Mines of Gavà Archeological Park, Barcelona, Spain

The archaeological site of the prehistoric mines of Gavà, also known as Mines Tintorer, is a site Neolithic occupied areas Tintorer, the iron and Rocabruna the town of Castelldefels (Baix Llobregat, Barcelona). This is the set of mines in gallery largest and oldest in Europe and the only one dedicated to the extraction of Neolithic variscita a green mineral used to make body ornaments. It has an area of 200 hectares where more than a hundred mines have been located, without excluding more. During the timesIberian and Roman and during the Middle Ages the mines were re-exploited to obtain iron ore.

In 1996 the site was declared a Cultural Asset of National Interest.

The Gavà Museum houses the remains found and exhibits the most unique pieces, such as the Venus de Gavà or the trepanated skull.

Geographical location and geological
The Gavà mines are located to the right of the mouth of the Llobregat river, at the foot of the eastern slopes of the Garraf massif, in the sectors known as Ferreres, Rocabruna and Can Tintorer, in the municipality of Gavà.

The geological structure of the area corresponds to shales and limestones of the era Paleozoic formed between the systems Silurian and Devonian, 408 million years ago. Slates and limestones are arranged in strongly inclined layers and have numerous folds, faults and overlaps, due to their folds during Hercynian orogeny (290 million years ago) and later alpine (65 million years ago). Geology has two alignments that vary between WNW-ESE and WE. A limestone crust and red clays formed in the early Quaternary (1.64 million years ago) covered the Paleozoic slates and limestones.

Discovery and historiography
The site was discovered in 1975 when urbanization works in the Can Tintorer district exposed openings in the rock. But it was popularly known that they had “holes” because some structures that remained open had been used by neighbors since ancient times.

In 1978 the original nucleus of the CIPAG (Collective for Research in Prehistory and Archeology of Garraf-Ordal) began the first archeological excavations. This year, the Gavà Museum is also created to host, research and disseminate the site’s findings. Until 1980 the mines located were excavated and the lot was mechanically lowered to locate new ones. In 1991, the Museum of Gavà assumes the excavations and promotes a comprehensive intervention project that was awarded a workshop school by the INEM, dedicated to training auxiliary excavation and heritage dissemination.

The site is being explored, several mines being excavated and teaching workshops and scripts being made for site visits, when part of it was museized and opened to the public in 1993.It is during these years that two of the unique pieces of the site: the Venus de Gavà and the trepanat skull. At the same time as the excavations and the diffusion, the conservation and restoration work are started with the collaboration of the Department of Mining Engineering and Natural Resources of the Polytechnic University of Catalonia. After a pause, excavations and restoration and consolidation resumed between 1998 and 2000.

Due to an urban project, in 1998 a new sector of the site was identified in the Sierra de las Ferreres. Work will continue until 2009. New Neolithic and Ibero-Roman mines are located and excavated. From this sector came the burials of mines 83, 84, and 85, which contained funeral ashlars with exceptional pieces such as a red coral necklace, an obsidian foil, square-mouthed ceramics, and melted flint.

Since then, scheduled, emergency and preventive excavations, studies and consolidation tasks have been carried out by different archeology companies and institutions such as the Gavà Museum, the University of Barcelona and the Autonomous University of Barcelona.

The Neolithic mines were uninterruptedly exploded between the Old Evolved or Postcardial Neolithic and the Middle Neolithic, as attested by the ceramics corresponding to the Postcardial Molinot type Neolithic and those of the Middle Neolithic Foundry Culture.

Radiocarbon dating has also been made on materials from different mining structures. Postcardial dating dates from 3350 to 2950 BC (uncalibrated) and to the Middle Neolithic between 2950 and 2550 BC (not calibrated). This would place them between 4200 BC and 3400 BC, between the second half of the fourth millennium and the first half of the third millennium BC. It should be borne in mind, however, that the dates are from samples belonging to the mine filler once already in use; therefore, exploitation should be earlier. In this sense, we find a number of Gavanese quotes in the Cave of Can Sadurní (Begues, Barcelona) at postcardial moments before those identified in Gavà. Or the one located in the Cave of Chaves (Bastarás, Huesca) and the Cave of the Moor (Olvena, Huesca), chemically confirmed as of Gavà but located in burials of the Old Neolithic of the 6th millennium BC.

