Today we went to the San Millán de la Cogolla, which are two monasteries in the province of La Rioja. The monasteries are separated into two different monasteries, the Suso and Yuso. The Suso is the upper monastery which was built up in the mountain, and the Yuso was built down the mountain. The Suso came first in the 6th century where Saint Emilianus lived, which was in a cave up in the mountains. He went to the caves for seclusion. In his seclusion, he lived a simple life and kept to his faith. He died up there with a small following, and he lived to be 101 years old. The Suso continued expansion until the 12th century. The Yuso was built in the 10th and 11th century. The story behind this was that King Garcia of Nájera wanted the remains of Saint Emilianus, which were in the Suso, moved to Santa Maria La Real of Nájera. To move the remains they tried to use oxen and a cart. The legend goes that the oxen were moving along, and then stopped at the location of the Yuso. No matter what they tried to do the oxen refused to move. They saw this as a sign and built the new monastery there instead. We got a tour of both. We went up to the Suso first and got a short tour up at the monastery. It was quite fascinating to see the tomb of Saint Emilianus.
The Yuso was interesting also. We got to see 25 hymn books which were stored at the Yuso. The hymn books were very large in size.
The Yuso also is the place that has the oldest known written Spanish so far. Overall, both the Suso and Yuso were very interesting to see, and we got to learn about some important Spanish history.
On Tuesday, May 29th, we went to a cute little cafe in Madrid for breakfast. Afterwards, we headed to the Museo Arqueologico Nacional which is the Archaeological Museum which has some really cool features. It was a museum for the blind which means that objects were placed along the wall that the visitors could touch. We learned about Bell-beaker pottery which are bell shaped and they show how wealthy someone is because they can have a feast to feed other people. They are found in the Bronze age in 2,000 BCE. They were decorated with geometric shapes and designs. We had a break afterwards and went to lunch and napped for siesta. Afterwards, we went to the Prado where I was assigned 3 works of art to tell the group about, those being: The Spinners or the Fable of Arachne by Diego Rodriguez De Silvay Velazquez (1655-1660), The Embarkation of Saint Paula by Claude Lorrain (1639), and the Self-Portrait by Albrecht Durer (1498). Rachel was assigned: Descent from the Cross by Rogier Van der Weyder (1435), The Holy Trinity by El Greco (1577), and Saturn Devouring His Children by Goya (1819). The museum was extremely interesting and had so many Titians which were called Titziano. There were a ton of people but it was overall, an enjoyable experience. After the Prado closed at 9 PM, we headed to a fancy traditional restaurant where we had ham slices and cheese followed by a chicken and ham paella.
Wednesday, June 1st we left Madrid for Nájera. We stopped for lunch in a little town called Garray. We had lunch at a place called “El Denario.” The food there was wonderful. After lunch, we parted ways—Dr. Martínez and Jake went to Nájera to pick up John, and Sarah, Loissa, Scott, and I went to Numantia. Numantia is a Celt-Iberian site where there was a hill-fort the Romans tried to claim. The people of Numantia refused to follow Roman rule, and so the Romans placed them under siege for 14 months until the people of Numantia were starved out.
At the site, there were still remains of the original Numantian city, as well as the Roman rebuild. Also, there were two modern recreations of what the ancient houses would have looked like. The first house was a more typical Numantian style of house, while the other one had more Roman influences. The Roman style house had separate sleeping quarters, a more established oven for cooking, and an indoor area for animals. The Roman house was built using a loose-stone (no mortar) construction. The Numantian house was smaller, it did not have separate sleeping quarters, it had a small fire and chimney, and it had an outdoor place for animals. It was built using a wattle-and-daub technique (woven sticks), which was covered with mudbrick, and coated in plaster to protect from the rain. As we walked through the rest of the site, Scott pointed out to us the evidence of the older city as well as the evidence of Roman inhabitation.
When we left Numantia, we headed towards Nájera. When we got to Nájera, we unpacked. Then we headed to a local convenience store to get some food for dinner. While we were eating our dinner, we were approached by a cat that we have affectionately named Isadora, Dora for short. I really think I am going to love Nájera.
Tuesday, May 31st we visited the National Archaeological Museum in Madrid, Spain. The museum had great descriptions of the entire history of Spain including a display on the wall that was color coded and showed the history of Spain back into prehistoric times. Further into the entrance was another display with a three dimensional model of Spain where images were projected onto the surface showing the migration of man through the region over time. Seeing the projections across Spain helped us to better understand what we would be looking at or looking for once we reached our cites in Najera.Within the museum we saw many different exhibits about early human life, but my favorite by far was an exhibit about woven grass items from the Neolithic period (circa 3,000 BCE.) that were found in the Cave of Los Murcielagos in Grenada, Spain. The weavings were accompanied by a plaque describing the works and the types of items found along with the woven items. The woven baskets were found to be made of esparto grass and were dyed before they were woven. Additionally locks of human hair and poppy seeds were found inside of the baskets. Besides baskets, woven sandals had been found. I was especially interested in this exhibit because woven items and fabrics are often very fragile and do not withstand the test of time.
