Mallorca Through the Ages - Talayotic Era (2000BC - 123BC)
Between 2,000 B.C. and 123 B.C. life moved on slowly and the Mallorcan people concentrated on surviving rather than exploring. However, explorers from other lands came to the island and while some brought new ideas and settled others were less hospitable. One thing is sure, life was hard before, during and after the Talayotic Era.
The Pre-Talayotic Era: c. 2000 BC - c. 1300BC
Before 2,000 B.C. prehistoric communities lived in caves on Mallorca and spent their time hunting wild animals and looking for edible fruit. Basic farming methods reached the Balearic Islands around 2,000 BC allowing families to move from their caves to fertile areas. They established settlements with large stone buildings now called Naviforms because they are shaped like upturned boats. Some continued living in caves for another 500 years while others used caves for burials for another 1,000 years. At this time most tools were made from stone, bone or wood because there was only a little copper ore available and the islanders had no tin to trade for bronze on the mainland. They had little time to make weapons or build defensive at this stage because they were too busy trying to survive.
The Talayotic Era: 1300 B.C. to C.800 B.C.
Around 1,300BC explorers came to Mallorca and not all of them were friendly. Some believe that they might have been escaping war and turmoil across the Eastern Mediterranean while others wonder if they were Minoans escaping the massive eruption of Thera Volcano (now Santorini Volcano). Whoever the newcomers were, they changed life on the island forever. They encouraged the building of large settlements surrounded by oval shaped stone walls and guarded by watchtowers. They were often built on high ground and their defensive nature indicates that Mallorca was attacked from time to time.
Each settlement could house up to 400 people and the newcomers imposed a class structure to organise every day activities. This new way of life is known as Talayotic culture, from the word talaia , the Catalan word for watchtower. Farming also became more extensive as streams were tapped, wells were dug and cisterns were built. Many of them are still in use today. New tools, weapons and pottery also made life easier. Although the prehistoric farmer learnt how to harvest wheat to eat and barley for their livestock, they still continued to hunt and fish.
There are many examples of Talayotic settlements across the islands. Ses Paisses, near to Artà in the northeast, Son Fornés near Montuiri in the centre of the island and Capocorb near Cala Pi on the south coast, are three good examples. While there are many more examples of Talayotic on Minorca, there are none on Ibiza.
Post-Talayotic Era: C.800 BC -- 123 BC
Life changed quickly on Mallorca after the 8th Century with the onset of the Iron Age. Iron artefacts and new burial rituals suggest a new Celtic style culture on the island and while talayots became redundant, boundary walls were increased in size to keep invaders at bay.
However, the biggest change in the area was the arrival of Phoenicians in the Balearics around 700 B.C. in their search for salt. While they ignored Mallorca and Minorca (known as Clumba and Nara), they settled on Ibosim, or the 'Island of Bes' named after an Egyptian god who dispelled evil spirits; it is now known as Ibiza. The Phoenicians introduced vines, olives, and complex pottery to the islands; they also introduced the first alphabetic script. At the same time the Greek city-states were establishing ports and towns along the east coast of the Iberian Peninsula and were trading with Celts in central Iberian, exchanging Greek wine and pottery for Celtic bronze and iron goods. Mallorca was in the middle of all this trading.
Following their defeat at the hands of the Etruscans and Carthaginians in the sea battle of Alalia in 537BC, the Phoenicians withdrew to southern Italy. The Carthaginians took over sea trade and while Ibiza was still the hub, trading posts were set up around the coast of Mallorca, at Santa Ponsa, Portals Nous, Ca'n Pastilla and Colonia Sant Jordi. There was also the walled town of Na Guardia, where Palma City is now.
The Punic Wars
Rome was extending its hold over Italy by 300 B.C. and many young Mallorca men fought in the Punic Wars against the Carthaginians. The favoured weapon on Mallorca was the sling and boys learnt to hunt with slingshots from an early age. Although they were feared on the battlefield, few survived to return. The combined reduction of trading due to the Punic Wars and the loss of many men affected badly Mallorca's fragile economy and even after the Romans won the Second Punic War 201, Ibiza became the Republic's trading centre. The two ports established on Mallorca were at Porto Pi in the Palma Bay and at Bocchorum, near Pollença.
The campaign to conquer the rest of Iberia took over 70 years and troop ships often stopped off in Ibiza. However, the start of the Third Punic war between Carthage and the Numidians in 149 B.C. stirred the Romans to attack and destroy Carthage city and massacre his people. Despite the world changing events across the Mediterranean, little changed in Mallorca's post-Talayotic settlements.
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