University of Granada archaeologists present the results of the 2021 excavation campaign to Mojácar residents

MemoLab, the University of Granada’s biocultural archaeology laboratory, which is in charge of the Mojácar La Vieja restoration project, presented the conclusions reached from the 2021 excavation campaign to Mojácar residents.

Despite it initially being work of consolidation and protection of the discoveries made in previous campaigns, and its short duration (10 days), the 30 archaeologists who have worked on Mojácar La Vieja have, as well as this consolidation made new and interesting discoveries which reinforce, support and shed new light on the investigations carried out so far.
The presentation took place in the open air in the Plaza del Frontón due to the Covid-19 health measures.
Present were Mojácar Mayor, Rosa María Cano, the members of her government team and a large audience, who as at the previous events regarding Mojácar la Vieja did not want to miss the news which comes up every year and which has the affection and interest of all residents.
Emmanuel Agüero, Councillor for Tourism, an area which is driving this project, opened the presentation by emphasizing the excellent work and the making the most of this campaign, highlighting the importance of this project as a tourist attraction within the cultural sphere for Mojácar, and which joins other initiatives, like family tourism, sport and active tourism. A diversification which aims to increase the locality’s offer as a tourist destination.
Mojácar Local Council will carry out a General Research Plan, which will last for four years, to formalise the archaeological action and definitively highlight the importance of Mojácar la Vieja, and with which it could get the recognition, assistance and different subsidies of the institutions involved.
Memolab Director, José María Civantos, wanted to highlight his gratitude to Mojácar Council and the Fundación Valparaíso as the managers and sponsors of the project, as well for the participation and interest of all Mojácar residents, and the collaboration and support which all the collaborating archaeologists have received during this and the other campaigns carried out to date. He also highlighted its positive impact in the municipality, the region and at provincial level and its major impact in the media and at institutional level, such as the visit by the Deputy Regional Minister and the Delegate for Culture, who expressed their pleasant surprise at the major heritage potential of Mojácar la Vieja.
There are two zones on which the archaeologists have been working from the start: the upper part of the hill where the cistern is located, which everyone knew about. Since the first campaign it has been discovered there was a second wall with two missing towers, another cistern, located in the basement of one of them, as well as rooms for the safekeeping and storage of defence materials, including a prayer area. It was a place intended only for keeping watch.
A rubbish dump found at this site is a valuable source of information about the life and customs of its inhabitants, in this case soldiers responsible for guarding and defending the settlement. Remains of game, mainly rabbits and birds, have been found there.
In the lower part, which is more visible as it is on the slope, efforts have been focused on recovering the original entrance to Mojácar la Vieja: the entry ramp, the stairs leading to the main gate, the remains of the two towers which flanked and protected it, as well as another curved gateway, which made access difficult and which led to the town. A small part of the wall which protected it has also been excavated.
Inside the enclosure, several houses have been exposed, some with important remains like a very well-preserved fireplace and cooking area. Although affected by landslides on the hillside, the reason why the old town was abandoned, it is possible to pick out several homes, some decorative elements of the windows, as well as double arches, with the rose of life as a motif repeated in the elements found up until now. The Rose of Life is now a symbol of Mojácar la Vieja. A symbol of protection since ancient times, which appeared throughout the Mediterranean.
As a general summary, the theory of the major importance of Mojácar la Vieja and its strength has been consolidated, as the wall, solidly built, extended along the entire slope, with possibly more than 14 towers.
The study of the botanical and faunal remains has produced interesting conclusions. The grains found are mainly wheat and barley. In terms of legumes, there are a lot of lentils, and the fruits found are figs, grapes and acorns, which are no longer found in the area, and which indicates the possibility of climatic or trade differences.
In regard to fauna, chicken and eggshells stand out as the most common food. For game, rabbit and some partridges stand out. Remains of small and medium-sized fish have been found: trout and cuttlefish indicate fresh and saltwater fishing. It has also been possible to identify the remains of large tuna spines, which points to a well-organised fishing structure.
In regard to biological remains, there is a clear difference between the fortified enclosure above and the properties below. In the lower part it was seen that the civilian population, unlike the military, ate more domestic animals.
Along with the fieldwork, new technologies have been incorporated, such as the use of a drone for a digital replica of the dig site. Each land surface is decorated in a traditional way and with 3D models of each element, at different scales, including the hill itself in its entirety.
At the same time, with this virtual work the aim is to carry out a media and information campaign, producing replicas which people can look at and consult from home and obtain the information generated so that it is understood via a website. A site which could serve as a virtual museum.
This campaign has also been used, via geographic and GPS information systems, to take all the elements which show traces of where the wall ran and its towers, in general all the fortified compound, which delimited the inhabited space.
Fourteen towers have been found, although almost certainly more will appear, which points to a considerable enclosure in terms of extension and fortification.
In regard to ceramics, more than 10,000 fragments have been found dating from between the 12th and 13th centuries, from the Almohad period to the beginning of the Nasrid. From the drawings found and these remains, virtual models are being created, reconstructed, in 3D, which will also be able to seen in the future virtual museum, creating in parallel, reproductions of adapted samples which will be brought to the village so that blind people can touch the reproductions and find out what ceramics from the period were like.
The work doesn’t end with the days spent at the site. They are followed by many days of study and analysis in the laboratory to give shape and meaning to what has already been obtained, as well as to, on the basis of the data already confirmed, prepare the lines of action for the following campaigns, which all residents eagerly await.