Gruta do Escoural

Natural Cave - Middle Paleolithic, Upper Paleolithic, Upper Paleolithic, Neolithic e Neolithic (160)
The Escoural cave is integrated in an archaeological complex, composed by a rock nucleus (CNS - 16049), a settlement (CNS - 16049) and a funerary monument - tholos (CNS 625). The Escoural cave is a natural cavity formed in a granite outcrop, located in a wide limestone range, presenting an irregular shape, composed by a labyrinthine network with several rooms and galleries with many floors. The oldest archaeological remains identified inside this cave date back to the Middle Paleolithic period (47,000 BC), found inside two galleries along a natural opening that was facing south east, and were composed of a set of flinted quartz and flint artefacts and fauna remains (such as equine, deer and aurochs). These remains may refer to a temporary shelter of small Neanderthal hunter-gatherers groups. During the Upper Paleolithic period (25 000-15 000 BC), the Escoural cave became a "rock sanctuary", the European most western one, presenting a numerically expressive and stylistically diverse set of engravings and paintings between the great room and the adjacent galleries, having different moments of execution. The represented motifs are figures of animals, mainly equine, bovine and goats, some of them of naturalist character, as well as geometric compositions (reticulated and scaliform, among others). The decorative techniques are varied, namely black paintings (with pigments obtained from organic or mineral matter) and red (ochre and iron oxides), as well as engravings with different trace types. For this occupation phase, some rare artefacts in flint and bone materials were identified. After a long hiatus of human presence, some ceramic containers fragments were found with cardium and printed decoration, framed in the Ancient Neolithic. During the Late Neolithic period (3500-3000 BC), the Escoural cave was used as a collective necropolis, with the regular burial of individuals (primary graves on the surface, or secondary, composed of bones sets) belonging to one or more communities, coupled with votive artefacts. The artefacts consisted mainly of ceramic containers, flaked stone artefacts (both bladed and geometric), polished stone artefacts (axes, adze and gouges) and stone, bone and shell adornments. The funerary use of the interior of the cave is contemporary to the elaboration of the rock engravings located on the outside. The Escoural cave would be closed during the Chalcolitic (2900-2000 BC), its occupation happening on the outside, with the construction of a fortified settlement at the top of the hill and a tholos funerary monument in the vicinity.


The Interpretive Center of the Gruta do Escoural is located in Santiago do Escoural and has a small archaeological exhibition. Visits require booking at the Interpretive Center, preferably at least 24 hours in advance. Group visits may not exceed a maximum of 10 people.

Visit conditions

By booking


Opening hours: Interpretive Centre Summer 09.30 - 13.00 14.30 - 20.00 Winter 09.00 - 13.00 14.00 - 7.00 Visits to the cave: Tuesday to Saturday, except holiday. Morning - 10.30 Afternoon - 14.30



How to get there? Best practices

Best practices

Good practices when visiting archaeological sites

To visit an archaeological site is to connect with our origins, to understand our path and evolution as a species integrated in the environment, and to respect and safeguard our heritage so that future generations can also visit and enjoy it.

Walking the paths and enjoying the structures and archaeological pieces that survived over time, fosters the understanding of what is different, but also of what is common among different populations: basically, what identifies us as Homo Sapiens.

More than just vestiges and ruins of the past, archaeological sites showcase our capacity for creative thought, adaptation, interconnection, comprehension and resilience. Without these traits we would not have been successful as cultural beings participating in an ongoing evolutionary process. These sites also allow to consider choices made in the past thus contributing for decisions in the present to be made with greater awareness and knowledge.

Archaeological sites are unique and irreplaceable. These sites are fragile resources vulnerable to changes driven by human development. The information they keep, if destroyed, can never be recovered again.

As such, the Directorate-General for Cultural Heritage (DGPC) invites all visitors to enjoy the beauty and authenticity of these sites, while helping to preserve them for future generations by adopting the following set of good practices:

  • Respect all signs; 
  • Do not try to access fenced areas; 
  • Do not climb, sit or walk on archaeological structures and remains; 
  • Respect areas where archaeological excavations are being carried out, not disturbing them; 
  • Do not collect materials or sediments;
  • Do not write or make graffiti on archaeological structures; 
  • Put the garbage in appropriate containers. If none exist, take the garbage with you until you find a suitable container; 
  • Leave the archaeological site as you found it; 
  • Do not drive bicycles or motor vehicles over archaeological sites; 
  • Respect and protect the plants and animals that live in the areas surrounding archaeological sites;
  • Report signs of vandalism or destruction to DGPC or Regional Directorates of Culture (DRC);
  • Share the visiting experience and the archaeological sites, as a way of raising awareness to their preservation and making them better known;
  • Do not buy archaeological materials and report to public security authorities, DGPC or DRC, if you suspect that archaeological materials may be for sale.

Further information:

AIA / ATTA (2013) – Guide to best practices for archaeological tourism. 

Raposo, J. (2016) – Código de conduta para uma visita responsável a sítios arqueológicos. In Sítios arqueológicos portugueses revisitados: 500 arqueossítios ou conjuntos em condições de fruição pública responsável. Al-madan, 2ª série, p. 20 – 77. 

DGPC contacts

Phone: +351213614200 | Email:


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