Category Archives: SPAIN

Fabled palace’s lost gateway unearthed

Islamic-Era Palace Gate Uncovered in Spain

The abandoned gate of the fabled Islamic palace-town Medina Azahara in the 10th century, which was destroyed by fire during a 1010 civil war, has been discovered in southern Spain.

Abd Rahman III, the first caliph of Córdoba, began in 936-1940 AD to build a palace – whose name means ‘ the shining city. ‘ This palace was built as a power symbol.

For some seventy years Medina Azahara thrived before being sacked and burned by Berber rebels in an uprising that eventually saw the caliphate’s dissolution. In the following centuries, the city’s ruins were plundered for the construction of other structures as far away as Marrakech

Abd-al-Rahman III was the first caliph of Córdoba, in Andalusia, and once a member of the Umayyad dynasty.

The site was first excavated in the 1910s, with efforts to date have only uncovered around 10 per cent of the massive complex — which is threatened by construction.

Researchers hope that the discovery of the gate will add to their understanding of the workings of the palace — in particular, the parade ground that it opened on to.

The palace, pictured — whose name means ‘the shining city’ — was built as a symbol of power by Abd-al-Rahman III, the first Caliph of Córdoba, beginning around 936–940 AD
The lost gate of the fabled 10th-century Islamic palace-city Medina Azahara that was destroyed by fire during a civil war in 1010 has been unearthed in southern Spain. Pictured, the remains of the mosque at Medina Azahara. One of the oldest of the city’s buildings, it was built on the lowest of the complex’s three terraced levels, outside of the walled precinct

Medina Azahara lies around four miles west of Córdoba in the foothills of the Sierra Morena, where it would have dominated the views from the surrounding plains.

‘The east gate stood on a porch that collapsed with the fire that destroyed the city,” said archaeologist Alberto Canto of The Autonomous University of Madrid, who led the excavation.

‘Everything collapsed and so we found buried the remains of its tiles, wood, nails, beams, hinges and ornaments,’ he added. Alongside the gate’s debris, the archaeological team also discovered charcoal believed to have come from the fire that destroyed the gateway.

The lost gate is believed to be the entrance to the palace’s spacious parade ground — which was the size of two football pitches — where the caliph’s guard assembled.

Believed to have once stood at around two storeys high, the lost gate was built in a style similar to the doors of the Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba, in Andalusia. It is thought that the entryway would have been embedded in a plastered portico decorated with blue plant motifs.

The site was first rediscovered in the 1910s, with excavations to date having only uncovered around 10 per cent of the massive complex. Pictured, the so-called door of the prime minister within the city-palace

The Medina Azahara complex spanned around 250 acres of land and is believed to have taken some 10,000 workers to build across its history.

Alongside the parade ground, the city featured administrative and governmental offices, barracks, baths, three gardens, a mint, mosques, reception halls, residences, schools, stables and workshops. The heart of Medina Azahara was the reception hall, referred to as the ‘Salón Rico’, or ‘Rich Hall.

Historians believe that at the centre of the hall lay a pool filled with mercury that, when disturbed on cue by a servant, shone the sun’s reflected rays flashing across the walls and ceiling in a display like lightning — one that was used by the caliph to entertain his guests.

Water was supplied to the city by tapping into the remains of a 1st-century Roman aqueduct — part of which was also repurposed as a sewer system. 

Medina Azahara was modelled after the old Umayyad palace in Damascus, a move intended to serve as a symbol of the connection between the caliph and his ancestors.

Medina Azahara lies around four miles west of Córdoba in the foothills of the Sierra Morena, southern Spain, where it would have dominated the views from the surrounding plains

Between the palace-city’s first construction and Abd-al-Rahman III’s death in 961, the ruler is said to have to spend a third of his caliphate’s annual revenue on developing the magnificent complex.

The caliphate of Córdoba covered much of the Iberian peninsula — and a breakaway from territories of the Umayyad dynasty, one of the world’s largest empires that spanned some 4.3 million square miles at its height and was centred on Damascus.

Medina Azahara has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2018, with the United Nations describing the caliphate city as an exemplar ‘of the now vanished Western Islamic civilisation of al-Andalus at the height of its splendour.’

