Wednesday, March 20, 2013

La Bastida: Europe’s Most Formidable City

 By Matthew Zuk

Artist's depiction of La Bastida

La Bastida, recently discovered, is among the oldest cities found in Europe.[1] The city is one of the most noteworthy ancient sites found in recent years and is incredible proof of ancient man’s highly advanced and developed society. Archaeologists have discovered many characteristics of the city that lend significance to this site including the military aspect of the fortress, the incredible architectural achievements, and its location and influences.

Unearthing the significance

It was September 27, 2012 when archaeologists in the region of Murcia, Spain announced one of the most astonishing discoveries in recent years. The fortress of La Bastida is arguably the greatest discovery ever made in Spain, and is one of the most important sites in Europe. While the site was originally discovered 140 years ago, Spanish archaeologists began re-excavating the site in 2007. However, it was not until last year, when they released the information from their finds, that the true significance was realized.[2]

Vicente Lull, professor of prehistory at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, leads the current excavation. The site is located in the sierras of Totana, in the southeastern Murcia region of Spain.[3] Thus far archaeologists have uncovered extensive walls (the perimeter of the fortress is around 1,000 feet) and six towers. The entire complex is around 13,000 square feet. Several large buildings have been found as well as a pool that could hold up to 100,000 gallons of water.[4] The most significant discovery is an arched postern gate, which is the oldest known arch in the world.[5]

Inside La Bastida

La Bastida is around 4,200 years old, coming into existence around 2200 BC. This makes it one of the oldest advanced civilizations in Europe, matched only by the Minoan civilization on the Island of Crete.[6] This find is astonishing, and it houses some of the most advanced ancient architecture in Europe. 

Built for War

La Bastida is now labeled as Europe’s most formidable city.[7] There are several aspects that show how advanced the people of La Bastida were, including the fortifications, the arch, and the location of the city. La Bastida’s fortifications are among the most impressive ever found in Europe and, aside from the Minoans, they are the only ancient civilization in Europe to possess such formidable structures.[8]

The walls of the fortress stood twenty feet high and were almost ten feet thick. As mentioned earlier six towers have been uncovered thus far, each with a pyramid like base and standing over twenty feet high.[9] Such heavy militaristic fortifications have never been found in Europe, even among the Minoans.

Fortifications of La Bastida

The fortress was clearly built with warfare in mind, further exhibited by its entrance. The front gate led into a courtyard where there was another gate, guarded by a large wooden door and powerful walls. This would create a trap: even if the enemy broke through the first gate, they would have to break through the second gate while being fired upon by the towers surrounding the courtyard.[10] The towers and walls were built with strong lime mortar, holding the walls so tightly together they were impermeable and so sheer there was no way for attackers to climb them. It is apparent that the builders of the fortress were masters of engineering and experienced in methods of warfare.[11] 

Incredible Architecture

The next aspect that shows the significance of La Bastida is the postern gate, which was a hidden arched doorway that allowed troops to flank the enemy. This gate may have been used to close the front gate once enemies made it into the courtyard, trapping them between two gates.[12] The fact that the fortress has a postern gate is an incredible example of both engineering and military ability.

Red arrow pointing to postern gate

The fact that the gate is an arch is even more significant. Until the discovery of the arch in La Bastida the oldest man-made arch in the world was located in Ashkelon, Israel. This arch was built around 1850 BC by the Canaanite civilization.[13] While other civilizations would later employ the arch, it was typically only for drains and other underground structures. It wasn’t until the time of Rome that arches were widely used above ground. However the arch at La Bastida was built above ground 1700 years before the Romans existed.[14] This arch is a clear indicator of intelligent man. Not only is it the oldest arch in the world, it is remarkably well preserved and is an incredible example ancient man’s architectural ability. 

Location and Middle Eastern influences

The final aspect displaying the advancement of this civilization is the very location at which the fortress was built. The fortress is located on the top of a steep hill. This was clearly for strategic purposes, as it is an easily defendable position. For its time the fortress would be nigh impregnable.[15]

Region of La Bastida

Interestingly, its build and location exhibit similarities to fortresses located in the Middle East. Due to this connection, archaeologists have theorized that the people who built La Bastida most likely came from that area. The techniques used were not seen in Europe for another 400 - 800 years, until the Hittite and Mycenaean civilizations.[16]

Another aspect to consider is that La Bastida seemed to be a classist society, with the elites holding power through military might. All of these aspects clearly denote an advanced, military-minded, powerful, and intelligent people.[17] 

Warfare before its time

The significance of this find is that it once again supports the fact that ancient man was extremely intelligent. Many people have been in shock that a civilization in Europe as old as La Bastida has fortifications designed for warfare.[18] Most think that at this time the people in Europe were not military-minded like their eastern neighbors. However this is clearly not the case, as this fortress demonstrates. Man was just as capable to engage in warfare in ancient times as they have been at any time throughout history.

