert Bednarik published in number 3, May 1996, of this online rock art newsletter. I do it as a token of consideration toward the editor and the cooperative Le Orme dell’Uomo, an organization that played an important role in rallying international support to preserve the Côa Valley rock art sites.

back to index

Selected Iberian Upper Palaeolithic sites with archaeological and paleontological large herbivore faunas, and settlement sites in Spain close to the Côa Valley complex of Palaeolithic open-air rock-art sites (from Antiquity 69, p. 893, reproduced partially)

I am thus breaking the promise of ignoring Robert Bednarik and his writings which I made myself in July 1995, after Portuguese archaeologists campaigning to save the site had been qualified by him, both in his “direct dating” report to EDP (the electricity company building the Foz Côa dam) and in declarations to the Portuguese press, as utterly incompetent.

I realized back that the appropriate scientific forum to discuss Bednarik’s writings was not Archaeology.

The contents of his TRACCE text, particularly as regards the slanderous attack on a profession that won an unprecedented victory in the annals of rock art preservation, comfort me in this opinion. Therefore, I will not comment further on the issues of dating, with which I dealt previously (1)

I will only alert the readers to the fact that, in association with Alan Watchman, Robert Bednarik actively collaborated with EDP to denigrate the importance of the Côa Valley rock art sites and to help in their drowning.

I quote from their letter to the Board of Directors of EDP, dated March 24, 1995, where they offered their services and stated that "if the art were to be shown to be Post-Palaeolithic, its importance would diminish dramatically and the controversy concerning its preservation would be largely resolved".

The editor of TRACCE is in possession of a copy of this letter.

The only issue of relevance that is raised by Bednarik’s statements on the Côa affair and on Portuguese archaeology is wether members of IFRAO, an organization on whose behalf he acts as convenor, and whose journal he publishes, agree with him, or consider such statements acceptable.

I can only hope that IFRAO members will adequately consider the implications of Bednarik’s behavior and act accordingly.

  1. ZILHAO, J. – The age of the Côa valley (Portugal) rock art: validation of archaeological dating to the Palaeolithic and refutation of “scientific” dating to historic or proto-historic times. “Antiquity”, 69, 1995, p. 883-901

João Zilhão
Director Côa Valley Archaeological Park
 


TRACCE no. 4 supplement


IFRAO proposed resolution
July 18, 1996

  • Whereas, The IFRAO Convener used IFRAO letterhead on March 24, 1995 to propose a private research contract for himself and another individual with EDP Portugal;
  • Whereas, The IFRAO Convener used IFRAO letterhead on March 24, 1995 to state to EDP that "if the [Coa] art were shown to be post-Palaeolithic, its importance would diminish dramatically and the controversy concerning its preservation would be largely resolved;"
  • Whereas, The IFRAO Convener published an article in Antiquity using the IFRAO organizational identification and that article contain misstatements of other's research, unfounded opinion, opinions not approved by the IFRAO member organizations, and direct personal attacks on many respected members of the international rock art community;
  • Whereas, The IFRAO Constitution explicitly states in Article II, Section 1: Members of IFRAO are organizations, not individuals;
  • Whereas, The IFRAO Constitution explicitly states in Article II, Section 4: IFRAO shall promote high scholarly standards of rock art research and publication;
  • Resolved, That the IFRAO member organizations find that the use of the IFRAO name in private consulting and the tone of the Coa publications of Convener Robert Bednarik are in direct opposition to the constitution, goals, and spirit of IFRAO;
  • Resolved, That the IFRAO member organizations censure Convener Robert Bednarik and hereby direct him to cease using the IFRAO name in the publication of personal opinions not approved by the IFRAO member organizations;
  • Resolved, That if a majority of IFRAO member organizations are not represented at the 1996 meeting, those present and voting ask the 1996 IFRAO President to conduct a mail ballot of all member organizations and report the results of that vote to the member organizations and the Convener in a timely fashion, but no later than the 1997 meeting.

Submitted by William D. Hyder
President, American Rock Art Research Association


back to index

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

nineteen − 19 =