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

    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 a [...]

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CULTURAL LANDSCAPE

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The dark centuries and Moslem rule (454 - 1229)

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The looting of Mallorca by Vandals in 454 represented the end of Roman domination of the island and the beginning of a long period of which little or nothing is known. The virtual disappearance of the island's two Roman cities and a notable drop in human pressure on the environment due to the declining population are the most significant features of this period.

The only thing that is known, in the pre-Islamic period, is the use of castles built in mountainous locations, used subsequently by Moors and Christians, as power centres. Their leaders managed to reach agreement with the Moslems from at least the year 711 to avoid domination. After two centuries, during which the island was sporadically frequented by the Moslems, in the year 903 Mallorca came under Islamic domination and the Balearic Islands became the eastern islands of Al-Andalus, dependent on other states.

During the long period of Islamic rule (902-1229), the island of Mallorca, which was called Mayurqa, was divided into 12 districts (Jûz in the singular and ajzd' in the plural), characterized by a tribal structure and the districts' links with livestock farming, because originally the term was used for communal grazing areas. In these rural districts (Jûz), the population was fragmented, revolving around two types of settlements: an al-Garya and rahal.

In the Tramuntana area, there is still evidence of how important it was to take advantage of water resources and land during Moslem domination. Olive growing became more widespread, particularly in more mountainous areas. Hillside terraces were built there to prevent erosion and facilitate the cultivation of these non-irrigated trees. Although no systematic records have been found about irrigated crop farming in Islamic times, the presence of artificially watered fields, using irrigation systems, and the existence of mills point to the cultivation of irrigated crops of grain, fruit, vegetables, cotton, linen and vines (for grapes and raisins) and rice in wetlands. Indeed, it was at this time that the cultivation of rice, aubergines, artichokes and sugar cane was introduced to the mainland and Balearic Islands.

The marks of the Moslem period left on the makeup of the Tramuntana's rural landscape is evident in works by different authors, especially in the opinion given by Mallorcan geographer Bartomeu Barceló: "The formation of the [Balearic] Islands' rural landscapes can be traced back to Moslem rule (903-1229), which ended with Catalan occupation of the Balearics, when ownership of new lands were acquired by sharing out former Moslem farms and small farm holdings. [...] In this way, while the Moslem legacy was a scattered population with small farms playing a colonizing role, the policy of the new rulers [the Christians] tended to favour the concentration of the population in urban nuclei."

The Christian conquest of the city of Madina Mayurqa took place in 1229. Between 1230 and 1231, the rest of the island was gradually occupied, although a certain resistance to the new invaders was encountered in the mountains of the eastern range and Tramuntana Mountains, where the Moslems took refuge, particularly in two castles: Alaró Castle and Castillo del Rey in Pollença. The latter was the last place in Mallorca to surrender. Resistance there was not organized by members of the Almohad army but by the religious hierarchy, who had managed to flee the city. Thus the Tramuntana Mountains acted once again as a frontier between two worlds.