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The phantom hillfort of Picu La Forca (Grau)

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Joined: 15 Aug 2006
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Location: Yaoundé

PostPosted: Sun Jan 14, 2007 5:33 am    Post subject: The phantom hillfort of Picu La Forca (Grau) Reply with quote

The Iron Age hillfort of Picu La Forca, in western Asturias, is being threatened by a quarrying company. Like the Celtic hillfort of Traprian Law in East Lothian (southeastern Scotland), the impressive fortification, hidden under vegetation, could be eaten away by the quarry. One would expect local authorities to do something to protect the archaeological site. But instead, the Consejería de Cultura of Asturias removed the hillfort from its catalogue in 1996, providing no clues as to why the decision was taken.

The phantom hillfort: Picu la Forca (County Grau)

Grau/Grado: On November 18, 2006, La Voz de Asturias ran a story by Georgina Fernandez about an endangered archaeological site near the Cabruñana Pass in County Grau (Asturias). Members of CELLAGU, a public advocacy group striving to protect archaeological monuments, accused the Cultural Council of Asturias (Consejeria de Cultura) of taking the hillfort of Picu La Forca off its archaeological roster in 1997. It did this, purportedly, despite evidence of ancient fortifications, including a 3-4m-wide defensive bulwark and two counterscarps. The group also gathered evidence about a series of undocumented digs in the late 1990s, carried out by the Cultural Council at the hillfort. Any archaeological work is otherwise well documented.

The Iron Age hillfort of Picu La Forca was first inventoried in 1976 by archaeologist Jose Manuel Gonzalez. It was included in his catalogue of Iron Age and Roman-era structures of Asturias, published that same year. However, some time after a strip-mining company (Cantera Grado, SL) began extracting quartz and fine sands for ceramics and glassmaking applications, the hillfort was officially removed from the list of officially registered archaeological sites. In the Carta Arqueológica de Grado of 1997, Rogelio Estrada García states: ‘Lista del prof. J.M. Gonzalez (1976, pp. 110-11 y 138): Se descataloga el castro del Picu La Forca...[Prof. J.M. Gonzalez’s list (1976, pp. 110-11 and 138): the hillfort of Picu La Forca is herewith removed from the official roster]’ No reasons were cited for the decision.

Members of CELLAGU contend that the Cultural Council of Asturias undertook hushed archaeological probes at Picu La Forca at least 3 years ago. The group found several abandoned excavation sites at the hillfort covered by weathered tarpaulins. Underneath some of them, CELLAGU found what they qualify as “evidence of a prehistoric defensive wall of about 3-4 meters wide next to two counterscarps.” Contrary to archaeological practice, the excavated sites were left exposed to the elements after intervention. And despite the archaeological probes, the Cultural Council failed to bring Picu La Forca back into the roster of protected sites. With no legal status, the archaeological site was easy prey.

The removal of Picu La Forca from the official inventory may have been an attempt to avoid a repeat of the destruction of Cellagú, a hillfort outside of the Asturian capital, that was absorbed by a mining company in 2000, in acquiescence of the Cultural Council. At the time, the hillfort of Cellagú became a battle cry for citizens concerned about the ineffectiveness of local officials to safeguard the region’s historic monuments. At Picu La Forca, facing a similar conundrum, the Cultural Council may have simply opted to hide the trail of evidence. Any damage to the structure would result in a simple administrative fine, as opposed to a major lawsuit. For members of CELLAGU, it is yet another instance in which “there is connivance stemming from the Cultural Council itself to facilitate the destruction of yet another Asturian Iron Age hillfort.”

At a hearing held by the Asturian Historic Patrimony Commission (CPHA) in April 4, 2002, a new demarcation of borders was drawn for the strip mine of Cantera Grado, SL, distancing it from the archaeological site of Picu La Forca and archaeological site no. 84, an area containing megalithic structures. The State Mining and Industry Department (Direccion General de Industria y Mineria) released a report, dated April 18, 2002, in which it too rejected an application by Cantera Grado, SL, for a concession license known as ‘Marisa’. The total surface area for the proposed project would have consisted of 5.9 hectares of privately owned land. At its highest point, the ‘Marisa’ project would have had an altitude of 390 meters, directly threatening the hillfort. The reason for the rejection was that the mine was located immediately adjacent to N-634, a heavily transited road linking Grau to Salas. Furthermore, the mine has no independent access. Sewage and debris flow directly onto the shoulder of the road. The Environmental Council of Asturias argued in its statement of November 21, 2002, that an exploration license for ‘Marisa’ would have negative effects on the Iron Age hillfort at its summit.