Absolute dates are not available for Ibero-Roman mines, but exploitation would be between the 4th and 4th centuries BC.


Environmental and economic
During the Neolithic period, the mountains, the plain and the coastline were confluent around the site, forming a landscape with different plant communities: coastal maquia (Oleo-Ceratonion) with shrubs such as the palm -tree (Chamaerops humilis), mastic. (Pistacia lentiscus), heather (Erica), wild olive (Olea europe), Juniperus and white pine (Pinus halepensis); forests of oaks (Quercus sclerophyll) and oak (Quercus deciduous) With spare parts with strawberry (Arbustus unedo) and heather; riverside forests with willows (Salix), poplars (Populus), laurel (Laurus nobilis) and ferns; scrubs, garrigues (Quercus coccifera) and fields of crop.

The botanical and faunal remains, as useful as arrowheads, hand mills, ax and ax blades, and sickle teeth, recovered in mine filling, show that they were not only engaged in mining. The presence of root and adventitious plants and the Rumex – Plantago – Cyperaceae association show the existence of disturbed and nitrified soils by anthropic actions such as agriculture and animal husbandry.

Animal resources were managed and operated for food and secondary purposes (milk, wool, etc.), mainly herds of bovids, followed by ovicàprids and some pigs. In addition, deer, wild boar and rabbits were hunted. Fisheries were practiced (perch, perch and hunt), seafood for both food and ornamental purposes (Chamelea gallina, Mytilus galloprovincialis, cuttlefish, Patella, Glycimeris…) and land snails were consumed (Cenuella virgata,Cepaea nemoralis and Otala punctata).

The crops were mainly barley (Hordeum vulgare and Hordeum vulgare nudum) and, to a lesser extent, wheat (Triticum monococcum, Triticum dicocum and Triticum aestivum) and legumes such as lentils (Vicia sp.). Wild resources were used by collecting the fruits of the oyster, the shrimp (Vitis labrusca) and the hazelnut (Corylus avellana), as well as the wood of the alder (Alnus), heather, white pine, arbutus, mastic, holm oak and oak.

Social and ideological
Once exhausted, some mines were seized as graves. There are two types of burial. First, collective burials at the mine entrance well. After casting the remains of previously buried individuals, the body was placed in a fetal position which was accompanied by a funeral hoist / offerings (ceramics, tools, ornaments, etc.). At some point, the wormwood branches were burning. Secondly, single and double burials with richer and more prominent burial grounds. They are in small chambers, deep and far away from the mine entrance. The burial space was closed with slabs, and access to the mine was also closed with large slabs and stones. These differences in burials may be interpreted as examples of social inequalities.

The community that lived there was made up of family groups consisting of children, men and women, adults and old people. The average life expectancy was around 30 years; the average height of men was 164 cm and that of women 151 cm. In the bones of some individuals – men and women – labor indicators compatible with mining are observed and which may show the labor specialization of some people: development of muscle insertions that denote flexion and extension movements of the arm and lifting of the back, strong wrist, flexion of the leg on the thigh and movement of rotation of the trunk. Evidence of medical practices with cured bone fractures and one individual who survived two trepanations in the skull are also found.

Funeral practices and certain objects may reflect the beliefs and symbolic thinking of these communities. The inclusion of a funeral hoist in the burials suggests a life after death, and the fetal position of the bodies in the rebirth.

The importance of the varicita and its presence in funeral contexts would also have a symbolic explanation, because the green color is associated with the regeneration of life, especially the vegetable and by animal and human extension. They are agricultural beliefs, where the earth is divinized; therefore, to bury the dead in their interior would be to return them to the belly of divinity, which, like the plants annually, would cause them to be reborn. Gavà’s Venus could be related to the worship of the Mother Goddess and fertility / fertility, not only understood in the agricultural and human sense, but also in the mineral of the earth.

