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.
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 Cabezode 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).
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.
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.
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.
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?”
All Health Service Executive (HSE) staff, including those working in administrative roles, should get a financial bonus for the work done during the Covid-19 pandemic, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said.
“I want to see something done, yes, I absolutely really do. I think our healthcare teams have been incredible. We are still fighting the fight, but I definitely want to see some form of recognition for the extraordinary work that they have all put in,” he said.
Speaking after a visit to the HSE’s Limerick Covid-19 vaccination centre at Limerick Racecourse, Patrickswell, Mr Donnelly said: “We need to listen to the frustrations that they have.
“We do need to acknowledge that for nurses, doctors, allied health professionals, administrators – for everyone who has worked in the HSE over the last year and a half – that they’ve had an incredibly difficult time.
“I think they represent the very best of us and they have stepped up to the plate,” he said. “When the rest of us were told to stay at home to keep ourselves safe, they went into the hospitals, and into the Limerick hospital to keep other people safe, and we need to recognise that.”
The arrival of the Delta variant has been delayed by the use of some of the “strongest” lockdown measures in the European Union, but foreign travel now is adding to case numbers.
“We are seeing spikes in some parts of the country. There are cases linked to [international] travel, we know that. Most of the cases we are tracking are Irish people going abroad and coming home,” he said.
Some people travelled without a vaccination, or before their vaccinations had time to work. “They shouldn’t have done that. Some of them have come back and they have contracted Covid, but we will take care of them, we’ll make sure they get the care they need,” he said.
In “certain cases”, people have received a second dose of vaccine within 17 days of their first jab, as opposed to the previous advice of four weeks, and this may happen more generally, he said.
A HSE spokeswoman later said “For operational reasons and due to the pace of the rollout we are in a position to offer the second dose after 17 days in some cases. Second doses within this widow are clinically safe and effective.”
On the vaccination programme, the Minister said: “There aren’t that many people who would have thought just a few months ago that, in July, we would be vaccinating 16-year-olds.”
There will be no immediate change to rules around attendance at funerals, Masses, Confirmations or Communions, while the closure of indoor summer camps is being kept under review.
“More than half of the total population is now very well protected against the coronavirus and thus the highly contagious Delta variant thanks to the full immunisation,” Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein said on Thursday afternoon.
Burgenland has the highest percentage of vaccinated people with 66.1 percent, followed by Carinthia (55.7 percent) and Salzburg (55.2 percent).
The lowest percentage is in Upper Austria, where 54.9 percent of the population is vaccinated.
Kleinmürbisch in the Güssing district has the highest percentage of vaccinated people in Austria, with just under 80 percent of people vaccinated.
The village however only has 230 residents.
“But we are still a long way from reaching our destination,” warned the minister.
About the author: For lovers of Russian culture, folklore, and history, Kotar’s work is a treasure. The grandson of White Russian immigrants, the 34-year-old is an author of epic fantasy novels inspired by Russian fairy tales. You can see his four books here on Amazon.
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Stereotypes are a funny thing. On the one hand, they’re often no more than caricatures. On the other hand, there’s a surprising amount of bitter truth to some of them. Like the Russians say with their morbid humor, “In every joke, there’s a bit of a joke.”
This is especially interesting when we consider old Rus. We don’t have much to go on, historically speaking, other than chronicles, treaties, and a few bits of birch bark.
However, Russians have preserved some interesting stereotypes about the inhabitants of old Russian cities. Whether there’s any truth to them or not is almost beside the point. They’re fascinating, revealing a window to a world long gone, yet still persisting in the habits and personalities of today’s Russians. (Here’s the original Russian article that I translated)
EVERYONE IN GREAT NOVGOROD IS A REBEL
Novgorod’s rebelliousness is legendary. The image of a brawling Novgorodian is almost a calling card of the city. The reason this stereotype came about has to do with the old chronicles. They were filled with illustrations of the constant arguments at the Novgorodian Veche, a kind of popular assembly that met in the central square. (See my translation of “Martha the Mayoress” for a vivid fictionalized example).
