• The evolution of the cultural landscape The evolution of the cultural landscape

    The Tramuntana cultural landscape has been and still is the result of the area's historical evolution, succession of cultures and ways in which the land has been used. Alternating periods of prosperity and shortages have left their mark on the landscape. Traditional agricultural and livestock farming has left a strong imprint on the area, through its irrigation systems, the dry-stone walls of hillside terraces, and olive trees, complemented by traditional uses of the woodland, coastal areas and [...]

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CULTURAL LANDSCAPE

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From the first settlers to the fall of Rome (5000 BC - 454 AD)

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The period between man's arrival on Mallorca and the fall of the Roman Empire represented the first changes of anthropic origin to a hitherto untouched landscape. The intensity with which man transformed the area during that period is clearly highlighted by the booming growth and decline of the Talayotic culture: a Megalithic culture that was also present in other Mediterranean islands, as is the case of Minorca. This culture expanded progressively in Mallorca, exhausting its natural resources and leaving behind as a scenic legacy its talayots (structures made of large blocks of stone), scattered throughout the entire Tramuntana area. In parallel, Mallorca's conquest by Quintus Caecilius Metellus in 123 BC represented the Balearic's incorporation into Roman and Western civilization. Romanization led to the coexistence of the heirs of the Talayotic culture and new settlers.

The oldest human remains known to date in the Balearics were found in the Tramuntana area. With these remains and numerous archaeological sites that extend along the mountain range, it can be affirmed that the first human presence in the area dates back to approximately 5000 BC. Archaeological sites and remains from this period have been found throughout most of the area, particularly in the form of caves or rock shelters that acted as a refuge for the first settlers. In some cavities in the rocks (Coval den Pep Rave, Cova de s'Alova and Cova de Ses Alfàbies) numerous ceramic and human remains have been found that span a chronological period from the pre-Talayotic period to the Middle Ages.

This group of humans subsisted by hunting and gathering food. The mountains offered a good environment for this kind of nomadic life, since it had good natural resources and numerous rock shelters that could be used as the first dwelling places. In the Son Matge site (Valldemossa), the remains of Myotragus balearicus were found: an extinct native goat that stood barely 50cm high, weighed 15 kilos, and fed on typical Mediterranean vegetation. Due to an absence of predators, their legs got shorter and they lost the capacity to run or jump. Their extinction in about 5000 BC coincided with the arrival of the first settlers in the Balearics, who hunted them for food and then tried to domesticate them.

In about 1700 BC the Bronze Age began, known in the Balearics as the pre-Talayotic period (1700-1350 BC). This was characterized by the appearance of a new type of construction, naviform structures, and by the use of bronze. In many parts of the Tramuntana Mountains, the existence of small settlements has been confirmed (Bóquer, Es Brutell, Galatzó, and Cals Reis, among others).

The Talayotic culture began about 3000 years ago in Mallorca, between 900 and 850 BC. At that point, the island started to fill with talayots: architectural structures that gradually replaced naviform ones, becoming the main scenic legacy of the period These structures are well represented in the Tramuntana area, with the talayots of Coma-Sema (in Bunyola), Son Ferrandell (Valldemossa) and Ses Casotes (Puigpunyent) standing out for their good state of conservation.

During the late Bronze Age (1300-900 BC), there were new innovations in the technology used by island communities, with ceramics of new shapes, metalwork made of improved alloys, and new strategies in dealings with the outside world.

There was also an increase in the amount of contact with societies from outside the island and, very importantly, a rise in the population began that would finally lead to the deforestation of a large part of the island. Family links grew stronger and the population began to group together in settlements, building defensive walls round each territorial unit that was created. In the Tramuntana area, some 60 or 70 Talayotic settlements are calculated to have existed, in places close to safe fertile valleys, in other more hidden spots on the fringes, and in the mountains' most remote valleys.

Numerous shrines have also survived in the Tramuntana area, normally located close by settlements, where different types of religious ceremonies must have been held, some related to the seasons, climatic adversities, plagues that affected crops, and the fertility of the land. Some examples are the shrines of Son Mas (in Valldemossa), Almallutx (Escorca), Els Clapers (Formentor) and Es Fornets (Calvià). From a religious perspective, there is also a predominance of collective burial sites particularly in caves and rock shelters previously used as dwellings, such as Son Boronat (Calvià), La Cometa dels Morts (Escorca), La Punta (Pollença) or El Cementeri dels Moros (Capdellà). The Greeks and seafaring Phoenicians no doubt knew the Balearic Islands and used them as a base in trade with the mainland.

The Roman occupation, led by General Quintus Caecilius Metellus in 123 BC led to the creation of two Roman colonies in the Bays of Palma and Alcudia (Palma and Pollentia, Latin toponyms that mean victory and power), with the survival of existing Talayotic settlements. Romanization resulted in the coexistence of new settlers with the heirs of the Talayotic culture, who adopted Latin, urban customs and new forms of production. Although no urban settlement was created in the Tramuntana area, given its proximity to the two Roman colonies it was probably much frequented in search of supplies of its abundant well-assorted natural resources.

Roman domination of Mallorca led to the centuriation of the Mallorcan ager- a process that has been documented and analysed in the southeast of Mallorca - and the appearance of villae (basic units of agricultural land mainly devoted to growing basic produce like the Mediterranean trio – olives, vines and wheat), although imports of wine and oil have been documented, which might indicate a lack of local supplies. Pliny considered Balearic wines to be comparable to the finest Italian ones and Diodorus Siculus mentions the production and commercialization of wine in the Balearics. Documentary sources have revealed the existence of other rural activities, like livestock farming with oxen, sheep, pigs, mules, goats and fowl, as well as hunting fowl and rabbits.