Category Archives: SPAIN

More than 4,500 skeletons discovered in Islamic Necropolos in Spain

More than 4,500 Skeletons Discovered in Islamic Necropolos in Spain

CNN reports that more than 4,500 graves have been identified at a cemetery in northeastern Spain, in an area thought to have been largely untouched by the Arab invasion of the Iberian peninsula in the early eighth century A.D. 

More than 4,500 Skeletons Discovered in Islamic Necropolos in Spain
An ancient Islamic necropolis containing over 4,500 bodies has been uncovered in northeastern Spain, with archaeologists excavating more than 400 tombs in the five-acre site.

In an 8th-century burial ground in the town of Tauste, near Zaragoza in Aragon, the tombs were uncovered, Eva Gimenez, an archaeologist currently excavating the region with the archaeology firm Paleoymás, told CNN.

By 711, Arab forces had invaded and begun to conquer the Iberian peninsula. They remained for the next seven centuries until 1492, when the area was totally reconquered by the Christian kingdoms.

Muslim occupation of Tauste had been considered “incidental and even non-existent” by traditional and written sources, researchers from the University of the Basque Country have said — but the region’s cultural association had long suspected the area had been home to a large Islamic settlement because of architectural clues and human remains found in the town, Miriam Pina Pardos, director of the Anthropological Observatory of the Islamic Necropolis of Tauste with the El Patiaz cultural association, told CNN.

Earlier excavations revealed several skeletons at the site.

From 711 to 1492, the boundaries between the Christian north and the Islamic south shifted constantly with the changing sovereign authority, according to researchers from the University of the Basque Country.

A first dig of the site in 2010 revealed a five-acre necropolis, spread over at least two levels, Pina Pardos said.

DNA studies and carbon dating place remains in the necropolis between the 8th and 11th centuries, according to El Patiaz.

Archaeologists unearth ‘huge number’ of sealed Egyptian sarcophagi
Some 44 skeletons were uncovered during smaller excavations in the years following the initial dig, Pina Pardos said, and this year, more than 400 bodies have been found after local authorities ordered an extensive excavation of the area.

“It’s rare to do an excavation and to find 400 tombs. It’s amazing,” she said.

All of the skeletons had been buried according to Islamic customs, positioned to the right and facing southeast toward Mecca, Pina Pardos added.

Experts believe the discovery will challenge previous assumptions about Muslim settlements in the area.

“We can see that the Muslim culture and Islamic presence in this area is more important than we thought,” Gimenez said.

“We can see there was a big Muslim population here in Tauste from the beginning of the presence of Muslims in Spain,” she added.

“It is very important — the 400 Muslim tombs shows the people lived here for centuries,” she said.

The remains will be cataloged, stored for research and studied, Pina Pardos said.

Spanish Farmer Finds 3,000 Years Old Lion Sculpture While Ploughing His Olive Grove

Spanish Farmer Finds 3,000 Years Old Lion Sculpture While Ploughing His Olive Grove

On a farm in Cañablanquilla, near San Sebastián de Los Ballesteros (Córdoba, Spain), farmer Gonzalo Crespo was working in the family olive grove when his tractor hit what he thought was a large stone.

Spanish Farmer Finds 3,000 Years Old Lion Sculpture While Ploughing His Olive Grove

When he stopped to inspect what it was he had hit, he was amazed to see a large statue of a lioness capturing her prey.

“I was doing a job and I noticed that the tractor had caught something harder than normal. I thought it was a stone, but when I got closer, I was surprised”, the farmer told Europa Press

What was found is an archaeological piece of “great value” and around 2,400 years, according to a spokesperson for the Culture and Historical Heritage of the Junta de Andalucía, Cristina Casanueva.

The statue, carved in limestone, resembles a lioness or wolf attacking another animal.

It is thought to be from the year 4BC and remains in perfect condition.

