The transition to agriculture in the Madrid Community is unknown. As we did with artistic forms, we must go to references foreign to our Community in order to reconstruct the parameters followed by man of the Paleolithic Age until he converted himself into a steady field-worker.
The time period between the ending of Würm and the appearance of metal-working is divided conventionally into three parts - Mesolithic, Neolithic and the Bronze Age, - which places Mankind face to face with his greatest challenge, the creation of nuclei of population based in agrarian and stock-raising exploitation. Said in this way, the statement may appear to be exaggerated, but we must understand the factors of change and the consequences that these brought.
First, the observation of natural cycles has made man an expert judge of animal and vegetable growth, inclining him toward species that are easier to obtain than others. If experience gained through millions of years gives him evidence that herbivorous beings are more accessible than carnivorous, he approaches certain members of these animal tribes who not only do not fear his presence but eventually get used to it.
The dog could be his first companion in his hunting forays, and goats and cattle become constant frequenters at his encampments. From this point to domestication is no more than a step that became general from about 8,000 or 6,000 years ago, coinciding with the harvesting of plants.
The first signs of agriculture were the storage of grain in small deposits to be used, slowly, to plant seeds in seasons that, by experience, it was known they were going to germinate. These plantings, along with rudiments of domestication, are going to oblige men to remain longer in certain places, making life itself then to become more settled.
On their social organization: labor becomes specialized by having to attend to more fields of production. The chase and the hunt no longer are vital to survival. What is vital now is the management of stock and of harvests. Territory takes on importance because it must be used for pasturage and for cultivation, bringing about a new sense for proprietorship.
In the past, a place had to serve as protection from the climate. Now, it must be suitable for agriculture and the herding of stock. There are two options: work in association with other clans, or work in defense of the place if cooperation is not possible. In either of these, man must take up arms for something more than hunting. No longer will we be hunters, shepherds and farm-workers. We must also be warriors.
Spiritual life becomes complicated. The totem becomes shortsighted. When it depends on hunting it is easy to see it as the protector of the group for abundance of the catch. But if recourse is taken from various evidences, this belief now is insufficient. Observation discovers other acting factors: the sun, without which life could not exist. Water and earth, in which seeds become fruitful. The moon, which regulates fertility.
Slowly, these are identified as beings of their own will who control the spirits that lurk in animals, trees or rivers, making them intermediaries or representatives of the total being.
This kind of mental process is going to end up illuminating religion with two basic divinities: the masculine, the sun-god, and the feminine, the moon-goddess and earth-goddess, converting the magician into a priest or priestess according to the culture. All these circumstances come into flower from about 8,000 years B.C., according to corresponding records.
In the Near East, cradle of urban civilization, the first signs of stock-raising activities approximate the 9,000 years mark and the cultivation of grains from 6,700 years. There were stable villages from about 8,500 B.C.
In the Madrid Community, as well as in all the Iberian Peninsula, there will be no harvesting of grains until about 6,500 B.C., but there is no firm proof of this. There is no way to identify a date for our transition to agriculture, which could have happened between 7,000 and 5,000 B.C., and the hunt alternating with timid attempts at the cultivation of grains.
The Neolithic remains relating to cabins in oval or circular form do not reveal any information on the unknowns, but it is logical to think that in the river valleys there would develop some rudimentary agrarian and animal raising because of the richness of the soil.
The first footprints of agricultural settlers of the Bronze Age are in the proliferation of towns, of the same type of huts of branches, semi-entrenched into the earth, placed on hills or slopes, and controlling surrounding valleys. Up to those dates, their stay in those locations is probably varied.
The technique of metallurgy appears about 3,000 years B.C. The tools that will substitute for stone are made of an alloy of copper and tin. Bronze will diversify human tools although in primitive times it is used especially in weapons of war.
One must bear in mind one aspect of this. Not all peoples who live in this Bronze period use it to the same degree. That denomination takes in a limited period, and is not a generalized phase. In the Madrid Community, a region poor in deposits of this metal, its utilization does not displace stone but does complement it, in some proportion difficult to quantify.
The foundry-made tools which have been found testify to their technology, poorly traced because of the cultural pillaging of this Community in the past 20th century. But metallurgy could have been produced by groups in other regions of the Peninsula, who came in search of mineral or vice-versa. Roving herdsmen tending their flocks could be the ones who brought the new discovery.
These extractions were open-to-the-sky operations, delving into veins of copper - malachite - and other components such as chloride salts and sulfates. After the metal ore was brought out, it was smelted and introduced into a stone or sand mold, allowing it to cool.
Our forebears did not live isolated from their surroundings. Ceramics of the region connect us with cultural currents of Andalusia and the Levant, - much more developed, - after the year 1,500 B.C. The bell-shaped bowl, characteristic of another current, probably first appeared in Spain but was diffused widely throughout Europe.
Metallurgical tools. Simple mould, and crucible, with a double
mould of stone recently made but not planed down.
The mould marks would be filed off later.
Ax from the area of Meco (Guadalajara) and which could be a hoe.
Toward the year 1,100 B.C. comes the entry of Central-European peoples who mix with our indigenous inhabitants. Proceeding from the plains and steppes they add their Celtic customs to those of each place in which they live, in a slow cultural interchange. This is origin of the first tribal distribution known in the Peninsula. Those who establish themselves in the Madrid Community, and unite with the natives of this zone, are the Carpathians and the Vetoni, according to Roman chroniclers.
