The cultural heritage that water both reveals and destroys
By Luis Ortega
Cordoba, Spain, Sep 4 (EFE).- The drought gripping much of Europe is revealing numerous archaeological gems that had been submerged in reservoirs throughout Spain, although the much-needed water which is unveiling these treasures is also what is gradually destroying this precious cultural heritage.
A prime example is the 6th century BC Iberian archaeological site, discovered in 2017 due to the drought that hit the Sierra Boyera reservoir in Cordoba, which is being destroyed by the rise and fall of the water.
The current head of the excavation and researcher at the Department of Prehistory at the University of Granada, Pablo González, explained to EFE that the “oppidum”, or Iberian settlement, may spread over an area of about 600 square meters.
But only 20 percent has been studied so far, as the rest of the site has been lost to changes in the water level or construction works.
The excavation has “brought to light part of a settlement dedicated to production”, mainly metallurgy, as shown by the discovery of a large “furnace” and ceramic remains.
AN ENDLESS CYCLE
The current state of conservation is “very delicate”, González warned, as the site is under water for extended periods and the “ups and downs of the water level”, coupled with the “rain and wind and other erosive elements”, is causing “rapid deterioration”.
“It is a cycle that does not stop and the same thing that has brought it to light is also destroying it,” said Gonzalez.
It is therefore “urgent” to extract all the “possible information of the different strata”, since “its destruction is unstoppable and imminent”, he added, highlighting the need to “bring the heritage to the people.”
Paradoxically, its destruction would ideally come “sooner rather than later”, because that would mean that the water would have returned to the reservoir to ease the ongoing drought.
Archeologist Araceli Cristo explains that there was an attempt to use “underwater methods” to explore the site, but divers could not see due the “currents of the swamp” and the “dense silt”.
Ideally, Cristo said, a large continuous waterspout would completely flood the site for it to be preserved and studied.
“If the reservoir is filled to the top, it would be better and less damaging than if it is filled little by little,” says the archaeologist.
Its preservation will depend on “how it fills, how much it fills, and how much it stays full” due to the problems caused by “changes in humidity”.
But, if it remains as it is now with 12 percent of its capacity, compared to 34 percent last year and more than 60 percent on average in the last decade, the site only has about 30 years left before it is lost completely. EFE