The last day in Valencia included a trip to an old ducal palace now ceramics museum (the one with the melted-wax portal I had seen on my first day), where I discovered attractive Moorish-style ceramics from Manises.
Then a short visit to the Prehistory Museum, which I approached dutifully but without much enthusiasm – and was then quite gobsmacked by what I saw. I kind of knew – without really clocking the fact – that Spain has prehistoric finds of interest, and this museum was quite brilliant. Unfortunately I didn’t have much time to spare and left once I got to the more familiar bits of mass-produced Mediterranean pottery – but the exhibits from the Lower and Upper Palaeolithic ages were interesting and well-presented. You didn’t just see the tools for cutting or scraping; you could also see how they had been formed, with all the discarded offcuts alongside. I had to puzzle out if this was still the last ice age (yes, it was).
But was the art from the Upper (note the implied progress) Palaeolithic age that really blew me away. Once I got up close and could discern that the scratches on the limestone tablets really were of animals or geometric patterns from 20,000 years ago I was hooked. The highlight for me was a small collection of coloured stylised animals on pieces of stone. Something connected across the eons – a fascination with the world and a desire to create.
The other thing that I fell for were the ceramic pots from the Neolithic/early agricultural age of 12,000 years ago. The simple yet pleasing decorations were made by pressing the edge of a cockle (cardium edule) shell into the clay. How simple! Basic primary school art . . . but not at all childish.
Ah yes, “What a piece of work is man”. And at the same time a real piece of work.