Tuesday, February 20

The cultural cost of the Navalacruz fire: the biggest fire of 2021 affected more than 40 archaeological sites

Color changes, burned elements, oxidation of pigments, cracks in archaeological remains or directly the ruin. The most serious fire of 2021, which burned 22,000 hectares in Ávila, also had a cultural cost. The Navalacruz fire burned 22,000 hectares, the majority of scrubland, grasslands and broom, but according to the report ‘Assessment of the state of conservation of Vetton deposits in the municipality of Solosancho’, more than 40 deposits were affected in different ways.

Of the almost 60 wrecks analyzed, one was destroyed after the fire —the Muñico Bridge was destroyed by the water and sediment dragged by the torrential rains after the fire—, another two suffered serious damage, 7 suffered severe damage and 36 suffered serious damage. slight damage. Only ten of the registered goods were released.

This newspaper has had access to this diagnosis thanks to a request from Transparency, because the press office of the Ministry of Culture has not responded to this request from elDiario.es for months. This study has registered 22 elements of historical and cultural interest that were not inventoried by the Junta de Castilla y León, such as the Chalcolithic sites of La Cama del Rey or Las Conejeras.

The archaeologist Juan Pablo López García, who has coordinated the report, explains to this newspaper that they decided not only to focus on the Vetton castros —which were not greatly affected—, but to carry out surveys “throughout the entire territory”. “The people of the territory accompanied us to heritage sites that were not cataloged so that we could include them,” he adds.

One of these elements is the Muñico Bridge, which ended up being demolished by the flooding of the river. The bridge survived the fire thanks to moisture from the river course, but the storms that followed the fire had devastating effects. The pontoon lost two of the passeras slabs, although they do not consider the reconstruction “very difficult”.

Affected rock carvings

The fire has caused serious damage to the rock carvings of Las Chorreras, in Villaviciosa, which have suffered a “progressive degradation of the panel, with the loss of mineral grains that make up the rock.” This is an Asset of Cultural Interest that is on private property and is abandoned. In the first visits, the technicians did not see “severe deterioration” except for a change in discoloration.

However, from November they saw “a process of degradation and decomposition of the rock, directly affecting the whole.” “The engravings were heavily altered, with chemical decomposition of the stone,” he says. The technicians consider it “necessary” that there be a “control of the closest vegetation” to prevent an uncontrolled growth of piorno from being “fatal” in the event of a future fire.

The Navalmoral road, which belongs to a set of medieval and contemporary mills, suffered serious damage due to color change and oxidation, but above all damage caused by a firebreak that the firefighting operation had to set up to control the Navalacruz fire. This firewall dismantled “all the remains associated with the road.” The technicians who have worked on the report located “very slight remains of the road and its walls”, which had been “damaged and almost eliminated”.

The report proposes urgent measures such as monitoring cleaning tasks, replacement of informative posters and including non-registered elements in the patrimonial inventory “to guarantee their protection.” In the medium term, they propose conducting surveys in Navasangil and Ulaca in the spaces most affected by the flames to verify possible alterations to the archaeological record. In the coming months, the sites most exposed to erosion and looting —such as the necropolis of Ulaca, the Atalaya de Villaviciosa or Navasangil— must be inspected.

They also propose the creation of a function center “as an intelligent and autonomous visitor reception space” that can serve for research and dissemination groups; archaeological research and put these deposits in value; generate cultural itineraries before the new sites found and encourage citizen participation.

The economic cost of losing assets

The report was commissioned during the previous PP-Ciudadanos coalition government, in which the ‘oranges’ led the Culture area, which is now headed by Vox. This newspaper has asked the Ministry about new actions in the Ulaca castro area —the most important site— and has received no response. However, the Public Procurement portal does allow the actions of the Board and its cost to be deducted through minor contracts.

The report and the update of the technical documentation have had a cost (with VAT) of 4,537 euros, which have gone to a report.

The Ulaca castro is now to be restored for 55,209 euros divided into four smaller contracts: in April 2022 the service contract for the technical documentation of this work was awarded (3,448.5 euros); in June, the management of the works and the coordination of the safety and health of the same works were awarded (3,603.38); In July, a contract was awarded for works to consolidate the walls, access conditioning and signaling of the Ulaca site for a value of 46,996 euros (VAT included). In addition, the archaeological monitoring of these works —awarded in August— has involved 1,161.6 euros of public funds.

In addition, a pilot project for security control and surveillance of several castros is being drawn up, including Ulaca. The price of the award of the project is 17,787 euros.