Gruta da Furninha
Location in Portugal
Alternate name Dominique's cave
Coordinates 39°21′21″N 9°24′4″W / 39.35583°N 9.40111°W / 39.35583; -9.40111Coordinates: 39°21′21″N 9°24′4″W / 39.35583°N 9.40111°W / 39.35583; -9.40111

Furninha (also known as Dominique's cave) is a natural cave on the southern slope of the Peniche peninsula, in Portugal. It is situated on the cliffs between the Peniche Fortress [1] and the Cape Carvoeiro, facing the sea at 39 ° 21'21 "N / 9 ° 24'4" W.[2][3] [4][5] This cave witnessed the developments in the most western part of Europe such as the world of Neanderthal Man (Zilhão), who probably became extinct over 40,000 years ago.[6][7][8] The cave was also inhabited by the Homo Sapiens, during the Neolithic era.

The Furninha cave was explored by Nery Delgado [9] at the end of the 19th century. After exhaustive work, he proved that Furninha was of enormous importance as a landmark, on its western extremity, of a vast region inhabited by the Neanderthal Man, which extended through Europe from its eastern borders to the Iberian Peninsula.[10]

Delgado's excavation revealed the existence of animal occupation in the Lower Paleolithic and of human presence at the Middle Paleolithic (Neanderthal) and at the end of Chalcolithic (Modern Man).[11][12]

Delgado also reports the practice of anthropophagy by the Neandertals of Furninha who, despite the proximity of the sea, were mainly hunters.[13][14]

The conservation state of the cave

Since the exploration by Nery Delgado and for nearly a century, the cave has been totally abandoned, despite persistent appeals to local authorities for the need to preserve and promote Furninha as a world heritage and as an educational and cultural attraction. Almost all the huge collection gathered by Delgado was deposited in a Lisbon museum (Museu Geológico), depriving the local institutions of showing significant remains to the local population and the visitors. Only since August 2017 access signaling on the surrounding cliffs has been made, as well as regular cleaning of the cave.

On the other hand, close observation of many photographs of interiors of this cave [15] taken by geologists (see references and external links), reveals the existence of a thin film of flora,[16] maybe in close relation with fungi, displaying intense colors, with predominance of green, yellow and red zones, that's to say, the existence of a unique ecosystem, with the presence of specific micro-fauna, such as tiny sparrows and small greenish bodies, something that has not been the object of any study.

Apparently, the walls of the cave are covered with nutrients generated by the mixing of rain waters dropping through the vent of the vault with droplets of seawater entering the cave, carried by the wind on stormy days. These elements are depicted in the feature film Arribas (en Cliffs) by Portuguese director Ricardo Costa.[17]

Furninha in the oral tradition

As a record of collective memory, the cave is also known as the Cave of Dominique. Dominique was the name of a wretched and elusive robber who took refuge in Furninha.

The Furninha cave is also associated with the "Legend of a love in Peniche", a story that set in the 16th century. The tale involved Dona Leonor, a beautiful young daughter of a wealthy gentleman, who loved Don Rodrigo, who was the son of a rival noble family. Some people also call the lower platforms of the surrounding cliffs of the Furninha Dona Leonor's Steps (pt Passos de Doña Leonor), since the lady would often go there waiting for the visit of her lover, who took refuge as a monk in the monastery of Berlenga island, six miles away, to escape the fury of the Leonor's father (or to be kept away of Leonor as a punishment ordered by her father, in a different version of the legend). One day, Rodrigo arrived later than expected as the sea was rough. In desperation, thinking he would no longer join her, Leonor jumped into the water and drowned. When Rodrigo arrived, he saw her body floating and, embracing her, he let himself sink with her in the rolling waves.[18]


  • J. E. Nery Delgado, La grotte de Furninha à Peniche, in: Congrès International d'Anthropologie et d'Archéologie Préhistorique, Compte Rendu de la 9ème Session à Lisbonne 1880 (1884) ; Read full text in French
  • M. Kunst, in: M. Blech - M. Koch - M. Kunst, Denkmäler der Frühzeit, Hispania Antiqua (2001) 475 f. Ill. 205 a-d Pl. Farbtaf. 12 a. b.
  • Gruta da Furninha at Megalithic (UK)
  • Carlos Pimenta, Silvério Figueiredo and Marta Moreno, (pt) Pinguinus impennis (download pt) – read Abstract and see Pinguin and egg (great auk) found in Furninha, destroyed by fire: Pinguin and egg – photograph of a pre-historical emperor penguin found in Furninha by Delgado. This piece was destroyed by a fire in the Bocage Museum (Setúbal)


  1. "Peniche Fortress". www.cm-peniche.pt.
  2. THE EVOLUTION OF THE COASTLINE AT PENICHE AND THE BERLENGAS ISLANDS (PORTUGAL) - STATE OF THE ART – article by Teresa Azevedo and Elisabete Nunes, Geology Center, Faculty of Sciences, Lisbon
  3. Portugal, TCP/ARPT Centro de. "Peniche, Portugal's geological paradise! • Centro de Portugal".
  4. "Furninha´s cave - Peniche guide". 9 January 2016.
  5. Map, The Megalithic Portal and Megalith. "Gruta da Furninha". The Megalithic Portal.
  6. The Middle-to-Upper Palaeolithic transition in Cova Gran (Catalunya, Spain) and the extinction of Neanderthals in the Iberian Peninsula – article by Jorge Martıínez-Moreno, Rafael Mora and Ignacio de la Torre at CENTRE D'ESTUDIS DEL PATRIMONI ARQUEOLÒGIC DE LA PREHISTÒRIA, Journal of Human Evolution 58 (2010) 211–226
  7. The Neanderthals: Evolution, Palaeoecology, and Extinction – paper by João Zilhão – print publication date: April 2014; online publication date: October 2013, DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199551224.013.054
  8. Neanderthals disappeared from the Iberian Peninsula before than from the rest of Europe – news at Science Daily, February 5, 2015
  9. Nery Delgado biographical note
  10. (download with an appropriate browser) : [http://www.patrimoniocultural.gov.pt/media/uploads/revistaportuguesadearqueologia/11.2/17_18/18_p.361-370.pdf See reference to Delgado's work in the abstract of the paper on Pinguinus impennis
  11. The Complex Carnivore Rich Assemblages from Furninha (Peniche, Portugal): a Multidisciplinary Approach, Journal of Taphonomy, VOLUME 10 (ISSUE 3-4), 2012
  12. "The Complex Carnivore-rich Assemblages from Furninha (Peniche, Portugal): a Multidisciplinary Approach" (PDF). Journal of Taphonomy.
  13. Hunters of the Golden Age – article by João Zilhão published by the University of Bristol
  14. "João Zilhão - Google Scholar Citations". scholar.google.com.
  15. Picture of unidentified plant (NOTE: the plant resembles a bunch of leafless gray branches whose roots penetrate into tiny cavities in the rock, as if they were feeding on nutrients concentrated in these small holes)
  16. "What Plants Can Live in Caves?". Caveslime.
  17. The film Arribas highlights the colors of the interior of the cave, the surprising harmony of its natural architecture and enacts aspects of the daily life of Neanderthals in a sequence of about three minutes
  18. (pt) Lenda dos Passos de Dona Leonor (The Legend of Dona Leonor's steps)
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