Saturday, July 11, 2009
...have started their Summer season work again. I usually gaze at the Roman fish sauce factory through the chain link fence that protects it, but have never climbed the slopes of the Peñon since they started the excavation of the Medieval walled town on the slopes. I have read about it on the MARQ website, and the dig blog, and on Friday I became a tourist for the morning having signed up for the 9am guided tour. I can't tell you how glad I was that I had to postpone my booking for last week as it clashed with an 8am blood test, because last week it was very hot. Yesterday I woke to rain and a cool breeze. The rain had become a slight drizzle by the time I presented myself at the Tourist Office at 9am, and I was happy to leave my waterproof in my rucksack. There was a German family of six, a young Spanish man and two middle-aged Spanish ladies waiting outside the locked door. The family had rucksacks, hats, trainers and cameras. The young man was wearing an anorak and trainers. The two Spanish ladies had handbags and pashminas. One was wearing canvas espadrills, the other a pair of white wedge heeled mules...
Shortly after 9, the door opened and Victoria emerged with her clip board. She ticked off all our names, except for the two señoras, who said that they had been told in the Office that they could just turn up at 9am any Friday and tag along. Victoria disputed this, as they were very restricted in the number of people allowed on the site, but as she had had a lot of cancellations caused by the wet weather, she would allow them to join the group.
Before we set off, she explained that because of the rain, the archeologists were not yet on site, and that instead of visiting the dig first, before going on to the nature centre and then climbing up to the tunnel, we would first visit the nature centre, then climb to the tunnel and hope that by the time we descended again, the diggers would be on site. If they were not, she would explain as much as she could. Having done the climb to the top of the Peñon a couple of times before, I had been planning on taking my leave after seeing the dig, but as it was such a cool day, when we came out of the nature centre, I hiked up to the tunnel with the rest of them. For an idea of where the tunnel is, if you look at this picture, the tunnel is at the very top left of the green part of the Rock. In fact, the climb isn't too bad. The path zigzags up at quite a gentle angle, and the surface has been paved with rough stone since I last climbed it, and there is now a wooden hand rail, as much to keep people on the path as to help them climb. We stopped a couple of times on the way up as our guide pointed out the remains of the defensive walls, and took us to stand in the remains of one of the watch towers. When we arrived at the tunnel, Victoria explained that she was not allowed to take groups any higher than the tunnel, but that any who wished could continue on to the top. The Germans elected to do this, as did the two ladies. Victoria asked the the two ladies if they were sure, and explained that it was not a good idea to go scrambling over wet rocks without suitable footwear. In the end, she accompanied them through the tunnel, but shortly afterwards returned with the two señoras in tow. I thought it was very restrained of her to do nothing more than raise her eyebrows and grin at me as she emerged. She pointed down the rock and we could see that there people at work in the dig. In my photo above, it is at the back of the bare area in the centre of the picture. The buildings you can see are the Visitors Centre. Here is a better aerial view. The Peñon was always private property until the Valencian Government took it over as a National Park back in 1987, and the previous owners had built a luxury hotel on this site. Large quantities of earth were bulldozed to make a level platform, the bell tower of the church was flattened because it spoilt the view, and the concrete slab you can see on the right was the base of the swimming pool built over the Medieval church. I can remember watching this hotel being blown up a few years later.
We made our way back down to the dig site and Victoria called to Roberto who was to take us round. She explained that the rest of the party had decided to continue to the top and there were now only four of us, but he said even if only one person came who was interested in archaeology, he was very happy to show what they were doing. I became so engrossed in what he was telling us that I forgot to take any photographs, but can I suggest that if you are interested, that you visit the links to the blogs I gave at the beginning? They are both in Spanish, but if you put proyecto ifach into a Google search box then click on translate this page at the side of the link to the proyectoifach.obolog you will get a translated page, and every time you click on a link from there, Google will also translate those as well. The history of the site is very interesting, as the architecture is found nowhere else in the Valencian region, it was of a design found in Italy and more Northern parts of Europe, and even the facing stones used were not local. A large quantity of these have just been hauled off to the MARQ Museum in Alicante for cleaning and cataloguing. The soil that was moved when the hotel was built has protected a lot of the site, but means that excavating is a slow process, and they are having to remove large chunks of reinforced concrete.
Next Tuesday I have booked for the tour of the Roman garam (fish sauce) factory and the Roman villa site down by the beach; no more gazing through the wire link fence, I get to see the amazing circular mosaic floor close to!