Presentation notes for the talk entitled "From Life to Death" given by Municipal archeologist Joaquim Bolufer on October 31st 2012.See also the previous summary report on this talk which includes links for further reading
1. - The Cova Foradada.
Remains of early humans that lived in this area.
Evidence: 22 different fragments of at least two individuals, one adult and one immature. However, the only reliable contexts found are from level 2 Sector B:
2. - Burial caves of the end of the prehistoric age
Cave of the Ravine of Rabosa
Skull of an adult young man.
Timeline uncertain. Presumably prehistoric (Chalcolithic, Bronze ¿?)
Covetes of the Solana (sunny side) of the Montgó
Burial caves of prehistoric chronology undetermined
Cave of multiple burials, probably of the Chalcolithic (Copper), with sufficient assets (all the remains come from “excavations” or "diggings" of Father Belda in the 1930’s)
Recent study by Maria Paz de Miguel. Remains of at least 9 people: Skull of male mature adult (40-45 years), Skull of adult male (40 years), Skull of 9-10 years, Adult, + - 12, Adult, + - 7, + - 9, Male Adult?, Adult.
Ivory pot. Funeral use?. Between 2nd and 1st millennium BC
Cova del Barranc del Migdia
Cave of multiple burials from the chalcolithic (Copper)
The anthropological study material consists of 500 fragments of bones and teeth, the age of death doesn’t exceed 40 years of age for adult individuals, whereas infant death is placed between one and five years of age. So far, we have identified the remains of at least eight individuals collected in four packages. 2671 - 2256 years old - exact Carbon Dating, with grave goods.
3. - Iberian Culture
Period with practice of cremation
4. - Romanization
Inscription from la Riba The Muntanyar. The large Roman necropolis burial
Punta de la Fontana. Sarcophagi. Marble plaque of the Dioscuri
Past discoveries (tosqueros – tosca cutters, excavations in 1920’s-1930’s)
Tombs discovered: 83
Rituals: graves dug on the rock, with two dominant orientations – east-west and north-south. The graves generally have a trapezoidal form.
The funeral rites were always burial, placing the corpse in supine position inside the pit. In some cases shrouded corpses have been documented, it was usual to reuse graves with multiple burials.
Only eight had artifacts or other items to accompany the deceased. In general, they were materials of minor importance, notably a perfume glass bottle, a possible bronze censer or other materials of ornament as a bracelet and a ring, also of bronze or a bead of vitreous paste.
The Muntanyar was the great necropolis of the settlement of Punta del Arenal, which has about 900 graves on an area of approximately 6,000 m². Its extensive chronology embrace about 600 years, between the 1st and 6th centuries AD.
Two graves covered with slabs that appeared, according J. Segarra Llamas (1947) at the highest and flattest part of the island, near a marble pavement. The graves contained human remains and some grave goods at the headboard, such as lamp and "several shiny objects".
5. - Islamization
Changes in ritual and new beliefs. Orientation of tombs north to south and the head looking east. The corpses lying on their sides, on virgin soil, without ostentation.
6. - The feudal Conquest
Changes in rituals: In the villages, near churches, supine burials, east-west (to the west). Coffins and shrouds.
Burial places: Graves in the Plaça and the Hospital and Churches (St. Bartholomew and Loreto) and convents.
Tombs in the Graveyard of la Plaça: 29 graves, this was a trapeziodal space of 180 m² surrounded by a sturdy wall of formwork mortar lime and stone, in which the burials were made. A section of it is preserved under the floor of the tourist office, with more than twenty trenches dug into the natural soil with an east-west orientation. The burials were fmade in a supine position with the head pointing west. We have documented the use of shrouds on the corpses and the presence of boxes or coffins made of wood. The cemetery was in use during the fourteenth century and much fifteenth century until the extension of the church led to the remodeling the square and the destruction of the cemetery.
7. – Cemetery of San Juan (John)
With new ideas of hygiene prevalent In Valencia, some institutions and individuals had tried to bring forward these new approaches. This is the case of early and progressive proposals made in 1776 by Pasqual Garcia, councilor of Valencia, who wanted to ban burials made within the walls of the city (M. Català, 2007). But it was not following the enactment of the "Real Pragmática" (a Royal decree) made by King Carlos III in 1787, the local authorities began to consider this problem. The "Pragmática" said that cemeteries are encouraged to build outside towns while the burial was prohibited in churches with a few exceptions. The same document also said : "...to take advantage of chapels of the cemeteries of the hermitages which already existed outside the villages....” an instruction which was followed in Xàbia, using the old Gothic chapel of St. John as a funeral chapel.