Drought Reveals “Spanish Stonehenge” Older Than the Pyramids

Drought Reveals “Spanish Stonehenge” Older Than the Pyramids

After 50 years of immersion on the bottom of a basin, in Spain, a 5,000-year-old monument emerged.

There are 144 granite blocks on the megalithic site, which are over 6 feet high, known as ‘ Spanish Stonehenge. ‘ Its similarity to the UNESCO World Heritage site in Wiltshire is striking, but the Iberian version is made of smaller rocks.

The Spanish General ordered the construction of a hydroelectric dam at Peraleda de la Mata, near Cáceres in Extremadura, which was supposed to be condemned to the history books of the 1960s.

The Dolmen de Guadalperal, also known as the “Spanish Stonehenge,” has been completely exposed for the first time in 50 years following the drought.
Some of the megaliths reach two meters in height.

However, a severe and prolonged drought has seen the structure emerge as the last drops of water vanished from the barren basin. Western Spain is being ravaged by a year-long drought and the Bronze Age structure, thought to be an ancient temple, can now be seen.  

Hugo Obermaier, a German priest and amateur archaeologist, first found the site in 1925.

Due to the unfortunate decision-making of General Franco who opted to consign the site to obscurity when he commissioned a valley bordering the Tagus river to be flooded.

But before its rediscovery and subsequent demise, it is thought the stones would have centered around a central chamber for sun worship.

It is believed the Celts living in Iberia 4,000 years ago may have built the structure.    

‘The stones have been brought from about five kilometers away to form this temple, which we think was used to worship the sun,’ Ángel Castaño, president of the Peraleda Cultural Association, told the Times. 

‘In that way, it has similarities to Stonehenge but is obviously smaller.

‘People here had heard about them but had never seen them. We want the authorities to move these stones to the banks of the reservoir and to use them as a tourist attraction, as few people come to this area.’

Stonehenge’s enormous rocks are up to 30 feet in length, dwarfing the six-foot-tall single monoliths uncovered in Spain. There are more stones at the Spanish site, 1144 compared to 93 in Wiltshire. 

However, Stonehenge’s monument covers 10,800 square feet (10,000 square meters), a far bigger area than the Spanish site. 

Radiocarbon dating of the ‘Spanish Stonehenge’ found the stones range in age from around 4,000 to 5,000 years old and this ties them curiously to the history of Stonehenge. The first monolith structure in Europe was found in Brittany dating back as far as 4,794 BC and other early monuments (red) were found in northwest France, the Channel Islands, Catalonia, southwestern France, Corsica, and Sardinia from a similar time period.
The site was thought to be condemned to the history books in the 1960s when a Spanish general ordered the construction of a hydroelectric dam in Peraleda de la Mata, near Cáceres in Extremadura

Long-term plans for the preservation of the site are yet to be laid out, but Mr. Castaño met officials from the regional government yesterday to discuss the matter. If action is not taken now, he said, it could be many years before they are seen again.

A prolonged submersion could also be catastrophic for the stones, which are made of granite, a porous material prone to erosion, The monoliths are already showing significant signs of wear, he said, and if they are not saved now, it may be too late.  

Radiocarbon dating of the rocks found they range in age from around 4,000 to 5,000 years old and this ties them curiously to the history of Stonehenge.  Neolithic people, often prone to building monolithic structures, emerged throughout time across Europe. 

It is widely accepted Stonehenge’s bluestones were quarried from Priesli Hills in Wales and moved to the current location, but how the idea for Stonehenge arrived on British shores remains a mystery.  

Various pieces of recent research have looked at what likely led to this, and a scientific paper published in February put forward the idea that the knowledge and expertise to create such monuments was spread around Europe by sailors.

The authors from the University of Gothenburg said the practice of erecting enormous stone structures began in France 6,500 years ago and then made its way around Europe as people migrated.  

Further research into the Spanish Stonehenge could allow for a more detailed picture to emerge of the practice’s popularity in different areas at different times. Currently, inhabitants of Anatolia, what is now Turkey, are thought to have moved to Iberia and settled before eventually heading north and entering the British Isles.  