A deposit of typical sumptuous hooves found at Mine 85 without a funeral context could also have a symbolic explanation. It could be a cenotaph or an offering in which part of what is obtained is returned to earth.

Significant findings

Venus de Gavà
Anthropomorphic representation of a female made on ceramics, found in the well of mine 16. It is dated between 4000 and 3750 BC. They sculpted the veins so that the spirits would stimulate the fertility of the women of the tribe.

Skull trepanned
Skull of an adult man between the ages of 30 and 40 buried in the collective grave of mine 28. He has two trepanations on the left parietal by abrasion of the bone. They were performed at two different times when the man was alive, because bone regeneration is observed. It is dated 5600-5400 before the present.

Red Coral Necklace
Red coral necklace (Corallium rubrum) found next to a person buried at Mine 83, as part of his funeral grave. It is between 6200-5900 before the present.

It consists of 241 girls, of whom 232 were found whole and 9 were fragmented. The females are small cylinders between 3.8 and 5.5 mm long; 1.5 and 2 mm of perforation diameter; and wall thickness not exceeding 2 mm. The teeth are polished and most have right-angled ends.

Neolithic ornaments made from coral in Europe are scarce. The known are mainly from Italy and, to a lesser extent, Switzerland, France, Sardinia and Catalonia.

Square mouth glass
Square-mouthed ceramic vessel found at Mine 83 as part of a funeral home. It is between 6200-5900 before the present.

It has a quadrangular mouth with vertical, slightly bulging walls and a flat bottom. It has vertical prominences or reinforcements in all four angles. On one of the long sides it has a tab-shaped clamping element with a small horizontal perforation of circular section. The ceramics are of oxidizing firing and with a reducing finish as a smoked exterior and interior; It is made up of medium-sized quartz and feldspar degreaser. Features a burnished finish inside and out. The maximum mouth width is 19.5 x 15 cm; the maximum width is 21 cm; the preserved height is 8.6 cm; and the wall thickness is 7.8 mm.

The pasta analysis indicates that it is locally produced but its shape could show North Italian influences.

The waste analysis shows that it contained tallows of animal origin, specifically land mammals. The fats identified have the property of protecting the food submerged in them from the oxidizing action of the air, so it could be a fat preservation or, also, a fat broth.

Foil of obsidian
Sheet of obsidian found in the mine 83 forming part of a funeral. It is between 6200-5900 before the present.

It is a whole sheet, of a trapezoidal section, 78 mm long, 11 mm wide and 4 mm thick. The heel is flat and slightly offset from the blade axis. The percussion bulb has a small peeling and the angle of burst is straight. The lateral edges are regular and straight and no retouching is observed.

Studies on the piece show that it was used to cut non-woody soft plant matter, such as cereals, albeit for a short time, and place their origin on the source of obsidian Sardinia A (Monte Arci).

Extraction of varicite: mines, structures and mining tools
During the Neolithic, the varicite extraction system was underground, with a distribution and morphology of extraction structures adapted to the geology of the area. Mining activity focuses on the context of gray silicic aluminum slates where we find two different types of phosphate mineralization. On the one hand, monomineralic levels of strengite, varicite and apatite, and, on the other hand, veins of severalcite, especially, but also with strengite and phosphosiderite, to which alunite and jarosite are associated.

Underground structures have varying degrees of complexity. The simplest are in places where mineral outcrops could occur. They are isolated structures, with access wells and a gallery of variable length and inclination that can end with some fork. More complex structures have interconnections with each other, with galleries, interior wells, and open chambers to trace minerals. Prospecting galleries can be found, the purpose of which was to access areas of mineral rich slates. To date, 110 mining points have been located.

The equipment used for mining has been recovered from the same mine fillings. He was diverse and at the same time specialized. On the one hand, heavy tools, such as spikes and cornice mallets, have been recovered. Heads have been recovered, which sometimes have lace markings of possible wooden handles. This type of tooling was probably used to break large blocks. Moreover, there is bone tools, such as chisels made from Metapod beef, which is used hammers of quartz, the purpose of which was to break the cracks and layers of slate to extract the ore. Presumably the use of other tools made of wood or organic materials, but has not survived. There are also auxiliary tools for its preparation and repair, such as sandstone sanders.