However, if Picu La Forca was indeed removed from the official roster in 1997, why was it used as an excuse to prevent the quarrying company from obtaining a further concession in 2002? According to the official regional bulletin (BOPA no. 296 of December 24, 2002), the Environmental Council of Asturias rejected Cantera Grado, SL’s bid for a new license to exploit the northern side of Mount Pando. As part of the argument, it argued the stretch of N-634 on the road from Grau to Salas is part of the historic St. James Way. Landscape protection is of primary concern here. The damage, nevertheless, is irreparable. From a distance, the Cabruñana Pass is scarred.

On a visit to Picu La Forca in November 2006, CELLAGU noted that Cantera Grado, SL, is continuing to extract quartz in the southeastern part of Mount Pando. The hillfort, meanwhile, is increasingly threatened. According to an article by Alvaro Valdés Díaz in the Revista Historica de Grado, Mount Pando is also locally known as Santa Marina. Valdés traced the name of Picu la Forca to the gallows erected at the hilltop by Fray Nicolas de Hortuza in 1770 to execute political adversaries. Hortuza apparently used his religious offices to prey on local smallholder farmers. The hillfort may have ceased to exist on paper for Ana Rosa Migoya’s Cultural Council of Asturias. But a black legend seems keen on reviving it after more than 2,000 years.
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Joined: 15 Aug 2006
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Location: Yaoundé

PostPosted: Sun Jan 14, 2007 5:37 am    Post subject: Picu La Forca: el castro pantasma de Grau Reply with quote

La Plataforma Ciudadana de Protección del Patrimoniu Hestóricu “Cellagú” qu’estudia’l castru de Picu La Forca, en Grau, atopó na redolada con sorpresa resclavos de dalgunes estructures de fortificación, asina como una muria de tres o cuatro metros d’anchor xunto a dos fuexes defensives. L’aparición tamién de huelgues de cates arqueolóxiques feches recientemente nun xacimientu que lleva años descatalogáu del llistau arqueolóxicu de la Conseyería de Cultura, desconcierta a los que ven na alministración “premeditación a la hora de dar lluz verde al desaniciu d’otru castru n’Asturies”.

Picu La Forca: el castru pantasma de Grau

Grau: El 18 payares de 2006, La Voz de Asturias asoleyara un artículo de Georgina Fernández tocante un xacimientu arqueolóxicu nu Altu la Cabruñana, Conceyu Grau. La Plataforma Ciudadana de Protección del Patrimoniu Hestóricu (Cellagú) dixo que la Conseyería de Cultura tenía esborriao al castru de Picu La Forca del sou llistau arqueolóxicu dende 1997. Sicasi, miembros de Cellagú atouparon la xacea de estructuras de fortificación en Monte Pando, pente el.las una muria de 3-4 metros de ancho ya duas fuexas defensivas. Cellagú tamién alcontrou la güelga de ‘catas’ arqueolóxicas. Nun hai informes oficiales pa desplicar por qué se fixenon, diz el colectivu Cellagú.

El castru de Picu La Forca foi descubiertu en 1976 por Jose Manuel Gonzalez. Pasou a formar parte del sou inventariu de castros de la Edá del Fierro ya romanos, espublizao nesi mesmu añu. Pouco tiempu depués de que una empresa minera (Cantera Grado, SL) entamara a sacar cuarzo ya sable fino pa la industria cerámica ya aplicaciones de vidrio, el castru de Picu La Forca foi descatalogao pela Conseyeria de Cultura del Principau. Na ‘Carta Arqueológica de Grado’ de 1997, Rogelio Estrada García anota namai: ‘Lista del prof. J.M. González (1976, pp. 110-11 y 138): se descataloga el castro del Picu La Forca...”

