Ibiza, Biodiversity and Culture
Ibiza, Biodiversity And Culture
Mixed Spain Europe And North America Balearic Islands

The Upper Town of Ibiza is an excellent example of a fortified acropolis which preserves in an exceptional way in its walls and in its urban fabric successive imprints of the earliest Phoenicians settlements and the Arab and Catalan periods through to the Renaissance bastions. The long process of building the defensive walls has not destroyed the street pattern, but has incorporated them in the ultimate phase.The intact 16th-century fortifications of Ibiza bear unique witness to the military architecture and engineering and the aesthetics of the Renaissance. This Italian-Spanish model was very influential, especially in the construction and fortification of towns in the New World. The evolution of Ibiza's shoreline is one of the best examples of the influence of Posidonia on the interaction of coastal and marine ecosystems.

The Upper Town is the oldest area, which emerges like an acropolis standing on a headland facing the sea. Its architecture and physiognomy have not been changed since the fortifications were built in the 16th century, based on the military precepts of the Renaissance. The defensive walls and bastions have incorporated those which existed before, thus making it possible to study the stratigraphy of all fortifications.

Ebysos (the town of Bes, an Egyptian god) was founded by the Carthaginians in 654 BC. For 2,000 years, the town and its fortified harbour were the centre of Mediterranean navigation.

The local economy was based on the collection of salt from the pans, wool, and figs. After a period of alliance with Rome, the island came under the control of the Arabs in AD 902. Excavations have revealed the ruins of a strong earthen wall, as well as the urban plan of the medina, which consists of narrow streets lined by dwelling houses with windows looking over an inner courtyard, and surrounded by walls on three sides. In 1235, the town was dominated by Christians, who built the Catalan castle, visible from the inside of the present building, the medieval fortifications, and the Gothic cathedral. From 1530 to 1540, Philip II drew up a strategic plan to defend communications between Spain and Italy. In 1584-85, new fortifications were erected with the help of specialized Italian architects: Giovanni Battista Calvi and Jacobo Paleazzo Fratin.

The Phoenician-Punic cemetery of Puig des Molins (in use until the end of the Roman period) is situated in the south-west of the Upper Town. At the beginning of the 6th century BC, the ashes of the dead were placed in a natural grotto after cremation. Later, shafts and funerary chambers were dug. Monolithic sarcophagi were lowered through shafts into hypogea (family sepulchres). It is the oldest to have been preserved, thus making it possible to study a wide variety of tombs, statues, and cult objects. It has been included in the urban perimeter and has added to the beauty of the site, with its terraces planted with olive trees to take advantage of the humidity of the underground chambers. The Phoenician-Punic Archaeological Site of Sa Caleta is near the salt-pans, and was abandoned around 590 BC in favour of the site of Ibiza, before it was eroded by the sea. Excavations have unearthed walls. Scattered square-shaped buildings were linked by an irregular system of streets and triangular public areas, revealing an archaic form of urbanization, inhabited by a community of about 800 people, which had an egalitarian social structure, and an economy based on agriculture, metallurgy, salt and fishing.

There are also properties located in the buffer zone: Punic water tanks, tombs that extend the cemetery of Puig des Molins, as well as an old Muslim cemetery and the ruins of a Christian chapel. Also there is Ses Feixes, an area stretches along the coast, situated on the other side of the harbour, opposite the Upper Town. It displays a form of cultivation based on an ingenious irrigation system: the fields are divided into long, narrow rectangles by a network of canals which have the dual function of collecting water and irrigating the fields. This system permits an intensive but well balanced cultivation of arid and marshy soils.

Finally there is Las Salinas, in the southern tip of the island, which is a cultural landscape. An age-old human activity has created a natural setting favourable to the maintenance of biodiversity. The collection of salt has always played a key role here, with a system of canals, dams and dykes which formed wetland areas of great beauty and ecological interest, with a specific flora and fauna.