Lost tomb with 72 ancient skeletons from extinct Canary Islands civilization found by drone after 1,000 years

Lost tomb with 72 ancient skeletons from extinct Canary Islands civilization found by drone after 1,000 years

Amateur archeologists on the holiday island of Gran Canaria discovered a grave containing ancient remains of men of a lost pre-Hispanic civilization.

The mummified remains of 72 skeletons belonging to natives of the ‘Guanche’ society were discovered by drone. The amazing find included 62 adult skeletons and 10 newborns.

They were found in the Guayadeque ravine on the island of Gran Canaria, which is part of the Spanish Canary Islands.

Experts have confirmed the discovery and have linked it to the Guanche civilization as the cave dates back to between 800-1000AD.

Guanche people are thought to be the original inhabitants of the Canary Islands and may have traveled there from North Africa.

Historians think that the Guanches people were ethnically and culturally absorbed by Spanish settlers when they colonized the islands.

Archaeologist Veronica Alberto told local media: “There are many burial caves in Gran Canaria, but not many like this one.

“The discovery of the newborn remains is important as they were not included in previous findings until very recently.

“We know now they can be found in these types of cave burials.”

The cave with the archaeological remains.

Archaeologists went down to the burial site and found traditional burial shrouds made from vegetable fibers and animal skin.

Alberto added: “We can confirm that all the pre-Hispanic people in the Canary Islands were prepared the same way for the burial ceremony.”

Experts had to travel down 75 feet to reach the tomb. Members of the amateur archaeology group ‘El Legado’, formed by Ayose Himar Gonzalez, Jonay Garcia, and Jesus Diaz, found the cave via drone.

Gonzalez said: “We were flying a drone and we took some pictures of the cave. It is in a very difficult place to access and you need to climb a cliff to reach the site. People thought the photos were fake because of all the bones there!”

They found the cave back in June last year but only reported it recently because they were concerned it would be vandalized.

Gonzalez explained: “The cave should be closed off and preserved with the bones left there to respect the site. We decided to report it because we want the local authorities to preserve and respect it.”

Family discover ‘perfectly preserved’ Roman tomb hidden beneath a home in southern Spain

Family discover ‘perfectly preserved’ Roman tomb hidden beneath a home in southern Spain

In Carmona, a city near Seville, Andalusia, a family made a remarkable discovery during building work on their houses.

They were stunned when they knocked a wall down the patio of their townhouse to find a small arched opening that led to an underground to a funerary chamber dating from the first century AD.

They found eight niches in the room, six of whom were occupied by funerary urns or chests containing what is thought to be human remains dating back more than 2,000 years.

An archaeological team dispatched by the town council to examine the site described it as “perfectly preserved” and said it was the most important discovery made in the area for decades.

Juan Manuel Román, an archaeologist employed by the council, emphasized “the outstanding importance of the discovery”.

“It’s been 35 years since a tomb was found in such a magnificent state of conservation,” he said, adding that it didn’t appear to have suffered any deterioration over the centuries since it was sealed.

“There is barely two fingers worth of sedimentation,” he added.

An initial study suggests the funerary urns are made of different limestones and glass and are sealed in protective lead casings. 

Vessels associated with funerary rights, including unguentaria (small bottles used to contain perfume or oil) and glass dishes where offerings would have been made, were also undamaged within the tomb.

The walls of the chamber are decorated with a geometric grid and there are inscriptions on three of the niches, perhaps indicating the name of those interred within. 

José Avilés, 39, the owner of the house, who is known by neighbours as Pepe, told local media that he was astounded by the discovery. “We never imagined when we were building an extension to the house that we should find such a thing,” he said.

“It’s all happened very quickly but our intention is to keep the chamber open, preserve it and protect it and somehow incorporate into the house,” he said.

“But we’ll have to see what the archaeological teams say,” he added. 

Work immediately started by the council’s archaeology department who said the artifacts found in the tomb would be closely studied and then go on display in the town’s archaeological museum.

Carmona, known as Carmo in Roman times, was one of the most important cities in Roman Spain and today is home to one of the most interesting Roman-era archaeological sites; the Roman Necropolis, a collection of over 300 tombs