“They paved over paradise, and put up a parking lot”…. remember that song? Well, it’s happened in the town of Los Mondragones in Granada, where the townhall bulldozed away a lovely 1st century Roman Villa complex to put up a carpark.
The Villa consisted of a home, an oil mill and a Roman temple over 4,000 square metres of land on the outskirts of the town, and dated from the 1st to the 4th century AD.
The villa was uncovered during the initial excavations for the carpark in April 2013, and work was halted whilst archaeologists rushed to examine the find.
The find was so great that the Academia de Bellas Artes de Granada issued an urgent plea to the Junta de Andalucia to slam a heritage protection order on the site (BIC), a plea backed by the Prosecutor General of Andalucia.
But the plea was denied by the Junta, which said it wasn’t necessary as the site is already protected by regional laws.
Jolly good, said the townhall, “thanks very much” and sent in the bulldozers to finish off the job.
The Villa was pretty well protected from the elements, and had some “stunning” mosaic floors, as well as the outline of a family Roman temple, and the complete oil mill with pits.
The mosaics were torn up, put into boxes and sent off to a warehouse where experts say they won’t last a year, due to the fact that the roof leaks and it’s full of rats.
The only bit that hasn’t been demolished is the oil mill, which the townhall says it will turn into a museum at some future undefined point in time.
Ángel Rodríguez, the archaeologist in charge of the excavation, said the site was pretty well unique in Spain, and that the oil mill was without doubt the best conserved example on the peninsula. He reckons the temple was probably an ancient Roman temple which converted to Christianity, and would have included a burial ground, all of which is now lost.
But, at least we can now park our cars.
El Mundo notes that the company that wants the carpark, Frai Desarrollos Inmobilarios SL (which has built a shopping centre nearby) is involved in several court cases over illegally built homes in the area, and that the Mayor of the town, Noel López, is currently on trial accused of illegally favouring this company in the issuing of permits.
I should also point out that Andalucia doesn’t allow the private use of metal detectors because we can’t be trusted to look after any bits of cultural heritage we might find. Nor, it seems, can the Junta de Andalucia.