SEA Currents: Corwith Cramer
October 20, 2015
The Ruins of Baelo Claudia
36°30.2’N x 06°15.8’W
Description of location
alongside the dock in Cadiz, Spain
Cloudy but currently no rain
So far, today has been yet another cloudy (and occassionally rainy) day for us in Cadiz. On the bright side, the sun has shined through every now and then as the afternoon progresses. Much like the past few days, a little rain won’t stop us today!
At 0900 this morning, we hopped on a bus and made our way down to the ancient Roman city, Baelo Claudia, located a little bit west from the Strait of Gibraltar. Baelo has long been abandoned but luckily, some its ruins have been excavated, allowing us to travel back in time to learn about this once very important Roman city. The Romans first settled in Baelo in the first century BC and occupied it up until the seventh century AD. Baelo quickly rose in both importance and prosperity due to the advantages for trade that its geographical location provided, particularly the city’s proximity to Africa (which was vital to the Roman Empire). However, their biggest wealth came from the fish-salting industry. For Baelo, being located near the Strait of Gibraltar made them perfectly situated for catching Bluefin tuna as they migrated between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic.
I took a particular interest in this tuna and its fishery in our Maritime History and Culture class, and I am writing my final paper on the historical impacts of the use of Atlantic Bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. It was exciting to walk through an excavated area showing where and how they salted tuna back then. For those of you that are curious, the process started by digging holes near the beach and then followed by layering tuna fillets in the hole with enormous amounts of salt in between each layer. The amount of time needed for drying was not specified. Looking at these ruins, Chuck (our Chief Scientist) mentioned that the most interesting thing about this process was the lack of any kind of drainage. This raised the question of what happened to the brine from the fish? Where did it exit? There’s still quite a bit to learn about how Romans processed their tuna catch.
The ruins also showed various other important aspects of the city only a visit to the site could reveal. But, the reason this city is no longer occupied is because it was abandoned after experiencing a couple of earthquakes. The first earthquake hit the city in the third century AD. By this point, the importance of the city had declined a little but the Roman Empire still funded the rebiuilding of the city. By the seventh century, the city was no longer considered to be important. So, when the second earthquake hit, they refused to fund its rebuilding and left it in ruins. That makes for a bit of a tragic ending to the story, but I guess you just can’t win them all!
Regardless, I still greatly enjoyed visiting the ruins and encourage everyone reading this to plan a couple hours to see it the next time you are in southern Spain! Now, the next exciting event begins tonight and I am more than ready for it. As Elliot was generous enough to extend our curfew (thanks Elliot!), we will be making our way into the city of Cadiz at 2030 for a Flamenco show! Stay tuned to find out how the performance goes!