It’s only since the weather has started to improve, along with regular contact with the sea that we feel we are in a Mediterranean country. Our first few days in Spain were cool, cloudy and disappointingly ‘northern’; but now this has all changed. The skies have cleared and temperatures are regularly in the mid 20’s.
With vivid blue skies come the famous azure waters for which this vast enclosed sea is famed.
In the 7th century BC, Greek traders arrived along the Mediterranean coast bringing with them several things that have helped shape Spain, not least the foreigner’s image of the country- the olive tree, the grape vine, the donkey and importantly the potter’s wheel.
The Romans began the process of deforestation sometime in the first century BC, planting olive groves and vines. Compared to the cultivation seen in France, the wine industry appears less intensive, but the scale of olive production is extraordinary. In and across the south of the country the neat lines of trees seem to endlessly follow the contours of the land. As these crops became established and production grew, so too did exports to all parts of the Roman Empire.
Oil and wine needed to be transported and this, in turn, fostered the demand for ceramic containers, in particular the distinctively shaped vessel, the amphora. As we have moved south we have seen variations in size and to the basic shape, some graceful, others more rotund and utilitarian in character.
The ones that particularly caught my attention however, were these examples salvaged from wrecks along the Valencian coast in the region of Pensicola (pronounced by the locals Peninsular). Seen in the context of this 14C Knights’ Templar castle, they really did illuminate Spain’s seafaring and trading history.
- Nick C