THE FIRST SETTLERS
Towards 2.500 BC we have constancy of the first settlers’ arrival to Majorca. These new comers arrive by sea and most likely from an area between the gulf of Lyon and the Ebro Basin following navigational currents that made sailing to Majorca and Minorca an easier prospect. These people bring with them the necessary belongings to reproduce living systems based on where they originated from, reproducing farming exploitation of the territory.
In the case of Manacor, we have found evidences of these first settlements in the caves and rock shelters from the canyon or Barranc de Son Cifre and the cave of Sa Sima. The pottery found is known with the name of “incised pottery” and presents a particular characteristic or a certain type of decoration, as we can see from these fragments. In the area of the Bessons there has also been found pottery and lithic material from these first settlers. From the Cova des Moro till present day, here the oldest human remnants have been found within the Balearic Islands.
THE NAVETA CULTURE (1700 – 1100 BC)
THE WORLD OF THE LIVING AND THEIR NATURAL SURROUNDINGS
The navetas of habitation are of an elongated plan with the form of an up turned boat hull, and in Majorca their function is that of a living area contrary to the navetas of Minorca which have a funerary function. The navetas are built with large cyclopic stones combined with a dry-stone technique. Roof coverings were made of a wooden beam framework, branches, small stones and a layer of clay that made it waterproof. The thick walls are constructed with a double faced wall and filled with rubble and a slight inclination towards the interior. The entrance is accessed through a very low door and at times bridged with a lintel. They are of a singular communal space and organized around a hearth of a variable size, usually situated at the center. The entrance had more light and was used for working and preparing food while the interior and back part was used for resting and storage.
This type of housing we find in groupings forming settlements of an average of ten buildings, but at times isolated navetas are found also or groups of three or four of them. In the case of Manacor we know of these buildings in the flat lands such as S´Hospitalet Vell, Sa Marineta, Sa Plana, but also they were constructed on small hills as the settlement of Calicant.
BELIEFS AND THE WORLD OF THE DECEASED
In reality, not much is known about these people’s beliefs in the Bronze Age. From the documentation we have proceeding particularly from the Cova des Càrritx of Minorca, shows us cults that venerate the Mother Earth and the darkness of caves. Within these caves, incrusted in the higher part of the canyons and cliffs of difficult access, they performed rituals and religious practices
As for their methods of dealing with the deceased, collective inhumation continues to be the predominant ritual. The dead body was deposited in the darkness of the cave without burying it. The following deposition of bodies in the same space meant a removal and re-collocation of the remains and disarticulation of the skeletons, taking special care of how the skulls were disposed.
Natural caves are used, situated in places of difficult access such as in the steep cliffs that flank the canyons, caves closed off by cyclopean walls or hypogeum or caves excavated in the rock with stone tools. In Manacor we have the cave of S´Homonet and an ensemble at Son Ribot as examples of a characteristic hypogeum.
TALAYOYIC PERIOD - THE BEGINNING OF A NEW PERIOD (1100 – 600 BC)
From 1100 BC Majorca and Minorca are found whirled in a spiral of changes, which provoked strong-culture transformations and the abandonment of what was considered nonbelligerent Naviform communities. The talayot represents a change in the life ambits of these indigenous people.
Within this entire transitional ambit of social and political upheaval, our attention is drawn to the occupation of the coastal sight built on the promontory of Sa Ferradura (Porto Cristo). Ten hearths have been found at this habitat situated at the top of the promontory in an open space. It seems as if the site had been occupied intermittently and of short stays, and could have been used as a protected walled-in refuge. This is an example of the social transformations being set in by a new cultural reality in Majorca during the Final Bronze Age.
The indigenous people start to gather together round a new structure of a communal and monumental character, and the territory is flooded by them, this structure is the talayot. At times up to four or five talayots form part of the same settlement. Besides these talayots (of circular plan and occasionally square) we also find the existence of other monumental constructions such as the “tumuls” or stepped platforms. In Manacor we have the examples of the talayots of S´Hospitalet Vell, Bellver Ric, Bendrís, the ensemble “la Vall de la Nou” and the “tumuls” of Cala Morlanda or Sa Gruta, amongst others.
During the Naviform culture metal objects and metallurgy gain much importance and this is known because of the findings of casting molds at S´Hospitalet. Some of these objects arrive thanks to exchange networks happening at the time, but also these exchanges permit the arrival of raw material such as copper and tin, which is later processed on the islands. This has been demonstrated when finding ingots and casting molds at the sites, and even bronze objects made from Minorquin copper has been documented.