The artefact was transferred to the Archaeological Museum of Cordoba where it will be examined by experts for Culture and Historical Heritage.

“It is necessary to evaluate its state, apparently well preserved, in order to establish future restoration procedures and an in-depth study that allows its enhancement”, said Casanueva.

A selfie set in stone: hidden portrait by cheeky mason found in Spain 900 years on

A selfie set in stone: hidden portrait by cheeky mason found in Spain 900 years on

The Guardian reports that art historian Jennifer Alexander of the University of Warwick found a male figure at the top of a pillar in Santiago de Compostela, a twelfth-century cathedral located in northwest Spain while conducting a stone-by-stone survey of the structure. 

Millions of devotees who made the long pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, northwest of Spain, over the years have been unaware of the figure.  He has looked down on them from the top of one of the many pillars that soar upwards, each decorated with carved foliage, among which he is concealed.

The figure was discovered today by a British art scholar who says that he was never supposed to be seen since he is a self-portrait of a stonemason who in the 12th century served in the cathedral.

The 12th-century Santiago de Compostela cathedral in Galicia attracts hundreds of thousands of pilgrims a year.

“You find this in medieval buildings,” Dr Jennifer Alexander told the Observer. “They’re usually in dark corners where only another stonemason would find them.

This one is in a bit of the building where you’d have to be a stonemason to be up there to see it. It’s tucked away in among a whole set of capitals [the top of a column] that are otherwise plain.

A selfie set in stone: hidden portrait by cheeky mason found in Spain 900 years on
Only the masons creating the building could see the figure.

“It’s just such a charming connection between us and the person that carved it. It’s almost as if it was designed just for us to see it by those people working on the building. Of course, this stonemason probably had no idea that he’d have to wait so long to be spotted.”

Despite the supreme talent of such craftsmen, they were completely anonymous, their names lost to history. This is the closest the mason got to signing his work.

Alexander, a reader in art history at the University of Warwick, is a specialist in the architectural history of the great churches and cathedrals of the medieval period. She discovered the figure in conducting an intricate survey of Santiago de Compostela cathedral, a Unesco world heritage site.

Its significance lies in its association with the Camino, the pilgrimage across hundreds of miles to reach the shrine of the apostle St James, which is within the cathedral. Such is its draw that. in 2019 alone, the official number of pilgrims reaching the city was some 350,000.

The current building was begun in the late 11th-century and is a masterpiece of Romanesque architecture, with later additions.

Alexander was conducting a stone-by-stone analysis to work out its construction sequence, in a project funded by the Galician regional government. It was when she was studying the capitals, about 13 metres above the pavement, that “this little figure popped out”, she recalled.

Dr Jennifer Alexander conducted a stone-by-stone analysis in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.

“A lovely image of a chap hanging on to the middle of the capital as if his life depended on it. It’s in a row of identical off-the-peg capitals where they’ve been knocking them out in granite – ‘we need another 15 of that design’ – and suddenly there’s one that’s different. So we think it’s the man himself.

“He emerges out of the capital and is clinging to it. It’s almost as if it’s swallowing him up.”

The carved figure, which is about 30cm high, is depicted down to his waist. Alexander said: “He’s got a nice little smile. He’s pleased with himself. He’s splendidly carved, with a strongly characterised face.”

Medieval stonemasons learned their craft through apprenticeships that trained them in the back-breaking trade of cutting stone or using templates to create complex mouldings around doorways and other openings. The most promising masons would learn geometry so that they could design plans and manage construction sites.

Alexander said: “These masters had to have many skills since they were also responsible for engineering, the supply of materials, hiring the workforce and dealing with the patron, who might be a senior member of the clergy or the nobility.”

She added that such craftsmen have remained anonymous throughout the centuries even into more recent times: “When they were building Liverpool cathedral in the 20th century, they published lists of the craftsmen that worked on the building and they never mentioned stonemasons. So these are the unsung geniuses.”