With the working of land for grain-production, life suffers great changes. After the harvest phase is over, they begin the cultivation of specific varieties, and this is carried out in the river valleys after the earth has been plowed with angular sticks or hooked hoes to make furrows. Irrigation is done by controlled flooding, and harvest is performed by the use of wooden sickles, on which small flinty teeth are applied.
The harvested grain is stored in underground silos, and from it, after being ground in stone mills, is worked into grain or acorn cereal, diluted with water, and when toasted is consumed as mush or cakes. Hunting is no longer the main activity, although it is still practiced regularly. Now it is agriculture, stock-raising and herding, which bring about a wider diet, adding such milk products as cheese, curds, etc.
Their lack of knowledge about rotation of crops forces them into migrations every five or six years because of depletion of the soil.
When this happens, the farming group changes sites within a small radius of action taking with them their work implements and household articles: colanders to make cheese, bone punches to sew leather bags, ceramics first made by hand and later by wheel looms to work vegetable fibers, clay candle-holders for illumination, and smelting tools
If a clan member dies, the burial is made in the back area of the hut or in outlying burying-sites and covered by slabs of stone after depositing next to the deceased his belongings and adornments. A very frequent custom in the Bronze Age is the dolmen, a collective burial that simulates a room for the deceased's hypothetical future life. At times, a cadaver has been found in the interior of a large earthen jar of regular dimensions, apparently to represent a return to the maternal uterus.
The arrival of iron from the year 800 B.C. continues the course begun with bronze in the fortification of certain towns, for reasons not very well understood. To defend the settlement, sacrifice is made even of water supply, preferring to build towns on heights and hills poorly supplied with water, than to build them on river banks. where they would be in danger of possible attacks.
With the addition of walls one must recall the growth of herds and the static conditions that go with any fixed location. If the soil is depleted every five or six years, to be living in a town makes agricultural development difficult, and greatly so when we know that the rotation of crops was not general until the Roman era. The herding thesis gains confirmation by the extension of the fortified enclosures, permitting the existence of pastures within their interiors.
Houses generally are circular. Construction materials are varied, and wooden dwellings predominate, with a roof of branches rain-proofed with clay. The interiors are very simple, counting no more than one central hole, of uncertain use, and a straight bench backed up against the wall. But this is not the only plan. In the final years of the Iron Age and beginnings of Roman domination there appears a quadrangular type of house that employs tiles in its roofing.
The distribution of these towns is very irregular. Dwellings press together one against another without any order, leaving open ground for the feeding of cattle and the storage of grain in subterranean silos covered with straw. The wall could be of stone or tree-trunks according to the case. In contrast to conditions during the Bronze Age, burials are made outside the town in a necropolis, placing the ashes in urns.
Cabin of approximately 3,000 B.C.
The dwelling is structured by several central posts, which hold up the roof.
The walls are of reeds or braided branches and covered by clay.
The hole in the floor - at the back of the cabin - has various uses and forms,
as may be seen in the sketch.- refuse pit, storage, fireplace and, in some instances, burials. -
The interior partition walls call to mind a cohabitation with cattle or the existence
of small workshops, or at times both at the same time.
It is normal to see a stone bench backed-up against the walls of the main room.
Of their work organization, we know nothing. It could be that the pasturing of stock would be done by the same man, who as hunter is aided by his dogs. Farm labor would be shared by both sexes, alternating with the making of ceramics, spinning and the making of clothing. It is not thought that private property was extensive, at least referring to lands in the settlements. Another activity was the gathering of fruit. Each family would have their own lots at the edge of the communal lands, where they would keep their heads of cattle.
Slavery, resulting from warlike campaigns, did exist, although we cannot know its extent nor its importance. We do not know their social structuring. Decisions were made jointly and their execution would be given over to a chieftain elected by the majority among the ruling families.
Beliefs, if we accept the Roman geographers, are polarized around a masculine god with power over the thunder, and who dwells in the skies and in the mountains, and a feminine deity associated with the earth and fertility, who inhabits fountains and caves. The custom of assigning life, animism, to all natural beings associates these deities with certain animals, trees or streams of water, as these may be considered masculine or feminine, creating a rather complex pantheon of minor divinities.
These are the forms of life which the Romans are going to encounter when they undertake the conquest of the Iberian Peninsula. After this process, nothing will be the same, however much an inhabitant of these modest towns will be able to understand it.
Beyond the horizon dominating his feeble fencing extends a continental Empire which with its culture will incorporate us into a machine, placing us in the bases of what will be Occidental Civilization.
Drill of rocking motion. Without the stone point,
it served to make fire by rubbing on wood. To better fit the hand,
a check was placed on the revolving wood handle.
Mill to grind grain, consisting in a flat stone on which
a roller of the same material is made to pass.
Hoe of wood and flint. As is seen in the drawing, the teeth
are fastened by rosin between the two wooden pieces.
Structure is reinforced with leather thongs.
Bell-shaped vase from Ciempozuelos (Madrid) and a small idol with eyes,
belonging to a culture in Andalusia and spread through
various parts of the Peninsula, including our Community
(National Archaeological Museum).
Copyright © 2002 by JLL & FWF
All rights reserved.