Just last September (2012) archaeological excavations at La Bastida in Murcia, Spain revealed some astonishing discoveries.
La Bastida Spain was perhaps the most powerful Bronze Age (~4000 years ago) city in Europe, and excavations turned up a unique and imposing construction and fortification system matched only by the Minoans.
For travelers, these discoveries are now easy to see.
The systematic excavations at La Bastida are part of a much larger project to create one of the most unusual and comprehensive archaeological parks in the world. Beyond the excavations, the La Bastida Archaeological Park will feature an extensive museum, a research center, library and visitor facilities. The park will allow visitors to view both the excavations as well as the entire research process including visits to the laboratories.
Although not complete, the park is now open to pre-arranged tours lasting about two hours.
From the Murcia airport head southwest towards the village of Totana. The park is about 10km further southwest. Set your appointment first through the Totana Tourism Office on Plaza de la Constitución. Telephone: 9188.8.131.52, ext. 343.
The site covers an area of about four hectares on a sloping hill. Recent discoveries consist of monumental fortifications of large stones and mortared walls that incorporated defensive towers, arches and secondary doors. Earlier excavations at La Bastida revealed very large residences, public buildings and a large pool capable of holding some 400,000 liters of water. Archaeologists point out that the quality of work at the city demonstrates complex architecture and engineering skills new to Europe at that time. The city, part of the Argaric culture, was one of the first in Europe to adopt bronze metallurgy.
Given the unusual architectural elements, researchers feel that the city may have been built by people that came from the Middle East about 4,000 years ago, refugees from a severe environmental crisis that struck the region at the time, resulting in war and famine.
For several hundred years, La Bastida ruled the roost, demonstrating a highly militarized and stratified social structure that had a huge influence on other communities throughout the Iberian Peninsula. Heavily dependant on animal husbandry and barley as a food source, burials at the site nonetheless indicate that large segments of the society suffered severe malnutrition. This may show that an elite class controlled food distribution.
And then they disappeared.
Pollen samples taken from peat deposits in the region indicate that before the appearance of the Argaric peoples, forests of oaks and other deciduous trees dominated the slopes of the nearby sierras. With the advent of La Bastida and other Argaric towns however the pollen sequences show a significant up tick in airborne charcoal and soot and a precipitous drop in the amount of forest cover. The Argaric people were burning and cutting the forests at an astonishing rate. The ecological crash was swift and severe.
Learn more and arrange your visit at the La Bastida website.