In the Talayotic period, especially at the Final Talayotic, there is more variety of objects. This is quite visible in the world of ritual and funerary sites where these items are found made of bronze such as; human figures, animals, rings, bracelets, decorative discs, the tintinabulla and bells, of iron we find swords, daggers, arrow heads, knives and of lead, decorated pectorals.
ANIMAL EXPLOITATION AND AGRICULTURE
During all of the Balearic prehistory, from the food remains we find in the archaeological sites they tell us of farming communities with an economy based on livestock and agriculture. Livestock is of more weight and the predominating species is first of all caprines (a group formed of sheep and goat) then come cattle and pig. At the Majorquin settlements dated from the Final Bronze Age it is common to find a marked specialization concerning the livestock of sheep and goats, as has been documented at Sa Ferradura, S´Hospitalet Vell (Manacor), and the Closos de Can Gaia (Felanitx). When referring to animal exploitation and studying the age of sacrifice, we can see that during the Bronze Age breeding of animals was basically for meat, while in the Talayotic period breeding is orientated principally towards the exploitation of products (milk and its derivatives, wool) without having to sacrifice the animals. Included in this period is the exploitation of cattle as a working animal to produce traction force. Heading towards the Final Talayotic period, we perceive a different range of animals as food consumption, such as horse, chicken…etc. It is curious to note that during all of the prehistory, both exploitation and consumption of marine resources are very few, to not say inexistent.
The presence of grains is not very common in archeological sites of the Balearic prehistory; this may be due to its low dispersion, the distance of croplands and/or harvesting techniques. All together, the pollen analyses in the case of S´Hospitalet Vell, tells us of open areas used for animals to pasture, but at the same time an important presence of cereal cultivation during all of the prehistory with pollens of cereals accompanied by other taxon, such as poppies and plants that indicate this type of cultivation. Specifically, during the Naviform period, we find evidences of barley at S´Hospitalet Vell, while the farmers of Sa Ferradura at the beginning of the Talayotic period harvested two cereals: naked wheat and barley. This practice is similar to that of the Iberian Peninsula and south of France.
LANDSCAPE AND VEGETATION RESOURCES
The pollen study of Majorca that was done at S´Albufera, showed that the landscape of 5.000 years ago was similar to that of our present day. There was an important development of “ullastres”(wild olive), steppes , pines, mastic (Pistacia Lentiscus) and heather coexisting with humans of the time whom were tilling the land (fields and pastures).
In the case of Majorca, during all of the prehistoric phases, three types of combustible material are used recurrently; wild olive tree, mastic and pine. The charcoal remnants of these species appear throughout the prehistory, accompanied by other recurrent shrubs such as; aladern, steppes, heather, arbutus, legumes and inclusively rosemary. Other species that belong to more of a humid climate appear only in a testimonial way, such as laurel, boxwood, yew or rotabie. The charcoal study shows how each tree was used differently during the Bronze Age. For example the gathering of wood was a task of every individual family unit, but during the Iron Age collecting wood for bonfires was a communal activity. The wild olive tree has been documented as constructive material at the navetas of S´Hospitalet from the roof’s rafters. Wild olive is a wood mainly used in the Iron Age, as well as pine.
DRAWER: COMPARING BONES
As we can see, the size of prehistoric animals is smaller than those of nowadays and is as well documented in other regions of the European Continent during the prehistory. This dramatic reduction in size, especially in ruminants which depend on pasture fields, has been related to an important demographical increment and an intense occupation of the territory, which must have resulted in the herds food quality. This is observe already since the second half of the millennium BC, and continues throughout all of the prehistory.
The awl is one of the most frequent bone implements of the Balearic prehistory. In accord with ethnological studies and experimental archaeology practiced on other similar objects of different regions, its main function was basically to perforate and smooth out surfaces while performing many different tasks; leather clothing, basketry, carpentry and the making of pottery. These bone awls have also been documented for tasks such as weaving and grafting.
LITHIC OR STONE MATERIAL
The lithic material that appears in the archaeological sites is quite homogeneous during all of the prehistory. The ensemble of lithic tools as indicated by its name are tools elaborated from stone, originally local ones that is to say stones and stone slabs from around the settlement itself. Sculpted tools have been registered from other areas of Majorca, such as the “Buntsandstein” red stoneware, and even coming from the exterior of the island as we have seen at the excavations of Sa Ferradura and S´Hospitalet Vell. These are objects that indicate how the materials circulated at this period of time from other territories, and the relation of exchange between the human communities, as we have seen for the case of metal.