No artificial lighting systems needed – but small holes dug into the walls where some lighting could be installed, as well as a lot of burnt wood coals.

Production of variouscite body ornaments
The recovered varicite teeth that have been recovered show that they were made at the same site. We started by separating the scallop from the board and choosing the impurities without impurities to break them. Then it was shaped (disc, teardrop, cylinder, barrel or triangular plate, rectangular or oval) by cutting and polishing it with sandstone sanders. Drilling was done on one or both sides of the girl with manual drills or with drill bits with flint drills. And it was polishing again. Necklaces and bracelets were made mainly of variable number of pieces and could be combined with pieces of other minerals.

The distribution of variouscite body ornaments
The scope of Gavà’s mining operation shows not only local consumption but also production, mainly for external consumption.

During the Neolithic, body ornaments made from green minerals were found throughout western Europe. It is unlikely that the origin of everything will be Gavà, but chemical analyzes on different pieces of varicite will allow its diffusion area to reach Provence to the northeast, the Ebro axis to the west and south, and the region of Toulouse on the north. The Vallès Occidental, the Solsonès and Andorra are the areas where most pieces of varicite have been found in Gavà.

The distribution of the varicita could be done through different routes: the one from the Llobregat river and its tributaries linked the coast with the Pyrenees; another would follow the Catalan Prelitoral Depression, which, on the one hand, would connect the Baix Llobregat with the regions of Tarragona and the lands of the Ebro, and on the other, the regions of Girona to the south of France; the third way would be the coast extending to the north by the Barcelonès and the Maresme and to the south by the massif of the Garraf, the coasts of Tarragona and the mouth of the Ebro.

The exchanges also brought foreign objects and ideas to Gavà, such as the cornice with which the peaks were made, from the Collserola range; melted flint from Haute-Provence; Alps of fibrolite and eclogite of the Alps; sheet of obsidian of Monte Arci (Sardinia); red coral necklace; square mouth bases of North Italian tradition; Chassey-style dark ceramics (French Midi); loom weight of the type Lagozza (northern Italy); and red engraving ceramics with parallels in Andalusia and Lipari Island (Italy).

Mines de Gavà Archaeological Park
The Mines de Gavà Archaeological Park offers a careful program of visits that includes: several exhibitions of remains found in the excavations; audiovisual projections that, using the most modern techniques of three-dimensional reproduction, present the life of the Neolithic; hands-on demonstrations of the tools they used and a visit to a mine reproduction where all the items listed in the actual mines were included. To enable the Park, opened in 2007 but projected in the 1990’s, the government had to make an investment of approximately nine million euros.

European Heritage Days
In October 2018, Gavà joined the European Heritage Days.

This weekend, as usual, guided and free visits were planned for the European Heritage days, as a new addition to the archeological park of the mines, to the antirank shelter on the Rambla and Eramprunyà castle.

A couple were also organized to learn about the remains of Can Valls del Racó, a Roman site located in the wooded southwestern part of the city, next to the Canyars stream, which had previously been involved.

As a visit, the water cistern, rectangular plant embedded in the slope of a hill that was very close to the sea in ancient times, stands about 12 meters long by about 3 meters wide, and the walls that they stand, almost all of them, as the vault is executed according to the Roman technique of opus incertum, rather small pieces of stone agglomerated with mortar, and waterproofed with opus signinum coatings, a mixture consisting of lime, sand and earthenware pieces.

The cistern was built in a chronology that spanned the first century AD and may have been part of a series of facilities of a kind of port office linked to the nearby anchorage of the Sands. From around the 16th century until the end of the 19th century, this infrastructure was used as a cellar for a farmhouse that was built in the same place and named the current place name.

Another of the proposals that were scheduled was a toy library, that Saturday and Sunday, in the Museum itself. This was a complementary activity to the antique toy exhibition that can still be visited in our city these days.