Artist's depiction of Tower of Babel

It is important to remember that the reason God flooded the earth was because man had grown exceedingly wicked; there was clearly violence before the flood. Also, in Genesis 10:8 it is mentioned that Nimrod (founder of the Tower of Babel) was the first to become a “mighty man.” In Genesis 10:9 it is stated that he was a mighty hunter [of men] before the Lord. He is also stated to have begun many of the world’s great kingdoms, becoming the first to build one after the flood. All of this seems to imply that there may have been warfare very soon after the flood.

Thus it is logical for us to conclude that ancient man was strategically minded, intelligent, and perhaps waging war with one another very soon after the flood. The architecture of the La Bastida fortress clearly denotes a highly advanced civilization: the arch predates all other arches by nearly 400 years, the sheer size of the walls and towers, and the fact that it was built on top of a hill, all contribute to comprehending how advanced they were. Considerable numbers of workers must have been required to build on such a large scale in such a difficult location.[19] The fortress has all the marks of an advanced society, and yet it is older than any civilization found on mainland Europe, and is among the oldest located on the Mediterranean Sea. 

Still a mystery: Who built La Bastida?

However, there is a still a mystery that has yet to be discovered: who built this formidable fortress? At this point archaeologists have no idea who built and lived in La Bastida, they are simply labeled as the “Agaric people.” It is thought they came from either the Middle East or Murcia.[20] Until the identity of the people who built the fortress is discovered, La Bastida will remain shrouded with mystery. At this time three major settlements belonging to the Agaric society have been found, the most significant of which is La Bastida.[21] There may be more to find; fortunately now that La Bastida’s significance has been discovered, Spanish archaeologists are planning to search for more ancient sites.[22]

In fact, archaeologists plan to search for more advanced civilizations throughout Europe, particularly bordering the Mediterranean Sea. With the discovery of La Bastida, and the existence of the highly advanced civilization of the Minoans, they hope to find other advanced civilizations in Europe.[23] This entire endeavor is something to watch in coming years, as it could lead to more astounding discoveries that will change the way we view history.

However, we do not need to know who built the fortress to realize this: ancient man was extremely intelligent and highly advanced, just as the Bible records.

[1] Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. "La Bastida unearths 4,200-year-old fortification, unique in continental Europe." ScienceDaily, 27 Sep. 2012. Web. 19 Mar. 2013.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Lorenzi, Rossella. "Ancient Fortress Found in Spain : Discovery News." (accessed March 19, 2013).
[4] Smith, Brett. "4,200 Year-Old Fort Found - Science News - redOrbit." (accessed March 19, 2013).
[5] (Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona)
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid.
[8] "! Murcia Today - History Rewritten, 4200 Year Old Bronze Age Fortress Unveiled At La Bastida, Totana." (accessed March 19, 2013).
[9] (Lorenzi)
[10] ("! Murcia Today - History Rewritten,")
[11] (Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona)
[12] "! Murcia Today - History Rewritten, 4200 Year Old Bronze Age Fortress Unveiled At La Bastida, Totana." (accessed March 19, 2013).
[13] Bensinger, Ethan. "Ashkelon National Park: home to the world's oldest arch and Nike the winged goddess of victory." (accessed March 19, 2013).
[14] Legner, Linda, & Banker, Leslie. "All About Arches | Realtor Magazine." (accessed March 19, 2013).
[15] "! Murcia Today - The Agarics In Murcia." (accessed March 19, 2013).
[16] ("! Murcia Today - History Rewritten,")
[17] ("! Murcia Today - The Agarics In Murcia,")
[18] (Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona)
[19] ("! Murcia Today - The Agarics In Murcia,")
[20] ("! Murcia Today - History Rewritten,")
[21] ("! Murcia Today - The Agarics In Murcia,")
[22] "La Bastida | Proyecto | Introduccion." (accessed March 19, 2013).
[23] Ibid.

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