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Huelva: Development plans threaten valuable Tartessos necropolis in southern Spain | Culture

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One of the most important Tartessian enclaves in the world was built between the 8th and 6th centuries BC on what is still an undeveloped, elevated piece of land in the center of Huelva, in Spain’s southern region of Andalusia, between the streets of Fray Junípero Serra and San Sebastián. The first excavations were carried out there between the late 1960s and early 1970s, resulting in the discovery of dozens of tombs filled with trousseaus of gold, silver and jewels, an ancient hearse, ceramics and even an Egyptian ivory chest featuring four figurines. The items were of such value that they subsequently went on display in some of the world’s most renowned museums, including New York’s Metropolitan.

The 53-meter-high knoll – known locally as the Cabezo de La Joya – was used by the Tartessians not only as a place to live and bury their dead, but also as a strategic location to control the bay and carry out trade with other parts of the known world. But this rich cultural heritage is about to be cemented over as city authorities in Huelva have chosen the base of the hillock to erect four tower blocks of up to 15 floors each. While the highest part of the knoll will escape being razed by the bulldozers, it will be trapped between the concrete, glass and steel of the new buildings, which will rise five meters above it.

The urban development has triggered protests among scientific and academic communities as well as citizen groups who consider it an attack on Huelva’s heritage. As many as 40 research centers and associations are calling for a halt to the already-approved plan, including the Royal Academy of San Fernando, the Geological Mining Institute of Spain and the Andalusian Ombudsman.

The hubcap of the wheels of the chariot found in the Cabezo de la Joya.
The hubcap of the wheels of the chariot found in the Cabezo de la Joya.Museo Arqueológico de Huelva

A section of the General Research Plan for the Archaeological Zone of Huelva – signed by the regional department of Culture and Historical Heritage, the University of Huelva, the research group Vrbanitas and the Research Center for Historical, Cultural and Natural Heritage – states that what is now the city center was first established during the first millennium BC, close to a set of hills – or cabezos – by the sea. Over time, the coastline changed and these natural elevations became distanced from the coast, appearing as mounds on an otherwise completely flat terrain. Gradually, they were abandoned as settlements and used instead as fruit orchards and vineyards while the capital crept closer to the sea, devouring the nearby hills as more land was cultivated and later modern buildings constructed.

But long before all this happened, between the end of the second millennium and the beginning of the first millennium BC, the hillocks that made up prehistoric Huelva, namely San Pedro, Cementerio Viejo, Molino de Viento, La Esperanza, Cabezo del Pino, Padre Julián, La Joya, Roma and Mondaca – most of which have now disappeared – provided the communities that occupied them with an excellent place to live and also to bury their dead.

The cabezos were settled by a technologically advanced society, which traded beyond the peninsula, as far as the Middle East. “Its people became familiar with other languages, customs and aesthetics, and had access to fashions and new cultural, technological and religious trends that were implanted in the ancient world,” according to the report.

Aristocratic tombs were found during excavations, with grave goods that are unmatched by those found in other burial grounds from the Orientalizing period of the 7th century BC, which incorporated features from the eastern Mediterranean region. Along with the corpses, there were bronze jars, silver and gold objects, alabaster vases, ivory artifacts and a hearse that would have been pulled by two horses to carry a person of high standing to his grave.

But, now, the General Urban Development Plan of Huelva is about to trample on the past and convert the Cabezo de la Joya into the Execution Unit No. 1, an area of about 26,000 square meters where four towers will stand, despite the fact it has been part of the Huelva Archaeological Zone Declaration since 2001, and is registered in Andalusia’s General Catalog of Historical Heritage within the protected category of Asset of Cultural Interest (BIC in its Spanish acronym).

The urban plan for the cabezo de la Joya.
The urban plan for the cabezo de la Joya.Ayuntamiento de Huelva

Jorge Cotallo, president of ArqueoHuelva, a cultural association that does educational work on heritage issues, is outraged. “It is inadmissible,” he says. “The necropolis of La Joya is possibly the most important one in the Orientalizing Tartessian world and, far from protecting and disseminating it, our authorities want to build on top of it!” Meanwhile, the Huelva Te Mira citizens’ association has filed a contentious-administrative appeal against the final approval of the urban plan on the grounds that “it proposes the destruction of much of the hill and the construction of buildings of up to 15 floors.”

In a harsh report issued in September, Andalusian Ombudsman Jesús Maeztu Gregorio de Tejada called for the preservation of all the cabezos, especially La Joya, “which is of international scientific value.” The report said that these knolls “have a natural value in themselves that makes them unique.” It added that the development of La Joya is not considered compatible with the protection of the archaeological zone and is in breach of articles 19, 28.1 and 29.1 of the Law of Historical Heritage of Andalusia.

A spokeswoman for the local government stated that the city council approved the modification of the urban plan last November and all that remains to be drafted are projects focusing on where the roads will be laid and the buildings located. The plan was approved with votes from the Socialist Party (PSOE); there were abstentions from the Popular (PP), the far-right Vox and the center-right Ciudadanos (Citizens), while the local parties Mesa de la Ría and Adelante Huelva cast negative votes.

