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
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!"
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.
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."
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,