Before visiting the museum, all students were assigned a reading to speak about at the museum. I was assigned an article about The Crown of Reccenswith. The crown was a votive crown that was donated to a church by a Visigothic ruler, King Reccenswith. It was never meant to be worn, instead it would have been hung in a church and bring glory to the patron who payed for it. The lettering at the bottom of the crown say RECCESVINTHVS REX OFFERET (King Reccenswith offers this) in Latin. The crown has many inlayed Cabochon stones on the two hinged bands at the base.The entire crown is made with gold and precious stones, as well as cut and colored glass.
The final portion of the museum that we visited was the replica of a cave that had been found with many paintings from ancient peoples inside. The ceiling of the recreation had paintings of animals and a mirrored glass table was in the center of the room so that visitors didn’t have to crane their necks to see the paintings on the ceilings. The display in the room used weak and flickering lighting to give viewers a better understanding of how the paintings would have originally been seen. The low lighting along with the silence in the space seems to transport viewers to another time and awaken their spirit of discovery.
To echo what Dr. de Brestian had mentioned in his last post, sorry for the long delay between posts on the blog. This past week-plus has been very tiring from the multiple perspectives of an acclimation to our new environment as well as just being physically and mentally exhausted.
As a bit of an introduction of myself, my name is Jake Hayward and this is my second consecutive season participating in the Najerilla Vally Research Project. I could not be happier with my decision to return. The amount of information that I was able to acquire last year on the project as well as the ability to continue learning from Dr. de Brestian, with the addition of co-director Dr. Victor Martinez this season, was too great of an opportunity to pass up.
Now to the actual post!
Thursday, June 2nd was our first full day in Nájera where we were actually able to go out in “the field” and commence the work we are conducting while here in Spain. Beginning at roughly 8:30 am CEST (Central European Summer Time) we headed up to Santa Lucia and familiarized ourselves with the hike and the area we would be working with. From doorstep to the site is a roughly 25-30 minute hike which is mostly enjoyable. No work was actually done while we were up here but this gave us a good idea of what we were going to be expecting going forward.
After this short stop at the top of Santa Lucia we went into the city and stopped at the Alcazar, or fortress, of Nájera. This is a very neat site that we only had a brief opportunity to see. We were able to break for lunch after this.
After our lunch break we went back into the city to explore the monastery of Santa Maria la Real. This is an amazing place! The monastery was originally constructed in the 11th century by King Garcia Sanchez III of Navarre and continued to evolve throughout the centuries. It is now a must-see stop on the Camino de Santiago.
All in all this was a very busy day with a lot to take in. Thanks for checking in and make sure to keep coming back for updates!
On the second day of our stay in Madrid, we visited the Prado Museum. Our main focus was the museum’s 5th Centenary Exhibition of the works of Hieronymus Bosch. I was in awe over the vast number of people who came out to view the event.
Bosch’s colorful, religious art, projects a surrealism far beyond his time. Not only does his images of monsters evoke fear within the viewer, they also bring forth a whimsical connotation; bridging an Earthly gap between faith and folly.
I found myself captivated by his ability to use monsters as a way to guide his audience toward the path of righteousness. His art does not “sugar coat” temptation but instead, presents both the heavenly and demonic realms as Earthly qualities.
By blending animalistic and human features, Bosch is able to familiarize his audience with this monsters. He uses the obscurity of his creature to demand his viewers attention. From there, he is able to present the religious message within his images; leaving the audience fearful of the consequences of Earthly temptations.
We will all be heading to Spain in about a week, scheduled to spend a few days in Madrid and then head up to our base in Nájera. Our goals this summer are many, including continuing our documentation of medieval architecture in Nájera and studying Roman and medieval architecture and sculpture from the Iglesia de la Asunción in San Vicente del Valle. You can read more about our project on our website!
Among the techniques we will be using are aerial drone photography, photogrammetry, and reflectance transformation imaging. I recently talked about some of the things we’re doing on the ArchaeoTech podcast. Check it out!
The second season of the NVRP is about to begin. We’ve got a lot on our plate over the next few weeks, and our student participants will be sharing what they’ve seen and learned as well. Keep tuned to see what we’ve been up to!
Blog of the CMU Study Abroad program in La Rioja and Burgos, Spain