Hypothetical image of the modification of the Cabezo de la Joya, according to the draft plans approved by the city council.
Hypothetical image of the modification of the Cabezo de la Joya, according to the draft plans approved by the city council.Ayuntamiento de Huelva

Thanks to the first excavations, dozens of Tartessian tombs have been documented. In tomb number 17, said to be the richest and most unique trousseau of all those in the necropolis, a disassembled chariot that would have been pulled by two horses was unearthed. The experts’ report reads as follows: “It has been understood as a two-wheeled chariot, due to the presence of two hubcaps with feline heads.” Among its elements were the reinforcements of the central rudder, a silver mould, the lining of the end of the spear, a quiver-box for arrows, rein buckles, reinforcements decorated with rosettes, two horse bits and bronze fastening rods.

An ivory chest was found in another of the tombs with silver hinges, pins and bronze corner pieces that join an armature featuring four Egyptian-style figurines made from ivory.

Anomalies detected in the subsoil of the Cabezo de La Joya suggesting underground structures.
Anomalies detected in the subsoil of the Cabezo de La Joya suggesting underground structures.Universidad de Huelva

In 1999, an emergency dig was carried out due to the need to build a health center at the base of the hill during which more tombs and a ceramic trousseau were found. However, the neglect to which the area has been subjected has meant regular looting has taken place, particularly when official excavations have made the booty more accessible.

The experts who carried out the archaeological diagnosis for the General Research Plan of the Archaeological Zone of Huelva point out that the local government claims there are no archaeological remains in the lower part of the hill, which, besides being inaccurate, is an assumption made before the archaeological diagnosis report could be delivered.

Ivory chest found in the Cabezo de la Joya, Huelva.
Ivory chest found in the Cabezo de la Joya, Huelva.Museo Arqueológico de Huelva

Historians say that the Odiel River could be clearly observed from the top of the hill, the same spot where the archaeological site known as the Huelva Estuary Deposit was located in 1923, which turned up bronze swords and other metallic objects that were sacred offerings to the waters. Nor should it be forgotten, add these experts, that the island of Saltés is also visible from this spot. Saltés was a source of sacred votive offerings, according to the experts, making it a place of special relevance that would have been considered sacred in itself. The proposal is that the area be completely free of urban development and become an area for the interpretation of heritage.

“But city officials are not interested,” insists Cotallo. “Instead of preserving and adding value to a unique Tartessian site, they prefer to put up four apartment blocks that will destroy it and cover it. The systematic destruction of Huelva’s heritage is unrelenting. Is nobody going to do anything about it?”

English version by Heather Galloway.

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Census 2022 – what difference does it make?

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Next Sunday, April 3rd, is Census night. Millions of people in homes countrywide will fill in page after page of questions, some of which are deeply personal and many of which might be unfamiliar.

But what it is it all about?

At a basic level, Census 2022 will be used to inform planning of public policy and services in the years ahead, according to the Central Statistics Office.

The questions will cover a range of environmental, employment and lifestyle issues, including the use of renewable energy sources in homes.

The questions will help inform policy development in the areas of energy and climate action, and the prevalence of internet access, to understand the availability of and need for internet connections and range of devices used to access the internet.

Questions also focus on changes in work patterns and will include the trend of working from home and childcare issues, while questions are also asked about the times individuals usually leave work, education or childcare, to help identify and plan for transport pattern needs locally and nationally.

Other topics covered include volunteering and the type of organisations volunteers choose to support, tobacco usage and the prevalence of smoke alarms in the home.

And of course there is a time capsule – the chance to write something which will be sealed for the next 100 years.

In this episode of In The News, the head of census administration Eileen Murphy and statistician Kevin Cunningham about what it all means for us.

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Oscars 2022: Will Smith makes Oscar history after slapping Chris Rock over joke about wife Jada Pinkett Smith | Culture

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Will Smith took the Oscar for Best Actor at last night’s 94th Academy Awards, but he also became the protagonist of the ceremony for other reasons. The night was following the script, until Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock on the stage after the latter made a joke about the shaved head of the former’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. Rock had quipped that he was “looking forward to GI Jane 2,” in reference to her look. Pinkett Smith has revealed publicly that she has alopecia. It looked as if the moment had been planned, until Smith went back to his seat and shouted: “Get my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth.”

The moment, which immediately became Oscar history but for all the wrong reasons, left the attendees with frozen smiles, and asking themselves whether it was possible that a veteran such as Smith could have lost his cool in front of tens of millions of people. After taking the prize for Best Actor, the superstar actor made a tearful apology, saying that he hoped the Academy “will invite me back.” Later on, actor Anthony Hopkins called for “peace and love,” but it was already too late. The incident overshadowed the success of CODA, which took the Oscar for Best Picture. Just like the time when Warren Beatty mistakenly named La La Land as the big winner of the night, no one will speak about anything else from last night’s awards.

