Ibiza History Culture

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History in Ibiza

History of Ibiza
by Emily Kaufman

Museum Update


Historical Information

Hello and welcome to the history page! This week we will venture into the distant past as we catch up on the current activities of the Puig des Molins Archaeology Museum.

A Day at the Museum

The first thing that struck me as I drove up to the museum early one morning is that this venerable institution is a going concern. It was only 8:15, but a swarm of young adults were moving in and out of the building, some carrying strange utensils, some hovering over the ancient tombs of the necropolis, others simply waiting for instructions. As I was led through these industrious young excavators, kneeling and scratching in the dirt of the world's heritage, I sensed a current of excitement and high purpose.

I later learned that these khaki-clad diggers were archaeology students from the universities of Valencia and Madrid. They had been assigned to Ibiza for a month of fieldwork, an obligatory part of their curriculum that is intended to round out classroom theory. The buzz of positivism I had felt was, in fact, genuine elation at the important finds that had already been uncovered in their three weeks of guided field training.

Granted, they had a rich matrix from which to start. Ibiza's necropolis is the most important surviving Phoenico-Punic burial site in the world today and, although it has been excavated many times, the site continues to provide a cornucopia of artefacts with each new dig. Not by accident, was it awarded World Heritage status in 1999, an honour that ranks it alongside such cultural strongholds as Stonehenge, the Alhambra and the Egyptian pyramids. (For a more detailed discussion of the necropolis see our Ibiza History Culture Archive articles Weekly Edition 012 of Saturday 19th May 2001 and Weekly Edition 013 of Saturday 26th May 2001.)

Bones, of course, are some of the most valuable finds because they speak volumes in regard to the physical constitution of the inhabitants, what diseases afflicted them and what the average life expectancy was. From what I gathered on the day of my visit, there is reason to believe new light will be shed in this and other areas of archaeological research. However, in accordance with the museum's wishes, the results of this excavation must be treated as confidential until the official report has been published. Not to worry, the head of the dig, Ana Mezquida and the museum's director, Jordi Fernández, have promised to give Ibiza History Culture a full report by late November or early December.

Phoenico-Punic Archaeology Week

What I can reveal, with great pleasure, is the upcoming Archaeology Week, a five-day lecture series, organized and sponsored in full by the museum itself. This annual event can be described as a 'meeting-of-the-minds' among Spain's most important Phoenico-Punic researchers. Moreover, these talks form the basis of the museum's considerable contribution to the international world of archaeology.

Yearly Publications

The five lectures presented each year are compiled into a book that is edited, published and distributed by Jordi Fernández, Benjamí Costa (curator) and other specialists in the museum's small but competent staff. Topics range from numismatics to burial practices to ancient art and beliefs, the publication of which provides university students and independent researchers with an ever-growing bibliographical base to aid in their investigations.

The museum also engages in some 400 interchanges with other museums, universities and cultural institutions. Costa reports that about half of these interchanges are carried out within Spain, while the other half form a rich network of international alliances that the museum has built up over the 96 years of its existence. Most of the European countries - the old eastern block included - are on the museum's mailing list as well as Tunisia (naturally) and even Japan.

Rather naively I asked if the museum's books had to be translated in order to be understood by such a far-flung readership. The answer was a categorical NO. Costa explained that any researcher in the field of archaeology must be able to read in Spanish, English, French and Italian. "We all do here at the museum," he offered matter-of-factly. "Don't ask us to speak the languages, but we read them fluently. We have to!"

Crowning Glory

This year, in honour of the new millennium, the museum has gone all out to put together a lecture series to end all lecture series, humorously speaking, of course. The five speakers have been chosen from the highest echelons of archaeological research within Spanish academia.

The opening lecture will be delivered by Dr. Carribero (University of Almería) on the Phoenician presence in eastern Andalusia, one of the key areas of Tyrian colonization. The second lecture will deal with western Andalusia, the Straits of Gibraltar and southern Portugal. Unfortunately, the scheduled guest speaker, Dr. Ruiz Mata (University of Cadiz) recently broke his leg and will not be able to attend the conference personally. An as-yet-unconfirmed colleague will speak in his place. The third night will be hosted by Dr. Lopez Pardo (University 'Complutense' of Madrid) who will speak on Phoenico-Punic activities in the north of Africa. The fourth night comes under the able leadership of Dr. González Prats (University of Valencia) who will lecture on the colonization of the Mediterranean seaboard from approximately Catalonia to Murcia.

Dr. Gonzalez is currently heading a groundbreaking excavation at the mouth of the River Segura in Valencia. Quite unexpectedly, during a previous excavation of a 10th century Islamic ribat, an entire Phoenician city was discovered below the site. (A ribat, I discovered, is a type of large religious centre containing up to 10 mosques, something akin to an ashram).

Naturally, the focus of the excavation immediately shifted to the exploration of this lost city, which González has dated back to the 8th century BC. The dimensions of the city extend to 6 hectares, all surrounded by a thick wall of marked oriental style, no doubt built by one of the earliest waves of Phoenician settlers. It is expected that González will give his Ibicenco audience a thorough report on these astounding finds during his upcoming lecture.

The Icing on the Cake

The fifth and final night of Archaeology Week will bring us the illustrious presence of Mª Eugenia Aubet, the author of the authoritative book, 'The Phoenicians and the West' (which, incidentally has been translated beautifully into English by Cambridge University Press and comes highly recommended). Aubet will give what could be called a 'state-of-the-union' speech, a synthesis of everything that, to date, has been archeologically proven and, therefore, stands as fact within the world of ancient studies. She will also address the gaps of knowledge that remain, the areas of inconclusive speculation where further research needs to be done and fresh ideas tested.

Cultural Bonanza

These lectures will be held at 8 o'clock every evening from 26th to 30th November at the former Island Council building (now the branch university) next to the necropolis. They are open to the general public and are offered free of charge, as a gift to society. Benjamí Costa has always said, "A museum is a social service or it is nothing."

Thank you Sr. Costa and Sr. Fernández for making Ibiza's Archaeology Museum the impressive institution that it is.

Next week, it's back to business as usual with the patron saint's day of Sant Carles. See you then,

Emily Kaufman