17th-Century English Book Found in College Library in Spain

17th-Century English Book Found in College Library in Spain

BBC News reports that John Stone of the University of Barcelona has found a 1634 printing of The Two Noble Kinsmen, a play written by William Shakespeare with John Fletcher, a house playwright for the theater group the King’s Men.

The volume dating to 1634 was found by an academic researching Scots economist Adam Smith

The play appears in a book of English plays held at the Royal Scots College, which is now located in Salamanca, Spain. In the 17th Century, the seminary in Madrid was an important source of English literature for Spanish intellectuals.

The Two Noble Kinsmen was included in a volume made up of several English plays printed from 1630 to 1635. Dr. John Stone, of the University of Barcelona, said he found it among old books in the library of the Real Colegio de Escoceses – Royal Scots College (RSC) -which is now in Salamanca.

The book is still in its original 17th Century leather binding and was found cataloged under a philosophy

What is The Two Noble Kinsmen about?

“Friendship turns to rivalry in this study of the intoxication and strangeness of love,” is how the Royal Shakespeare Company described the play, which is based on Chaucer’s The Knight’s Tale.

It was probably written around 1613-14 by Shakespeare and John Fletcher, one of the house playwrights in Bard’s theatre company the King’s Men. It was likely to have been Shakespeare’s last play before he retired to Stratford-on-Avon. He died there in 1616 at the age of 52.

Described as a “tragicomedy” the play features best friends, who are knights captured in a battle. From the window of their prison, they see a beautiful woman with whom they each fall in love.

Within a moment they have turned from intimate friends too jealous rivals in a strange love story that features absurd adventures and confusion.

Dr. Stone, who has worked in Edinburgh and Aberdeen, said: “It is likely these plays arrived as part of some student’s personal library or at the request of the rector of the Royal Scots College, Hugh Semple, who was friends with the Spanish playwright Lope de Vega and had more plays in his personal library.

“It is likely these plays were acquired around 1635 by an English or Scottish traveller who might have wanted to take these plays – all London editions – with him to Madrid.

“By the 1630s English plays were increasingly associated with elite culture. This small community of Scots was briefly the most significant intellectual bridge between the Spanish and English-speaking worlds.”

Canadian John Stone formerly worked as a researcher at the National Library of Scotland and Aberdeen University

In the 17th and 18th Centuries collections of books in English were rare in Spain because of ecclesiastical censorship, but the Scots college had special authorization to import whatever they wanted.

Plays in English were exceptionally rare in the period – and it had previously been thought the oldest work by Shakespeare in Spain was a volume found in the Royal English College of Saint Alban in Valladolid.

It is thought to have arrived in Spain in the decade after the volume found in the Scots College. The rector of the Scots College, Father Tom Kilbride, said the college was proud such an important work had been discovered in its library.

Scots college was exempt from strict ecclesiastical censorship banning many books from circulation

He said: “It says a lot about the kind of education the trainee priests were getting from the foundation of the college in Madrid in 1627, a rounded education in which the culture of the period played an important part.

“To think that plays would have been read, and possibly performed at that time is quite exciting.

“There was clearly a great interest in Spain at that time in English literature.”

The RSC no longer trains men for the priesthood in Scotland, but offers preparatory six-month courses for those expressing a vocation, and holds regular retreats and conferences for the Scottish Catholic community.

In Act 5 scene 1 Arcite, one of the knights talks about “dusty and old titles”, which sums up the find in Salamanca.

Fingerprints Studied at Rock Art Site in Spain

Fingerprints Studied at Rock Art Site in Spain

Two fingerprints discovered in rock art at the Los Macho Rock Shelter in Spain indicate a man who was at least 36 years old and a girl between the ages of ten and 16, according to a report in The Art Newspaper.

Not only are fingerprints effective in the identification and unlocking of your phone, but they also can help to learn about ancient artists too.

Researchers recently analyzed 2 fingerprints discovered between the painted rock art in Los Macho’s rock shelter, in southern Spain, according to a new study published in the journal Antiquity.

