The use of drones allowed researchers to quickly gather evidence of previously unseen cave paintings dating from 5,000- 7,500 years ago, according to a statement from the team at the University of Alicante, Spain. The archaeologists’ findings were published in the Spanish scientific journal Lucentum last month.
The project allowed easier inspection of areas which could otherwise only be reached by “opening complex access routes climbing,” reads the statement.
The team said they found their first results within just a few days of flying drones in a quarry in the Penàguila municipality in Alicante.
“This area is well known for housing numerous groups with prehistoric art,” said lead author Francisco Javier Molina Hernández, an archaeologist at the University of Alicante, in the statement.
“The result was the discovery of a new site with prehistoric cave paintings of different styles, which we believe will be very relevant for the investigation.”
Climbers then visited the site and verified the existence of a large number of painted figures in various styles, including stylized human figures and animals such as goats and deer, some of which have been injured by arrows, according to the statement.
Hernández, who has been christened “Indiana Drones” by the Spanish press, worked with two other archaeologists – Virginia Barciela and Ximo Martorell Briz – on the research.
Researchers came up with the idea of using drones because “on many occasions we have risked our lives to access cavities located in rugged geographical areas,” Molina told CNN Tuesday.
“Many other caves have never been inspected because they are located in inaccessible areas,” he added.
The researchers said the finding is one of the most significant Neolithic rock art sites discovered in the Valencia region in recent decades, due to the large number of figures observed.
“Secondly, the discovery of new cave paintings in this type of cave indicates that prehistoric man developed sophisticated means of climbing, perhaps by means of ropes or wooden scaffolding,” said Molina.
They may have taken these risks to reach certain caves due to their relation to the sunrise or visual control of certain territory, he added.
Next up, the team plans to use more powerful drones to take higher quality images and expand their research to other areas of Spain, Portugal and other parts of Europe, said Molina.