Tuesday, December 05, 2017

The Legend Of Sineu's Port

One can only but imagine that 102 years ago the good folk of Sineu who were able to read might have been surprised by an article that appeared in Anales de Sineu. The title of this article was "Sineu Port de Mar?" The article attempted to answer its own question, though not with entire satisfaction.

The idea that Sineu was once a sea port had been floated, so to speak, almost one hundred years before. The article in the 1915 Anales de Sineu recognised that in 1825 there would have been some incredulity at the thought that the sea used to lap near the village centre. A drawing with the article demonstrated the apparent absurdity of the notion.

It was apparently a Doctor Beuth-Schinkel who had raised the possibility. In 1825 he had come to Mallorca on a study trip, and when he wrote up his findings, he was to declare that Sineu would have had one of the most beautiful ports in Europe, albeit he couldn't give an exact time as to when this port had existed.

Sineu is one of the places in Mallorca which lays claim to being the island's geographic centre. As such, and even allowing for changes to Mallorca's topography and the land's relationship with the sea, the potential for Sineu having been a sea port seems frankly preposterous. This, it would seem, is what people thought in 1825 when Doctor Beuth-Schinkel presented his evidence. By 1915, they were beginning to wonder if he might have been right but certainly weren't convinced.

There are some sea fossils near to the monument to the cyclist Francisco Alomar. This was one source of the evidence. Another was the fact that there were names such as Cas Mariner and Can Barques. But was any of this irrefutable proof?

The article from 1915 states that Karls Beuth-Schinkel was an expert in natural sciences and an official from the Kaiser's court. This was presumably Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia. But who was this Karls Beuth-Schinkel? One allows for a possible error in the Christian name - Karl rather than Karls - but I have been unsuccessful in tracing him. There was a Karl Friedrich Schinkel from that era, and he was a highly eminent architect. He was a good friend of Peter Beuth, who was a minister in the Kaiser's government. There is nowadays a Beuth-Schinkel Museum in Berlin.

Neither of these - Karl Friedrich Schinkel or Peter Beuth - fits with this Karls Beuth-Schinkel, who is thus someone rather mysterious. In fact his very presence in Sineu is drawn into question by the 1915 article. There were no official documents of the time to suggest he was in Sineu, and there surely would have been, had he been from the Kaiser's court. As to whether he might have been a resident for any time, there was likewise no reference to his name having become established. Elsewhere in Mallorca there was, says the 1915 article, hardly anyone with this name. But by saying that there was "hardly anyone" doesn't rule out the possibility that there was someone.

A question that arises, though, has to do with the mention of Cas Mariner, Can Barques and others. This must have meant that he had indeed been in Sineu. Well, not necessarily. He could have studied the names in some way that hadn't required his having been in Sineu or indeed ever having set foot on Mallorcan soil.

The conclusion one has to draw is that Karls Beuth-Schinkel, if indeed he ever existed, had come up with a fantasy or a hoax. If the sea had really reached as far as Sineu, it's reasonable to suggest that we would by now know about it. There would also be evidence of the sea having been as far inland as, for instance, Santa Margalida or Llubi. And there is absolutely none.

In Roman times, which is from when we first have a true appreciation of Mallorca's geography, the sea did encroach, but not by much. In Alcudia, any possible remaining evidence of the Roman port gates is believed to now be buried under development in Puerto Alcudia.

The sea port of Sineu has to be a fiction. Karls Beuth-Schinkel may have been a fiction. Nevertheless, a 2009 document "Sineu, vila de llegenda" refers to the port. But such is the stuff of legend.

There is, however, a possible slight twist to the tale. The story about the port had apparently first appeared in a weekly publication entitled La Aurora on 18 December. The editor of this would seem to have also been the editor of Anales de Sineu who had originally suggested that the article should be published a bit later - on 28 December. And 28 December is Spain's equivalent of April Fools' Day.

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