The work done by a team of researchers from the University of Granada, the University of Durham, and the Autonomous University of Barcelona, shines a rare light on the artists who produced Spain’s rock art and the society in which they lived.,

Created between 4,500 and 2,000 BC and painted by finger, the prehistoric “schematic art” involves strokes, circles, geometric motifs, and human figures, and “probably relate to daily life, and are the materialization of symbolic elements understood by the communities that inhabited the area around Los Machos” at the time, the team writes in Antiquity.

“The true value of rock art lies in how it represents the direct expression of the thought processes of the people who created it. These individuals are very often missing from discussions of rock art sites.”

“The analysis of fingerprints in terms of sex and age is a great contribution towards understanding who was involved in the production of rock art,” says Leonardo García Sanjuán, a professor in prehistory at the University of Seville.

“For example, a gender analysis of rock art would be possible if sufficient amounts of evidence on fingerprints like that presented in this paper were compiled: was rock art made by children, adults, women and men alike? Or were there specific age and sex groups in charge of its production? Up until now, we knew next to nothing about these issues.”

A prehistoric fingerprint, or palaeodermatoglyph, spotted on the rock art

Scholars are able to determine a person’s sex and age using fingerprints on archaeological remains because the characteristics of the prints differ.

Men tend to have broader fingerprint ridges than women, for example, while the distance between ridges grows from childhood to adulthood, helping to deduce age.

Prehistoric archaeologist Margarita Diaz-Andreu, an ICREA Research Professor based at the University of Barcelona, says that the study is an “exciting proposal,” but urges some caution.

“We know that in several societies in the world, the people who were in charge of painting were often accompanied by other members of the community. This means that the fingerprints may not have come from the authors of the paintings.”

Although prehistoric rock art has been extensively studied, few facts have been gleaned about the artists who created these works.

It was once assumed that the much earlier rock art of the Upper Palaeolithic era (at least 20,000 years ago) was mainly produced by men because the artists often painted animals that would have been hunted.

Today though, analyses of the hand stencils left by these Palaeolithic artists have shown that men, women, and children all played a role in producing the works. In fact, one study of rock art in various French and Spanish caves showed that 75% of the hand stencils were female.

In a similar way, fingerprint analysis can help researchers to challenge assumptions about prehistoric artists.

“The research into authorship, using the methodology applied here, could reveal further complex social dimensions at other rock art sites worldwide,” writes the research team.

Researchers stunned by ‘perfect’ £300million shipwreck treasure

Researchers stunned by ‘perfect’ £300million shipwreck treasure

The fortune of the Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes, which sunk in a fight near Portugal’s Cape St Marie in 1804, was raised in an American court after a US salvage company took 594,000 gold and silver coins worth £308 million from the site in 2007.

The curator of Spain’s National Museum of Underwater Archeology, Mr. Ivan Negueruela, said:  “The finds are of inestimable scientific and historic value.”

It is believed that the ship was shot down before Spain joined the Napoleonic Wars against Britain. When the Amiens Peace of 1802 broke down, Britain declared war on France in an uneasy peace with Spain.

In 2007 some of the cargo was retrieved by the Odyssey Marine Exploration company, which had it flown to Tampa, Florida. A court in 2012, however, forced the treasure hunters to return the haul to Spain.

The items found had been listed in the ship’s manifest, including cutlery inscribed with a passenger’s name. An archaeological report said: “Mention should be made of the perfection with which the documentary sources coincide with archaeological evidence in this case.”

Elisa de Cabo, the Spanish Culture Ministry’s deputy director of national heritage said in 2012 the find was “invaluable”.

She added: “How would you put a price on the Mona Lisa?”

The treasure was worth £300million
The vessel was downed in battle

A similar find could be made this year as researchers from both Spain and Mexico hope to unearth a historic Spanish galleon that fell to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico in October 1631.

