Palaeolithic and Epipalaeolithic

The periods which historians call the Palaeolithic, Epipalaeolithic and Neolithic eras stretch from approximately 3.5 million years ago, when the first ancestors of modern man appeared on the African steppes, until about 5000 years ago. Over this long period, which covers more than 99.8% of human history, human beings have developed the skills and knowledge that we have today.

They learnt to knap (chip) flint stone and make tools useful for scraping, drilling, grinding, cutting or crushing food. They also learnt to use fire and perfected hunting techniques by understanding how animal herds moved and how to select the chosen prey. These hunter and gatherer activities, arising from a deep knowledge of nature, maintained the ecological balance and therefore the continuation of the system. At the same time, humans were developing artistic and "spiritual" capabilities, which resulted in the first artistic and religious expression.

Unfortunately there are very few remains of this period – understandable if you consider most things were made of perishable materials such as wood. Those that do remain are exclusively of bone, stone and antler horn.

The oldest remains of human occupation in Xàbia and its surroundings have been found in the Cova Foradada where a small group of hunters settled in the cave 30,000 years ago (the early upper palaeolithic period). Artefacts discovered in the Montgó Cave and the Cova del Moro in Benitatxell are of slightly later origin. At that time the landscape of the region was very different from today. An increase in the polar ice cap during the last Ice Age trapped the frozen seawater and so the sea level dropped. This exposed more land and the shoreline was further (several kilometres) out to sea than it is today.

Around 10,000 BC major climate changes caused the retreat of the Arctic ice cap and the landscape and climate became similar to today. There were substantial changes in the wildlife and vegetation and humans had to adapt to these changes.

Thus began the Epipalaeolithic period – the last stage of the hunter societies. This period is characterised by microlithics i.e. a decrease in the size of stone tools. We now find evidence of small outdoor camps in the Cap de la Nau and la Plana de Sant Antoni.

Neolithic (New Stone Age)

The first material evidence of Neolithic culture is found in some sites near the Spanish Mediterranean coast, dating from the 5th millennium BC. This culture brought about a substantial change in the life and work of human communities: the domestication of plants and animals, i.e. the emergence of agriculture and the keeping of livestock. All these changes, which are fundamental to the history of human beings and their relationship with nature, had originated in the Middle East in the 8th millennium BC. From there they gradually moved westwards, eventually reaching the Mediterranean coast of Spain. Significant technological advances accompanied these changes, most notably the emergence of pottery and stone polishing techniques.

The Cova del Montgó was an important Neolithic settlement and abundant relics of the different stages of this period have been found there: handmade ceramics with expressively engraved, impressed (the most characteristic with Cardium - cockle shells), incised, moulded and painted decorations; axes and adzes of polished stone and other materials. The Cova de l'Or at Cap Negre was also occupied at this time and some archaeological materials have been found there.