I like living here on the Altiplano de Granada, a quiet corner of Andalucia, Spain. It´s not just the usually sunny weather, the more tranquil way of life or the varied and sometimes amazing landscapes that appeal to me. It’s also the history of the place. The area has been lived in for an immensely long period of time. It is steeped in, and over-flowing with, history. There are an astonishing number of historical and archaeological sites to be found locally if you take the trouble to look. This means that anyone can have the chance to play Indiana Jones.
Take, for example, the pleasant town of Baza where I live. It boasts a whole lot more than a number of fine examples of 16thC monumental civil and religious architecture. The place is also redolent with the hundreds of years of history from the earlier Moorish occupation as well.
The original name of Baza was Basti. It was the capital of the Iberian Bastetano culture and was founded in the 4th-5thC BC. The citizens of Baza still rejoice in the name of Bastetanos today. (For the school boys amongst us, the neighbours of the original Bastetanos were the delightfully named Turdetani. The Turduli and the Turdulorum lived nearby.)
The first Bastetanos built their city on a hill, Cerro Cepero, three kilometers from the present day town center. There is, however, evidence to suggest that this place predates Iberian times and existed as an urban center as far back as the 8th-9thC BC. It also later became an important Roman stronghold and, later still, proved to be of vital importance to the Visigoths. It continued to survive until the Middle Ages.
There are no official signs to tell you where this important archaeological site is to be found. You take a small country road by the side of a petrol station, hang a left down a narrow dirt track before a warehouse, then take another one to the right, head on up the hill past an abandoned cave house and there you are. You have just discovered the remnants of the ancient metropolis of Basti, a once important Ibero-Roman city – and the chances are that you have it all to yourself.
The site is partly buried and covers an area of seven hectares. It has two necropolises nearby which have both yielded important archaeological finds, the most famous of which is the Dama de Baza. This is a hollow life-sized statue of a young Iberian noble-woman which was used as a funerary urn.
The surviving fragments of the city walls are Iberian, but the remains of its buildings are of later Roman origin. You can stroll around the remnants of the forum, basilica, temple, shops, baths and a villa.
There are lovely panoramic views all around you. The 1,492 meter high lump of Cerro Jabalcon, which is thought by some to be an extinct volcano, dominates the view in one direction. The mountains of the 2,000 plus meter Sierras of La Sagra ( the peak of which looks like a volcano), Castril and Baza are in the background in other directions. It is easy to see that the ancient Bastetanos built their city in a good strategic position.
This is history as I like it. No tour guides, no tourists, no pay-booths and no nonsense. Just you, your imagination and the wind in your hair, stepping over ancient pot shards as you go.