Guide Itinerary of Ses Païsses

 

  1. Introduction

 

During the transition from the second to the first millennium BC, a series of changes take place in Mallorcan prehistoric societies that mark the evolution from the Pre-Talaiotic to the Talaiotic period: disseminated population settlements are abandoned, where naviforme structures or boat-shaped houses were built as living spaces and used for productive activities. New Talaiotic grouped settlements are created with social and domestic functions. Talaiots are the central buildings of the villages used for social and community purposes.

 

Talaiotic population lived in peace and equally with the rest of communities. Its economy was based in goat, sheep, ox and pig farming; cereal cultivation; and the exploitation of wild resources. During the Talaiotic period, pottery without using potter's wheel, stone and bone objects are still produced. Development of copper and bronze metallurgy continues and, for the first time, iron production is found.

 

Social and economical changes mark the passage from the Talaiotic to the Post-Talaiotic or Balearic period halfway through the first millennium BC. Population growth caused an increase of rivalry for control of natural resources, creating conflicts among different communities. Walls were built surrounding the different settlements. Foreign trade increased, stimulating the power of certain social classes and favoring social inequality.

 

The quality and quantity of grave goods proof these social differences during the Post-Talaiotic period. Funerary and ritual practices diversify and new sanctuaries were built.

 

Technology continues its evolution with the appearance of new pieces of pottery, while  metallurgy of bronze continues, iron production increases and lead objects start to be found.

 

An intense contact with other civilizations is proved through documentation where Balearic Talaiotic population acted as mercenaries for the Punic army, participating in the Mediterranean conflicts of the period.

 

On 123 BC Romans conquer the Balearic Islands. The vast majority of the native settlements are not affected by the new politic situation nor by the building of the cities of Palma and Pollentia. It is on the first century AD when migration from the country to the city or to the new farming settlements is made.

 

Ses Païsses is a Pre-historic settlement inhabited from the second millennium BC to the year 50 AD. The site was declared Historical and Artistic Monument in 1946. The first excavations were carried out by Italian archeologist Giovanne Lilliu in 1959. He focused on the village central area, the Talaiot and all the attached structures. Towards the end of the 90's the site was excavated by Jordi Hernández-Gasch and Javier Aramburu-Zambala, who continues with the excavations since 2004. These new excavations delimit a wedge that goes from the central Talaiot to the walled perimeter.

 

  1. Walled perimeter

 

The walled perimeter dates back to circa 650-540 BC. It has an elliptic shape 320 meters long, delimiting a surface of 11.5 hectares. Its maximum height is of 3.5 meters and has a width of 3.6 meters. The wall has two faces and internal buttress. The exterior face is built with big blocks resting over a flagstone base. Some of these blocks can weight up to 8 tons. The interior face is built by irregular lines of smaller squared stone blocks.

 

The entrance doors of the village were built with vertical blocks as jambs and a lintel on the top. A corridor 4.3 meters long runs in the interior side of the wall, where we can appreciate the access stairs to the upper floor on both sides of the portal.

 

  1. Oak wood

 

The wood surrounding this archaeological site was part of the landscape during the Pre-historic period. The fruit from the holm oak (Quercus Ilex), the acorn, was part of the diet of this community. Associated to this species, we find similar bushes which prevent a clear view of the archaeological structures. It is most probable that three thousands years ago this piece of land was cleared for cultivation.

 

  1. Rectangular houses

 

These houses are located on the southern area from the central Talaiot. The end wall pertains to the facades of the Talaiot rooms. In fact, the back wall of the two buildings hides a door from the Talaiotic period. It can be seen from the rear of the houses. These houses were built on the Post-Talaiotic period, when the Talaiotic spaces were already in ruins. There were inhabited up to the 4th century BC, though it seems it was briefly occupied some time after.

 

The western house preserves part of the central column base, a stove and an auxiliary structure used to store the food and drink pods. The eastern house has two pilasters in the longitudinal axis, among which a stove was built. There is a cupboard in the wall on the northwestern angle and a tiled floor. Some calculations point that the western house could be inhabited by 6 persons, while the eastern house was inhabited by 9 persons.

 

  1. The column building

 

It is one of the most complex buildings excavated by Giovanni Lilliu. It has an apsidal plan and it is attached to the eastern area to an older building. During the Talaiotic period it was a single space with a roof supported by columns. Four of these columns can be observed today in the longitudinal axis, two of them incorporated in the back walls.  The entire building was tiled and had access stairs to the terrace floor or to a top floor. This architectural characteristic is without precedent in the Balearic Islands at the time.

 

Firstly, the building had no defined social use. In a second architectural stage, the building was compartmentalized. A small water deposit was excavated in a corner of one of the new rooms. The exact moment when the building was abandoned is not known, but it is certain that during the 4th century BC it was still in use. As a living space it was adapted for a family group between 6 and 16 persons. 

 

  1. The Talaiot

 

This conical tower made by different walls attached in a concentric shape was used by the community to maintain economical, political an possibly, ritual activities. It is 4 meters high and has a diameter of 12.7 meters. One of its most extraordinary elements is a corridor that ends in the interior of the hypostyle room.

 

  1. The hypostyle room

 

The hypostyle room is on the eastern area of the Talaiot. It is connected to the Talaiot through a corridor and a small door. It has an apsidal plan and its interior counts with a total of 7 pilasters against the walls and 3 independent columns. It was probably built during the Talaiotic period and was abandoned during the transition to the Post-Talaiotic period, circa 500 BC.

 

In its interior we can observe a platform, a bench and a small water deposit. Among the furniture, one can see the presence of boat-shaped mills, hand model domestic pottery and foodstuffs like bones and shells. It is almost certain this building had a social use due found remains. It was probably dedicated to an economical activity such as cereal milling. When the building was already in ruins, the sediment filling the entrance was excavated, bringing to light a male body of around 17 years old in fetal position.

 

  1. The sanctuary

 

This building has a horseshoe shaped plan, traditional of sanctuaries. It was built on the beginning of the Post-Talaiotic period. Sanctuaries were meeting spaces were probably, political decisions affecting the settlement were made. It was also a space to celebrate rituals where wine, lamb and veal were consumed.

 

When this sanctuary was abandoned, circa 2nd century BC, a funeral of a warrior was celebrated with a new ritual: cremation. He was buried with his helmet and sword.

 

In other areas of the settlements, funerary rituals were celebrated after their abandonment, although during the Balearic period the great part of the population was buried in the caves surrounding the settlements.

 

  1. Area of excavation

 

Nowadays, there are two areas that have been excavated: on one side, the rooms visited in this tour and, on the other side, the area between the central Talaiot and the access portal to the village. The excavation of this last area is directed by archaeologist Javier Aramburu-Zabala, who intervenes yearly with his team and a group of volunteers and apprentices. It is worth noting that these archaeological interventions make Ses Païsses site active and of interest for the present society.

 

  1. End

 

With the pass of different generations, Ses Païsses has become an emblematic place for the inhabitants of the town of Artà. Many knowledgeable people and researchers have dedicated their efforts to restore these archaeological remains and bring them to light. Part of these archaeological elements are found in Artà's Regional Museum, which issues the natural and cultural history of the village.

 

Today, different cultural events are celebrated in Ses Païsses, like piano concerts o poetry  recitals. Actually, great Mallorcan poet Costa i Llobera was inspired by Ses Païsses to write the poem 'La deixa del geni grec' (1900).

 

Textos: Jordi Hernández, Museu Regional d'Artà i Ajuntament d'Artà

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