A la xente de Cellagú abulta-y raro que la Conseyería mandara faer catas arqueolóxicas a la callandina en Picu La Forca. Dicen que las catas son de hai mínimo 3 años. El grupo sacou semeyas de dellos furacos cubiertos con texíu sintéticu, que agora ta afuracao. Embaxo’l texíu atoupanon lo que argumentan son ‘abondos anicios de una muria prehistórica de ente 3-4 metros de ancho, ya non l.lonxe de 2 fuexas defensivas.’ L’equipu que trabayara en Picu La Forca hai unos 3 años deixara las catas albentestate, dalgo que nun ye vezu en arqueoloxía. La Conseyeria, pela sua parte, nun camudara l’estatus xurídicu del xacimientu. Ensin proteición oficial, inda ía un castru pantasma.

La descatalogación de Picu La Forca seique foi pa poner pilancos alministrativos a posibles críticas. La Conseyería de Cultura nun quixo que xurdiera polvoréu como el que se armou pol desaniciu de Cellagú, un castru na redolea d’Uvieu que desfexo una empresa minera en 2000. L’esbarrumbe de Cellagú convirtiose daquella nuna escandalera pola ineficacia de la Conseyería pa dar abellugu al sou propiu patrimoniu. En Picu La Forca, el feito de que nun esisten informes arqueoloxicos quier decir que nun hai güelga. D’esti xeitu, cualisquier estrozu na estructura del castru resultaría namai en simple multa alministrativa, igual que se fexo en L.lena col Castiel.lo de Cabezón cuando diba faese un banzau d’augua sanitario. Pa los miembros de Cellagú ye una preba más de que ‘esiste premeditación dende’l mesmu serviciu de patrimoniu hestóricu del Principau a la hora dar lluz verde al desaniciu de otru castru n’Asturies’.

El 4 d’abril de 2002, nuna sesión de la Comisión de Patrimonio Historico de Asturias (CPHA), fexose una nueva demarcación de llindes pa la cantera, allonxándola del xacimientu arqueolóxicu de Picu La Forca ya d’un xerru vecín au ta llantao un megalito (conocíu col nome de ‘no. 84’). Mientes, la Direición Xeneral d’Industria ya Minería tamién espublizou un informe el 18 d’abril de 2002 pa denega-y el permisu a Cantera Grado, SL, pa una nueva llicencia d’esplotación baxo el nom de ‘Marisa’. El tomu de ‘Marisa’ diba ser de 5,90 hectareas de tarrén privao. L’altor maximu diba chegar a los 390 metros, amagando asina direutamente al castru. Pero la sida pa nun da-y permisu a Cantera Grado, SL, foi que la mina taba xunto a la N-634. Nun hai accesu independiente a la cantera ya’l fluxu d’augua de la mina abierta vei a la veira la carretera. Nos sous argumentos del 21 de payares de 2002, la Conseyería de Mediu Ambiente fala tamién de los efeutos negativos que supondría el proyeuto ‘Marisa’ pal castru de Picu La Forca. La hestoria ía un tracamundiu—nun taba descatalogao el castro?

Según el BOPA no. 296 (24 d’avientu de 2002), la Conseyería de Mediu Ambiente refugara dafeitu una nueva concesión a Cantera Grado, SL, pa esplotar la fasteira norte de Monte Pando. Afitou na sua argumentación, qu’el carreiro que xube al Altu la Cabruñana deica Salas xunto a la N-634 ye parte del Camín de Santiau. Tien valor hestóricu-artísticu ya la proteición del paisaxe ye perimportante. Sicasí, l’estrozu al paisaxe nun tien igua. Anguañu, l’Altu la Cabruñana manca la vista. De l.lonxe la furacaya blanco de Cantera Grado vese bien nidio. Nuna visita al llugar en payares de 2002, paez que la cantera vei seguir trabayando la fasteira suroucidental de Monte Pando, xusto embaxo’l castru.

Acordies con un artículo de Alvaro Valdés Díaz na Revista Histórica de Grado, al Monte Pando tamién se-y chama ‘Santa Marina’. Valdés da-y un aniciu al nomatu de Picu La Forca nu sieglu XVIII cuando Fray Nicolás de Hortuza fexo montar una forca nu cimeiru’l monte pa executar a los sous alversarios. Hortuza paez que fexo usu de sous poderes de comendador pa espropiar a la xente del conceyu. El castru de Picu La Forca paez malditu per una l.leenda prieta. Nun esiste en papel pa la Conseyería de Cultura. Pero inda ta ehí, alitando pente la cotoya.
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