Drólica Cave

  • Locality :Sarsa de Surta
  • Municipality :Aínsa-Sobrarbe
  • Altitude :1.220 m
  • Listed status :
  • Cultural Sequence :Early Bronze Age.




    The cave is set in a terraced hillside in the Sierra de Sevil known as the Sarsa de Surta Valley.

    The site is a cavern in the form of a long, narrow tube that extends for 80 m and which has two superimposed passages. The entrance is via the upper passage that has a narrow mouth altered by humans that leads into the vestibule, which contains relatively dry depositional material and has a flat surface. Evident here are the alterations made by humans such as low enclosure walls, as well as dry-stone gutters or benches along the walls.

    A slope leads into the final room, with an ascending floor, clad in very damp and adhesive clay that is partly covered by a crust of carbonates. The lower passage is reached by a small chasm that takes the form of a ramp.

    In the vestibule, the area closest to the entrance, three hearths were discovered, one of which had a large volume of ash alongside it, the bottom level of which suggests the presence of an excavated depression used to store ash when emptying and cleaning the hearth.
    Perhaps the most interesting aspect of these structures is their arrangement, since they are virtually in line and at the same depth, suggesting that they provided a barrier to insulate the occupied zone from the cold. In addition, a structure was found consisting of stones in the manner of a curving low wall that joins a large rock and the end of the central block and which seems to delimit a particular area.
    Remains of bell-shaped pottery in a relative variety of forms and decorations were also found. Notable among them are the remains of a large storage vessel of the bell-shaped type with a globular profile and closed neck, perfectly spatulated internal and external surfaces, and decoration of the Ciempozuelos type, making it a piece typical of domestic bell-shaped pottery contexts. Measuring more than 50 cm tall when intact, it was made of very pure clay and is of outstanding technical quality.
    Also found were shards from at least four other bell-shaped containers, all of them of the incised type, lithic remains (a scraper and a possible sickle tooth) and various bone items (two awls, a pair of suid incisors and a fragment of a bead with crossed incisions).

    Montes and Martínez believe that the large bell-shaped pottery vessel could have served a ritual purpose due to the excellent quality of its manufacture and decoration, in the manner of large pieces of fine tableware.
    They think that it may perhaps have been associated with funerary rituals, since among the bone remains were a human jawbone and clavicle found very close to the place where most of the shards of this vessel were located, next to the stone wall.
    They also think that the vessel was used to hold liquids, hence the closed spout and mouth and the careful treatment of the walls (in particular the internal walls) in an attempt to reduce its porosity. The adhered remains have yet to be analysed, revealing whether it held beer, grain mash, foodstuffs of plant or animal origin, etc.

    With regard to the use of the cave, the excavation directors are of the view that it might have been a dwelling place or that the site was a pottery workshop. Comparative analysis of the samples of clay collected in the cave and the batches of clay used in the pottery pieces ought to shed light on this issue.

    The hypothesis that the site may be a pottery was prompted by the existence of a large amount of sedimented clay in the cavern and of a depression in the ground near the mouth of the cave (illuminated by natural light) that could have served as a clay supply area. In addition, the number of pottery pieces is disproportionately high in comparison with the very few lithic or bone tools found.

    A slope leads from the vestibule to the final chamber with the floor that climbs upwards. It was known from the first news of the site, cited by I. Barandiarán and picked up again in 2001 by Lourdes Montes' team, that there were various panels with a series of engravings, which were finally identified as marks made using bear claws.


    Cited in 1973 by I. Barandiarán.
    Preliminary soundings: 2001 (Cuchí, Villarroel, Domingo and Montes).
    Sounding: 2003
    Enclosed: 2005
    Directors: Lourdes Montes and Manuel Martínez Bea.
    First excavation: 2006
    Second excavation: 2007. Financed by the Directorate-General of Heritage of the DGA.