Friday, January 23, 2015

First Times in Catalonia

Prehistory in Catalonia
Urnfield Culture in northeast Iberia,
Late Bronze Age, c. 1300 BCE

The first known human settlements in what is now Catalonia were at the beginning of the Middle Palaeolithic. The oldest known trace of human occupation is a mandible found in Banyoles, described by some sources as pre-Neanderthal some 200,000 years old; other sources suggest it to be only about one third that old. Some of the most important prehistoric remains were found in the caves of Mollet (Serinyà, Pla de l'Estany), the Cau del Duc in the Montgrí mountain ("cau" meaning "cave" or "lair"), the remains at Forn d'en Sugranyes (Reus) and the shelters Romaní and Agut (Capellades), while those of the Upper Paleolithic are found at Reclau Viver, the cave of Arbreda and la Bora Gran d'en Carreres, in Serinyà, or the Cau de les Goges, in Sant Julià de Ramis. From the next prehistoric era, the Epipaleolithic or Mesolithic, important remains survive, the greater part dated between 8000 BC and 5000 BC, such as those of Sant Gregori (Falset) and el Filador (Margalef de Montsant).

The Neolithic era began in Catalonia around 4500 BC, although the population was slower to develop fixed settlements than in other places, thanks to the abundance of woods, which allowed the continuation of a fundamentally hunter-gatherer culture. The most important Neolithic remains in Catalonia are the Cave of Fontmajor (l'Espluga de Francolí), The Cave of Toll (Morà), the caves Gran and Freda (Montserrat) and the shelters of Cogul and Ulldecona.

The Chalcolithic or Eneolithic period developed in Catalonia between 2500 and 1800 BC, with the beginning of the construction of copper objects. The Bronze Age occurred between 1800 and 700 BC. There are few remnants of this era, but there were some known settlements in the low Segrezone. The Bronze Age coincided with the arrival of the Indo-Europeans through the Urnfield Culture, whose successive waves of migration began around 1200 BC, and they were responsible for the creation of the first proto-urban settlements. Around the middle of the 7th century BC, the Iron Age arrived in Catalonia.

The rise of Iberian culture

During the period of Iberian civilization, the Catalan territory was home to several distinct tribes: the Indigetes in Empordà, the Ceretani in Cerdanya and the Airenosins in the Val d'Aran. The influx of Celtic peoples led to a characteristic blend of cultures known as Celtiberian, which was affected by the first arrival of colonists from Ancient Greece and Carthage; like the rest of the Iberian Peninsula, Catalonia participated in what became the Iberian culture. At this time Empúries (originally Greek Emporionmarket, then Emporiae), on the coast of what is now the Catalan province of Girona, a commercial enclave, founded from the Greek city of Phocaea in the 6th century BC.

From the 8th century BC to the 7th century BC the indigenous peoples came into contact with the colonizers, and the first iron objects are found in the area. From the 7th century BC to the middle of the 5th century BC, the process of Iberianization was consolidated. A period of plenty lasted from the middle of the 5th century BC until the 3rd century BC. Finally, after the 218 BC arrival of the Romans, the Iberian culture was absorbed into that of Rome.

Roman times
Roman conquest and
the provinces of Roman Hispania

Romanization brought a second, distinct stage in the ancient history of Catalonia. Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio Calvus arrived in Empúries, with the objective of cutting off the sources of provisions of Hannibal's Carthaginian army during the Second Punic War. After the Carthaginian defeat, and the defeat of various Iberian tribes who rose up against Roman rule, 195 BC saw the effective completion of the Roman conquest of the territory that later became Catalonia and Romanization began in earnest. The various tribes were absorbed into a common Roman culture and lost their distinct characteristics, including differences of language.

Most of what is now Catalonia first became part of the Roman province of Hispania Citerior; after 27 BC, they became part of Tarraconensis, whose capital was Tarraco (now Tarragona). The arrival of Roman administrative and institutional structures led to the development of a network of cities and roads, the adoption of agriculture based on cereals, grapes, and olives, the introduction of irrigation, the development of Roman law, and the adoption of the Latin language.

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