Archaeological sites

Variscite mines of Gavà

Gavà (Barcelona, Spain)

The Neolithic mines at Gavà (Barcelona) form a unique subterranean mining complex where variscite (a green phosphate mineral, similar to turquoise, also known as callaïs or cal·laita), was extracted and processed into ornaments which were often devoted to prestige goods (beads and pendants) by the miners themselves. Variscite ornaments made at Gavà have been found in the mines themselves and in many Neolithic burials in the north-easternmost part of the Iberian Peninsula and part of southern France during the Middle Neolithic. These valuable ornaments circulated, together with other lithic materials (e.g., Barremian-Bedoulian flint from south-eastern France, obsidian from Mediterranean islands and jadeite and other Alpine rocks), through complex and overlapping trade networks, bringing into contact different contemporary Neolithic cultures in the north-western Mediterranean basin.

Mining activities at Gavà were concentrated in the first half of the 4th millennium cal. BC, although slightly earlier and later activity is also reported. Mine structures vary greatly in complexity and size, from short, simple, vertical or semi-vertical shafts to complex structures that combine semi-vertical shafts, distribution chambers and horizontal tunnel-like galleries at different levels, reaching a total depth of up to 15 m. The surface area affected by the mining activities was quite large, probably several hectares. A dozen mines have been fully or partially excavated, while over 90 sections of shafts or galleries have been identified and left unexcavated for future research.

ReferencesReferences

  • Borrell, F., Bosch, J., Gibaja, J.F., Schmidt, P., Terradas, X. 2019. The status of imported Barremian-Bedoulian fint in north-eastern Iberia during the Middle Neolithic. Insights from the variscite mines of Gavà (Barcelona). PLoS ONE 14(11): e0224238.
  • Borrell, F., Bosch, J. 2019. Los enterramientos de las minas 83 y 84 de Gavà (Gavà, Barcelona), In: J.F. Gibaja, M. Mozota, M.E. Subirà, A. Martín (coords.): Mirando a la muerte. Prácticas funerarias durante el Neolítico en el noreste peninsular. Volumen 3. Colección Akademos 3. E-DitArx. pp: 193-203.
  • Bosch, J., Borrell, F. & Majó, T. 2015. Minas, joyas y más allá. Minería y producción de adornos de variscita durante el Neolítico en Gavà. (Barcelona). In: V.S. Gonçalves, M. Diniz & A.C. Sousa (eds) 5º Congresso do Neolítico Peninsular. Lisboa. Uniarq. «Estudos e Memórias». 8, p. 438-446.
  • Borrell, F., Bosch, J., Majó, T. 2015. Life and death in the Neolithic Variscite Mines at Gavà (Barcelona, Spain). Antiquity 89 (343): 72-90.

Funding entitiesFunding entities

  • Ministerio de Ciencia, Innovación y Universidades (RYC-2016-21108)
  • Departament de Cultura. Generalitat de Catalunya (CLT009/18/00044)

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