Forest fires damage Stone Age paintings, carvings

Forest fires damage Stone Age paintings, carvings

12 August 2006

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Galicia, Spain — Priceless art dating from the Stone Age has been damaged by forest fires in northwest Spain, officials said Friday. Some of the fires were set deliberately.

Colored paintings and rock carvings of wildlife and geometric patterns dating back 4,000 years have been charred and blackened by fires in Campo Lameiro and Cotobade in northwestern Galicia, said a local government spokeswoman, Iria Mendez.

It is too early to determine whether some of the art, which is considered a national treasure, has been irreparably damaged, Mendez said.

Hundreds of fires have raged through the heavily wooded northwestern corner of Spain in the last week, killing wildlife and scorching a countryside containing rare remains of early human habitation, such as the paintings and rock carvings known as petroglyphs.

Police have arrested 15 people this month, including nine in the last four days, on suspicion of starting many of the fires.

Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba visited areas around Santiago de Compostela on Friday and said some of the outbreaks were clearly planned.

“When one examines what is happening and talks to experts and police officers, one arrives at the conclusion that these are strategic fires planned with malicious intent,” he said.

Emergency services fighting 124 fires include firefighting aircraft from France and Italy and 70 specialist firefighters from Portugal, the regional government said in a statement. Spain plans to deploy 200 elite army engineers to help battle the flames. On Friday, 87 fires were out of control.

Several fires threatened the outskirts of Ourense. The fires have charred more than 24,710 acres of forest and scrubland, mainly between the port city of Vigo and the regional capital of Santiago de Compostela.


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