Tuesday, July 03, 2018

The Old Mojácar Dig

L to R: Fundación Valparaiso secretary and Beatrice Becket, President. Mojácar elder Emmanuel Aguero, local historian Juan Grima and senior archaeologist from the University of Granada José María Martín Civantos
The excavation of Old Mojácar was officially launched this week by the vice-mayor of Mojácar Emmanuel Aguero, the local Valparaiso Foundation and a group of archaeologists from the University of Granada. Mojácar la Vieja, as it is in Spanish, is now being investigated to reveal its secrets. While the 'secrets' vary according to who is telling the story (one mojaquero in the Town Hall reputedly said the dig will make the hill more famous than Pompeii - another thinks that we might discover proof of Walt Disney's Mojácar connection hidden under a rock), the presentation on Monday in the Centro de Artesanía (now called the Centro de Unos Múltiples to keep everyone on their toes) was more sanguine.
The excavation for this season - the month of July - is concentrating on the aljibe - the cistern - on the top of the hill, together with a small section somewhat below. The lower section apparently being an area of defensive wall plus part of what could be the main gate to the ancient settlement.
The archaeologist from Granada told us that Old Mojácar was a fortified town anything up to 4,500 years old and in use until the thirteenth century. Currently, they are building an easier access - that's to say, a pathway, to facilitate the arrival of visitors, diggers, volunteers, politicians and Erich Von Daniken, if he has the time.
Juan Grima, who has written a number of historical books on our area, and is the editor of Arraez Books and the Axarquía magazine, told us of earlier archaeological digs which had ended up under a thick cover of cement with nothing to show beyond some lost papers and  artefacts: Roman ruins, Moorish walls and so on, quietly bulldozed back into oblivion. Other material from Mojácar was in regional, national and even international museums, generally forgotten by the local public. Still other history  - such as the famous agreement made in 1488 at the Mojácar fuente, the base for our Moros y Cristianos festival - was nothing more than a mere invention by Louis Siret, the famous Belgian investigator who excavated various sites locally between 1885 and 1900.
This dig, he promised us, would be different, with a full catalogue and everything on view.
Slightly disturbing were the remarks from the presenters that this would benefit Mojácar tourism. Large groups of visitors decanted by bus to toil up the hill? Not, perhaps, until the Chinese discover our Corner of Enchantment.
Photo Tuesday 3rd July. Photo by Emilio Aramburu.
My own view that an ancient city would be better served nearby - where there is a spring, room for animals, gentle slopes and a good escape route notwithstanding, the archaeologists seemed convinced that our humble yet magic Old Mojácar may hold more than a few secrets.
The budget for the dig is 40,000€ and the students - some 30 or more - are bunking down in the Centro de Artesania building. 
The plan is to work this July and then return next year for another session. The cistern has already been cleaned of plant-life and one can only hope that, the moment the archaeologists' backs are turned, yet more local tomb-raiders don't climb the hill in search of lost ingots of gold, ancient mummies and some early Walt Disney drawings.

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