Of course, there were arguments and even fights during the Veche. However, they did not constantly devolve into fist-fights, as the legends suggest. Naturally, the chroniclers would choose the most vivid and bloody examples from history to illustrate their point. After all, Novgorod was often an opponent of Kiev and, later, Moscow. But in actual fact, the inhabitants of Great Novgorod were fiercely loyal to their government and loved their city. Compromise was the order of the day, not broken heads. Plus, they were more than usually literate.
EVERYONE IN PSKOV IS A THIEF OR A MORON
Even in modern times, Pskovians have had to endure countless jokes about their crudeness, stupidity, and their lack of good manners. This may or may not be true. As for their lack of manners, that is entirely a matter of hats. The inhabitants of Pskov, no matter what their social standing, hardly ever doffed their cap before anyone (which is extremely bad form in old Rus). However, this wasn’t crudity or bad breeding.
The painful topic of Russian alcoholism became especially relevant in Nizhni Novgorod at the end of the 17th century. A kind of epidemic of alcoholism rose up, and it was normal to see women as well as men lying in the streets in a drunken stupor. Foreign travelers recounted after their visits to Nizhni Novgorod that “Russians don’t do anything but feast.”
Of course, they did more than feast. But on holidays, Russians have always allowed themselves some excesses. It’s not entirely fair to single out Nizhni Novgorod, when alcoholism still is the gravest problem facing Russia today, as in olden times.
EVERYONE IN VLADIMIR IS A CRIMINAL
This stereotype appeared very early. It’s easy to understand. Vladimir itself had five prisons, including the famous “Vladimir Central Prison.” From the beginning, Vladimirians have been considered con artists who like a dangerous life. It didn’t help that the path to Siberia for exiled convicts went through Vladimir. It was even called the “Vladimirka.”
Exiled convicts stopped in Vladimir to have half their heads shaved (a scene vividly recounted in the excellent Russian film The Siberian Barber). Then they’d be branded as exiles or thieves, clapped in irons, and set upon the road to Siberia. In old times, the path could take as long as two years, and those two years were not counted as part of their allotted time.
Vladimir itself, for all that, was a typical enough provincial town.
EVERYONE IN ROSTOV IS AN ARTISAN
When a Russian hears the word “finift’” (enameling), he immediately thinks of Rostov. Nothing could change the old stereotype that every inhabitant of ancient Rostov worked in the enameling guild. That’s complete nonsense, of course. First of all, the best enamellists in old Rus were as a rule in Kiev, the capital city. There were also some famous artisans in Pskov, Yaroslavl, Kostroma, and Great Novgorod.
The only difference is that Rostov alone has preserved the traditional techniques of enameling since ancient times. Even today, there is a factory producing enameled work. Perhaps for this reason alone, tourists still visit Rostov exclusively to see enameled boxes.
THE INDUSTRIOUS YARSOLAVIAN
The industrious muzhik from Yaroslavl is an image that we even find in Gogol. From the times of Rus, Yaroslavians were known as people who were never apathetic, lazy, or prone to tiredness. Instead, they’re known to be active to a manic degree. This may have something to do with the odd tradition that Yaroslav is a city of buried treasure.
Apparently, wherever you turn, you see someone uncovering a jewelry box or trying to break into an ancient chest of drawers. Perhaps a little more seriously, Yaroslavians have long been known as “chicks of the cuckoo.” In other words, they’re more than usually capable of leaving their homeland without much regret. This quality has a clear historical origin.
Yaroslav was built on the crossroads of ancient roads—a path used by merchants from Scandinavia all the way to the Arab lands. From the middle of the 16th century, Yarsolavl became the most important center for trade in all of Rus. This constant movement often inspired young Yaroslavians to try out their luck in foreign lands.
True or not, such stereotypes make for fascinating stories. For myself, the “myth” of the boisterous Novgorodian comes to life in my third novel, The Heart of the World, in a semi-fictionalized setting of the Veche that goes fabulously wrong for all concerned.