Cemetery of Xàbia: 12 March 1817. Opened the current Sant Joan Cemetery, with the corpse of Burial of Ana Maria Moll daughter of Amaro and Teresa, according to death certificate signed by Fr Jose Cruañes Buigues Vicar. (BP).
The old cemetery of Saint John was much smaller than that which we now know. That first site of 1817 occupied a very small area to the south of the chapel, with burials in the ground of which we have only a few panels of Valencia tiles that were conserved and placed inside the Hermitage. Of the thirteen panels recovered and restored by museum, the oldest dates back to 1823 and relates to people of high social and economic status: Mariana Prats, wife of the military governor of Dénia, died on May 28, and Jaume Catalá "Dr. in Theology and Rector of the Church of Xàbia” died on October 6. The most recent was dedicated to child Joaquim Fernando Garcia "... who died on 22 of February of the year 1862 with a tender age of 12 years and half ...".
The lack of space of that first cemetery and high standing of certain persons, led to the section west of the chapel, between the last diaphragmatic arch (behind the altar) and the back wall of the chapel, to be turned into an ecclesiastical mausoleum. This structure, out of use since the late nineteenth century, had a single door (right / NE of the altar) that had recently been sealed off
The interior was occupied by a total of 31 tombs of rectangular shape with maximum dimensions of 2.40 x 0.70 m. constructed of solid brick, plaster and pebble. Eighteen had a general orientation of: south west to north east, that rest against and overlap each other forming two levels. Meanwhile the tombs of the south east wall had a direction north west to south east perpendicular to the previous ones, grouping together and forming two rows of five tombs, plus three more which were placed during the last moments of use with this same orientation, on top of the first group of tombs.
All graves with or without coffins corresponded to members of the clergy in Xàbia, probably vicars, and priests of St. Bartholomew parish, who were probably buried between 1817 and 1889, a date that was engraving on the fresh plaster of the tomb placed in the upper South group: “Here rested in peace / the mortal remains of / Vicar Don Jose Solano / from the Jabea Parish / died on 14 May 1889 / Pray to God for his soul.
The poor conditions of the first cemetery area were described in the monumental " Diccionario Geográfico – Estadístico - Histórico de España y sus posesiones de Ultramar" (Geographic-statistical-historical dictionary of Spain and its overseas possessions written by Pascual Madoz (Volume IX, Madrid 1847): "... the cemetery, that is small and dreadful because its ruined walls permit the entry of foxes and other filthy animals which have eaten the limbs of the unburied corpses: its location so close to the town is detrimental to public health, mainly to the inhabitants of Convent quarter, who are very put out by the putrid stench that arrives during the summer when the west wind dominates and when days are hot: (the cemetery) should be moved to another healthy place...”
Probably to try to mitigate this bad situation, but also to increase the space of the cemetery (Xàbia was a town with a growing population rose from 3,654 in 1843 to 5,785 in the year 1857), in 1849, the Mayor of Xàbia, Antonio Catalá bought three hanegadas of land (1 hanegada = 831 square meters) from Christopher Español to expand the cemetery (G. Cruañes, Efemérides, no. 289, 1986). With these works, the cemetery acquired the current dimensions and the first groups of niches were constructed (located on the west wall) aimed at the local bourgeois and other wealthy persons, while most of the burials would be made in the ground .
But the widening of the cemetery and the improvement of its construction did not end the problem of excessive closeness to the town, causing, along with other factors, the mortality rate in the cnearby suburbs of Baix and Convent to be the highest in the town (A. Espinós, 1988).
The years went by and the living conditions of the population were gradually improved, producing a reduction in the total deaths. However, the limited space of the cemetery compelled the construction of new blocks of niches.
However, its excessive proximity to the town and population growth forced the construction of the new Catarroges cemetery, which opened in 1986, while the old cemetery was in use until 1989, when the last burial was held there.