Formentera

Formentera

 

The archaeology of Formentera is  surprisingly rich. Its neolithic displays a rather magnificent passage tomb, as well as a group of enigmatic ritual monuments. There is also a Roman fort, which appears to have been unused, and also an austere 18th-century church, built as a fortification against the pirates. And, orf course, there are also the well-known beaches.

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The prize archaeological site on Formentera is the Neolithic passage grave at Ca na Costa  – it’s the only one on the two  islands. It is a round mound with an entrance passage leading into the central burial chamber.

Like the other archaeological sites in Formentera, it is surrounded by a high fence for protection, but it is possible to see into the interior. Here we see the passage leading to the central burial chamber

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Here in the background we see the upright stones that form the central burial chamber and in the foreground the radial uprights that supported the mound that originally covered the whole tomb.

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.Here is the noticeboard which helpfully gives a plan of the whole tomb.
The passage is labelled number 1, while  number 3 is the central chamber.
The radial upright stones are also shown.  They acted as pillars to prevent the covering of the tomb from slipping

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Barbaria

On the southern spur of the island there is a remarkable group of Neolithic sites which it is tempting to call ritual, though there were also appears to be habitation here as well. Perhaps we should call it a Temple complex. There are 3 sites,  all known as Barbaria

 

 

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Barbaria I is a megalithic circle though it appears to have been in the form of a circular wall

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Barbara II  is described as a megalithic establishment, a term which rather implies that there was domestic occupation. Was it perhaps a sort of Temple complex where ceremonies could take place in the communal space, while the priests lived in the oval ‘bedroom’

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Barbaria III is said to be a megalithic hut. If the stone circle is indeed the footing for a roundhouse, it must indeed have been a very large round house

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The Roman fort.

One of the biggest surprises of the archaeology on Formentera is that there was a Roman fort – even if, as we shall see, the fortifications were built, but the fort was never occupied.

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At each corner, there was a square tower and here we see one of these corner towers to the left.

One of the strange things about the fort is that it was never occupied – the fortifications were built but never used. Annoyingly for the archaeologists, no pottery or other finds were found in the excavations and so it is a mere assumption that it must have been built somewhere between the 3rd century A.D., and the arrival of the Saracens after the invasion of  A.D. 711.

It gives some indication of the wealth of the Roman Empire that it could be afford to build a fort like this and then keep it in reserve – or is this evidence for their inefficiency?

 

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Here is a plan of the fort showing the square towers at each corner. However note at the top right-hand side that there is a fifth tower, and the gateway appears to be between the two  towers.

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Here is a view of the North side, showing the corner tower to the right, then the gate and beyond it the fifth tower.

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And here is the text describing the excavation. Note however that here it appears to be called Can Blai whereas on the other noticeboard it is called Can Pins.

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And here is a view of the interior of the camp through the gateway with the fifth tower to the right and the corner tower just off the picture to the left.

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The capital of Formentera is the small town known as Sant Francesc Xavier. The most notable building is the church at the centre. This was dedicated in 1726, when the island was repopulated following the raids of the pirates.

But note that the church is built as a fortress. There are no windows except very high up,  and originally the roof was used as a canon emplacement.

 

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Inside the church is this font, which surely belongs to an earlier age (Vandal?)

 

Adjacent to the church is this tiny subterranean chapel, originally constructed in 1362 and rebuilt in 1697, when Formentera was resettled. It served as the island’s only place of worship for 30 years until the much larger church was built

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There is a museum, an Ethnological Museum, and in the courtyard is this splendid steam locomotive, which was used to haul salt from the salt pans to the port.

 

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At the end of the Cape is this fine lighthouse with two walkways surrounding the top

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Finally, one can’t leave Formentera, without mentioning the magnificent beaches. This is probably the finest, the Illetes beach, a clothes-optional beach on a narrow peninsula projecting to the north where it is possible to swim on either side.

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