Monday, May 19, 2014

The Dolmen Of Son Bauló

Generally speaking, Mallorca's urban planners have shown sufficient sensitivity towards the presence of the island's archaeological heritage that they have managed to keep it a discrete distance from their urbanising tendencies, albeit that significant amounts of this heritage have either succumbed to nature and have  disappeared and been buried or to the destruction of man in times when they knew no better and to further destruction by man in times when they should have known better. Much has been bulldozed out of existence or built on, never to be seen again.

A good example of this urban separation between ancient and modern is the Pollentia Roman town in Alcúdia. It sits on its own, molested by little more than a road that runs past one side and the proximity of a parking area of such primitiveness that it might have been developed in Roman times. There again, the planners would have had a pretty shrewd idea that the ruins were there even before excavations started. Not that this had stopped previous generations who saw to it that all the secrets of Pollentia will never be revealed.

Some of this heritage is a great deal older than Pollentia and is also a great deal more visible. Mercifully, it hasn't, for the most part, been subjected to the artificial insemination of development, and nor was it in those days when man really couldn't have given a tinker's cuss about some old rocks lying around. Nevertheless, in its contemporary environment this ancient heritage can find itself all but rubbing a rocky shoulder with urbanisation. Ancient does lie close to modern, an example being the Talayotic remains in S'Illot. The best one can say is that at least tourists get to appreciate the existence of this ancient heritage. They can't really avoid it.

But S'Illot is not without its sensitivity, and this is very much more than can be said for the total lack of respect that has been shown to the dolmen of Son Bauló. This ancient burial site is a close neighbour, a far too close neighbour, of Can Picafort's industrial estate. Santa Margalida town hall, which owns the dolmen land, has come up with the idea of affording it a tad greater respect and so granting it some privacy. They're going to put some hedges up as well as some information panels to explain what it is, which should be helpful for those coming and going at the nearby warehouses.

The town hall does of course see this initiative, which will set it back some one hundred grand, as being representative of sustainable tourism, a term which can be used to mean whatever you want it to mean, so long as it is touristically correct. One can but hope that the town hall is right, but the dolmen, not exactly vast, is unlikely to attract great numbers of sustainable tourists, deterred by the otherwise unsustainable existence of factory, workshop and warehouse. Still, hats off to Santa Margalida. Their heritage heart is in the right place. It's just unfortunate that the dolmen heritage happens to be in the heart of an industrial estate.

For all this, the dolmen is important. Assigning it a precise time in the past has proved not to be easy. There are wild fluctuations as to when it is believed that it was created and there is also debate as to whether it can be linked in more or less direct historical terms to the far better known and far more extensive necropolis burial site not so far away at the coastal edge of the Son Real finca. The reporting of the dolmen's provenance is such that it might have been created at any time from the fourth to the second millennium BC. Getting a precise handle on its origins would be useful in furthering understanding of early Mallorcan settlement. It is believed that there was no permanent inhabitation until the third millennium BC, but it is also accepted that there was transient occupation, that of temporary visitors who were probably attracted by the island's wood, before this; perhaps as far back as the sixth millennium BC.

Mallorca has an astonishing amount of prehistoric sites which lend themselves to a greater understanding of Mediterranean culture in the very distant past. Respecting, albeit belatedly, the Son Bauló dolmen is the least that can be done. But how sad is it that so much of the past has been made invisible to contemporary investigation and examination. The more recent past, that of the Romans of Alcúdia's Pollentia, has thus far been revealed through excavation to be less than ten per cent of its former existence.

The chances are that we will never know the true extent of Pollentia, but it is worth trying to find out, just as it is worth trying to find out about even more ancient Mallorcan civilisation. It may be on an industrial estate, but great respect to the dolmen.

* Photo from:

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