The ship is called the Nuestra Senora del Juncal (Our Lady of Juncal) and sank to the depths while carrying gold, silver, and jewels that could be worth billions today. The vessel and its sailors were hit by vicious storms as they made their way to Spain, and even before the challenging weather, the crew was stripped of its commander due to illness.

With the ship slowly becoming flooded with water, and repair desperately needed, the Nuestra Senora del Juncal plugged away through two weeks of relentless storms.

Coins rescued from the Frigate Mercedes

Dr. Iván Negueruela, the director of Spain’s National Museum of Underwater Archaeology, has claimed the chances of locating and finding the ship are looking good.

He said: “Because the cargo was so valuable – it was carrying lots of ingots – the authorities had a detailed inventory.

“The survivors were also questioned in-depth and their statements help us to reconstruct what happened with quite a high degree of accuracy, so we have a fairly good idea of where the ship sank.”

Archaeologists in Spain Seek Grave of 16th-Century Irish Hero

Archaeologists in Spain Seek Grave of 16th-Century Irish Hero

VALLADOLID, SPAIN—The Archaeology org reports that a team of researchers led by archaeologist Óscar Burón have uncovered human remains at what may be the burial place of Red Hugh O’Donnell.

Statue of Red Hugh O’Donnell

An Irish nobleman who led a rebellion against the government in Ireland and died in Spain in 1602, after attempting to persuade Spanish king Philip III to send additional troops to Ireland to continue the fight against the English.

A tweet from the city’s tourism and culture department read: “A part of the skull, a femur, and some more remains appear in what appears to be the access to the Chapel of the Marvels.”

On day five of the dig in Valladolid’s Constitution Street on Friday, the archaeologists recovered human remains.

The city’s culture councillor Ana Redondo posted a shamrock emoji and the words “estamos cerca” – “we are close”.

The archaeologists involved are also searching for the remains of Christopher Columbus, who in 1492 became the first European to discover the Americas.

He was buried in the same place as O’Donnell. However, Columbus’s remains were allegedly removed and reburied in the cathedral of Seville and later in the Dominican Republic.

In search of Red Hugh O’Donnell, the Irish William Wallace who ended his days in Valladolid.

Speaking on Friday, which was the 514th anniversary of the funeral of Columbus in Valladolid, chief archaeologist Óscar Burón said he believed that both O’Donnell and Columbus are “buried right under our feet and now we are concerned with checking whether the research we have undertaken is correct”.

He described O’Donnell as an “Irish prince and the hero of the resistance against the English”.

O’Donnell and his father-in-law Hugh Mor O’Neill, who between them controlled large parts of the north of Ireland, started the Nine Years War to drive the English out of Ireland.

Battle of Kinsale

It began promisingly and the Irish won a number of significant victories, but eventually ended in defeat following the siege and then the Battle of Kinsale in late 1601 and early 1602.

A combined force of Spanish and Irish troops was defeated by the English in one of the worst military setbacks in Irish history, after which Red Hugh fled to Spain.

Though Philip III never did provide the soldiers requested by Red Hugh, he did give him the equivalent of a royal funeral as described in the Annals of the Four Masters.

“His body was conveyed to the king’s palace at Valladolid in a four-wheeled hearse, surrounded by countless numbers of the king’s state officers, council, and guards, with luminous torches and bright flambeaux of beautiful wax-light burning on each side of him.”

He was buried within the Chapel of Marvels in the grounds of the Franciscan convent in Valladolid. The convent disappeared in 1836 and with it O’Donnell’s remains.

In a statement, Valladolid city council’s cultural department said finding the remains of O’ Donnell would be a “spur to the dissemination of this city abroad and also, of course, within Spain.

“The burial in Valladolid of these two characters of such relevance to the world as is the case of Columbus and to relations between Spain and Ireland against their common enemy: England, demonstrate the importance of Spain and specifically of Valladolid for centuries.”