At first sight, Smith’s actions looked as if they were scripted. When he first heard Rock’s joke, he laughed. But his wife was seen on camera rolling her eyes, and it was then that the actor got up onto the stage and hit Rock. When he returned to his seat he raised his voice twice to shout “Get my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth,” sending a wave of unease and shock through the attending audience. The fact that he used the f-word, which is prohibited on US television, set alarm bells ringing that this was real and not a planned moment. In fact, the curse word was censored by the broadcaster, ABC, in the United States.

During a break, Smith’s PR manager approached him to speak. In the press room, which the actor skipped after collecting his prize, instructions were given to the journalists not to ask questions about the incident, Luis Pablo Beauregard reports. The next presenter, Sean “Diddy” Combs, tried to calm the situation. “Will and Chris, we’re going to solve this – but right now we’re moving on with love,” the rapper said.

When Smith took to the stage to collect his Best Actor award for his role as Richard Williams – the father of tennis stars Venus and Serena – in King Richard, he referred to the character as “a fierce defender of his family.” He continued: “I’m being called on in my life to love people and to protect people and to be a river to my people. I know to do what we do you’ve got to be able to take abuse, and have people talk crazy about you and have people disrespecting you and you’ve got to smile and pretend it’s OK.”

He explained that fellow actor Denzel Washington, who also spoke to Smith during a break, had told him: “At your highest moment, be careful, that’s when the devil comes for you.”

“I want to be a vessel for love,” Smith continued. “I want to be an ambassador of that kind of love and care and concern. I want to apologize to the Academy and all my fellow nominees. […] I look like the crazy father just like they said about Richard Williams, but love will make you do crazy things,” he said. He then joked about his mother, who had not wanted to come to the ceremony because she had a date with her crochet group.

The Los Angeles Police Department released a statement last night saying that Chris Rock would not be filing any charges for assault against Smith. “LAPD investigative entities are aware of an incident between two individuals during the Academy Awards program,” the statement read. “The incident involved one individual slapping another. The individual involved has declined to file a police report. If the involved party desires a police report at a later date, LAPD will be available to complete an investigative report.”

On December 28, Pinkett Smith spoke on social media about her problems with alopecia. She stated that she would be keeping her head shaved and would be dealing with the condition with humor. “Me and this alopecia are going to be friends… Period!” she wrote on Instagram.



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House-price inflation set to stay double digit for much of 2022

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House-price inflation is expected to remain at double-digit levels for much of 2022 as the mismatch between what is for sale and what buyers want continues.

Two new reports on the housing market paint a picture of a sector under strain due to a lack of supply and increased demand driven by Covid-related factors such as remote working.

The two quarterly reports, one each from rival property websites myhome.ie and daft.ie, suggest asking prices accelerated again in the first quarter of 2022 as the stock of homes available for sale slumped to a new record low.

Myhome, which is owned by The Irish Times, said annual asking-price inflation was now running at 12.3 per cent.

Price

This put the median or typical asking price for a home nationally at €295,000, and at €385,000 in Dublin.

MyHome said the number of available properties for sale on its website fell to a record low of 11,200 in March, down from a pre-pandemic level of 19,000. The squeeze on supply, it said, was most acute outside Dublin, with the number of properties listed for sale down almost 50 per cent compared with pre-pandemic levels.

It said impaired supply and robust demand meant double-digit inflation is likely until at least mid-2022.

“Housing market conditions have continued to tighten,” said author of the myhome report, Davy chief economist Conall Mac Coille.

“The broad picture of the market in early 2022 remains similar to last year: impaired supply coupled with robust demand due to Ireland’s strong labour market,” he said.

Soure: MyHome.ie

“One chink of light is that new instructions to sell of 7,500 in the first 11 weeks of 2022 are well up from 4,800 in 2021, albeit still below the 9,250 in 2019. The flow of new properties therefore remains impaired,” said Mr Mac Coille.

“Whatever new supply is emerging is being met by more than ample demand. Hence, transaction volumes in January and February were up 13 per cent on the year but pushed the market into ever tighter territory,” he said.

He said Davy was now predicting property-price inflation to average 7 per cent this year, up from a previous forecast of 4.5 per cent, buoyed strong employment growth.

Homes

Daft, meanwhile, said house asking prices indicated the average listed price nationwide in the first quarter of 2022 was €299,093, up 8.4 per cent on the same period in 2021 and and just 19 per cent below the Celtic Tiger peak, while noting increases remain smaller in urban areas, compared to rural.

Just 10,000 homes were listed for sale on its website as of March 1st, an all-time low. In Dublin, Cork and Galway cities, prices in the first quarter of 2022 were roughly 4 per cent higher on average than a year previously, while in Limerick and Waterford cities the increases were 7.6 per cent and 9.3 per cent respectively.

The report’s author, Trinity College Dublin economist Ronan Lyons, said: “Inflation in housing prices remains stubbornly high – with Covid-19 disturbing an equilibrium of sorts that had emerged, with prices largely stable in 2019 but increasing since.

“As has been the case consistently over the last decade, increasing prices – initially in Dublin and then elsewhere – reflect a combination of strong demand and very weak supply.”


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