FINAL TALAYOTIC OR POSTTALAYOTIC (SIXTH - FIRTS CENTURY BC)
Towards 550 BC the culture that had been the precursor to the talayots has disappeared and we are amidst a different society where the talayots have lost their original use. The relation within the Balearic Islands is marked by a developing exterior context; the foundation of Ibosim (Ibiza) on behalf of the Phoenicians, and the establishment of commerce in all of the Mediterranean Basin. The main changes of this society are the following:
The construction of walls enclosing the settlements of a clear defensive intention.
The appearance of new habitation structures or houses, with characteristically marked elements, such as an interior patio, a hearth with a stone sill for cooking, a well for collecting water and a clear difference between a resting area and a working one.
The participation of the Balearic sling-shooters or slingers in the Mediterranean wars, first in the fourth century and then massively in the third century BC.
The dead are treated in a different way.
The appearance of a communal building construction called “Santueri” sanctuary with the purpose of cult. This is made evident through the findings that have been excavated at these buildings: bronze figures (warriors, animals, bull horns…) and sacred fires associated with offerings or ritual banquets (heaps of animal bones and the remains of wine consumption).
More of an indigenous variety of pottery and metals. Amongst the goods that come from the exterior stand out the Ebustian amphorae that contained wine: other wheel thrown earthenware vessels from the Iberian Peninsula, the Italian Peninsula and the north of Africa.
The appearance of a new product that characterizes this period is the glass paste beads of intense colors and variable sizes proceeding from the Punic territories.
Starting from the mid- third century BC we find the settlements intensely restructured. Fires and destruction are associated to the Punic Wars and of Roman presence which is palpable through the arrival of new products and new customs.
The occupation of this period we find at the archaeological sites of S´Hospitalet Vell, Bellver Ric, Sant Josep, Es Rafalet Drac and Vista Alegre Vell, amongst others.
BELIEFS AND THE UNDERWORLD OR THE REALM OF THE DEAD
During the Iron Age burial and funeral rituals were of a great variability. The burials are usually found in necropolis set apart from the habitation areas.
As for the burial areas we find;
Natural caves used in beforehand phases and others that were used in a funerary context for the first time, such as Son Vaquer d´en Ribera (Manacor), and at times the use of abandoned habitation of buildings. This situation is found in the interior of some talayots and in parts of abandoned talayotic settlements or in the interior of habitation navetas, as the known cases of Manacor des Coll and S´Hospitalet Vell. The hypogeum excavated in rock, often with a central column, are phenomena that pertain to the Iron Age from 800 BC in Minorca and around the fifth century BC in Majorca.
The construction of tombs as funerary monuments or funerary chambers is documented and well represented at the necropolis at the Alcudia Bay, Son Real and S´Illot des Porros (Santa Margalida).
As for funerary rituals, inhumation remained a constant during the entire phase, the ligament of corpses with chords has been documented and also the possibility of wrapping the bodies in capes or mantles made of animal hide. From the fifth century BC, the variability in relation to how the bodies were treated, the implements that accompanied the deceased and ritual are considerably augmented. The use of coffins has been documented an Tauromorphic iconography to decorate them, and biers, besides the use of urns made from “mares” (sand stone) with a covering of the same kind of stone, or of clay plates used as lids and even cut amphorae employed as urns. These last ones were basically used for infantile inhumations and in many cases before the first year of life. Lime stone burials were another type of modality.
FREQUENT QUESTIONS: FAQ
How tall were these prehistoric people?
From recent data it´s been demonstrated that woman and men from this period of time were of the height between 151 and 164 cm respectively.
What was their life span?
Thanks to the excavation at the burial cave of Es Carritx , Minorca we know a lot more about the prehistoric communities. The life span of these communities was between the age of 35 and 45 years of age for both sexes. There were a high number of infant deaths.
What did they eat?
What ingredients would you use if you were to cook a prehistoric meal?
Photographs of roasted chicken drums, broad beans and lentils, cereal, bread, blackberries, yogurts, cheese, milk etc.
How were they dressed?
We don´t know much about their clothing, but most likely they wore clothes made from leather, and also fabric, wool being an element used since antiquity. For this reason, within the settlements, above all at the Final Talayotic phases, it´s common to find spindle whorls and weights for hand-weaving. Buttons and needles of bone or metal for clothing and for hair decorations were already used in the Naviform period.