On Thursday the team of archaeologists located other human bones, but not those of O’Donnell.

They hope that his remains will be easy to identify as he lost the big toes on both feet from frostbite after he escaped from prison in Dublin in December 1591. He fled into the Wicklow mountains in the depth of winter. His companion Art O’Neill froze to death in the escape.

New Virtual Reality Experience Transports Viewer Inside Spanish Paleolithic Caves Seen By Only 50 People In 16,000 Years

New Virtual Reality Experience Transports Viewer Inside Spanish Paleolithic Caves Seen By Only 50 People In 16,000 Years

In the caves of La Garma mountain in Northern Spain, there were only 50 other people, a novel archeological site with one of the most important international collections of rock art and archeological stays in the Paleolithic age.

Screen shot from virtual reality revel in within La Garma caves in Northern Spain

La Garma is a UNESCO World Heritage site as part of the Cave of Altamira and Paleolithic Cave Art in northern Spain. La Garma houses five levels of caves and is considered the most important Paleolithic archaeological discovery since the mid-twentieth century. 

The cave’s lower gallery, which was discovered in 1995 features the world’s biggest example of paleolithic flooring. The flooring and ancient stays inside the cave have been neatly preserved through a landslide 16,000 years ago that sealed off the cave to the elements.

Two decades after the rediscovery and preliminary learning about the lower gallery at La Garma, scientists saw the need for additional study of the cave’s underground system—its microclimate and microbiology—and assessment of the state of conservation of the rock art.

Still of La Garma cave flooring in Memoria VR revel in

With the support of American shoe dressmaker Stuart Weitzman, who has been producing footwear in Spain for the reason that the 1970s, the World Monuments Fund has been working on a project to conserve and promote La Garma with Morena Films and Overlat studio.

A multidisciplinary team of experts have been studying the cave’s ecosystem and archaeological remains. Two short documentaries and a virtual reality experience have been produced to allow people to enjoy and learn about this extraordinary site.

Now anyone can “travel” to Northern Spain on a virtual consult with those hardly ever visited Spanish caves Memoria: Stories of La Garma, through award-winning VR director Rafael Pavón, is a new virtual reality revel in simply introduced through Viveport, the arena’s first limitless VR subscription service.

This VR experience is really the only way to learn about these fascinating caves due to the danger of the site.

Only 50 people have physically been able to enter them in the past 16,000 years and the caves are off-limits to the public but by mapping them for VR, they can now be viewed virtually by anyone.

Still from Memoria of cave drawings of animals in La Garma caves

Memoria premiered in 2019 on the Museum of Prehistory and Archaeology of Cantabria in Santander and it used to be this museum’s staff who worked with Rafael Pavon on the VR experience.

Narrated by Geraldine Chaplin (The Crown, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom), this VR film is an incredible story from the Paleolithic era about a community who on returning from hunting discovered that the La Garma caves they called home had been blocked off by a landslide, creating a time capsule.

Thousands of relics, from cave-wall paintings of animals and signs to animal bones, seashells, and artifacts carved in bone, remained undisturbed and intact for 16,000 years.

So what is the VR experience like, what equipment is required and how much does it cost? The Memoria: Stories of La Garma VR experience is impressive and is compatible with most VR headsets.

The user can “walk” around three spaces of the cave, captured with millimetric precision using laser scanners and photogrammetry.

The viewer will see paleolithic hunters, a mother, and her child and a cave lion who made his way deep into the cave to live his final days.

You can watch videos about the caves but the nature of VR means people can physically explore the caves, virtually pick things up, and become immersed, as if they were in the caves.

A UK viewer of the content makes an onetime purchase for £4.56 from Viveport and then can view the experience repeatedly.

Alternatively, Viveport has an unlimited VR subscription service called Infinity that can be purchased as a monthly (£12.99) or annual subscription (works out as £8.99/month), allowing unlimited access to their entire range of content.