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Las Médulas

Las Médulas

In the 1st century A.D. the Roman Imperial authorities began to exploit the gold deposits of this region in north-west Spain, using a technique based on hydraulic power. After two centuries of working the deposits, the Romans withdrew, leaving a devastated landscape. Since there was no subsequent industrial activity, the dramatic traces of this remarkable ancient technology are visible everywhere as sheer faces in the mountainsides and the vast areas of tailings, now used for agriculture.

Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Las Médulas

Au Ier siècle, les autorités de l'Empire romain ont commencé à exploiter les gisements aurifères de cette région du nord-ouest de l'Espagne en utilisant une technique basée sur la puissance hydraulique. Après deux siècles d'exploitation des dépôts résiduels, les Romains se sont retirés, laissant derrière eux un paysage dévasté. Étant donné l'absence d'activités industrielles ultérieures dans cette région, les traces spectaculaires de cette remarquable technique ancienne sont partout visibles, sous forme de pentes montagneuses dénudées et de vastes zones de résidus miniers qui servent maintenant à l'agriculture.

Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

لا ميدولاس

في القرن الأوّل، بدأت سلطات الإمبراطوريّة الرومانيّة تنقّب عن الذهب في هذه المنطقة الواقعة شمال غرب اسبانيا باستخدام تقنيّة مبنيّة على الدفع المائي. وبعد قرنين من التنقيب، رحل الرومان مخلّفين وراءهم الخراب. وبالنظر إلى غياب النشاطات الصناعيّة الأخرى في هذه المنطقة، تُلاحظ في جميع الزوايا آثار هذه التقنيّة القديمة الملفتة والتي تتخذ شكل منحدرات جبليّة عارية ومساحات كبيرة من المخلّفات المنجميّة المستخدمة اليوم للزراعة.

source: UNESCO/ERI
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

拉斯梅德拉斯

公元1世纪,罗马帝国统治者开始在西班牙西北部的拉斯梅德拉斯地区利用水利技术采金、淘金。经过两个世纪的开采后,罗马人撤走了,只留下一片废墟。从那以后,由于当地再未兴办过任何工业,所以独特的古代技术遗迹被保留了下来。从当地比比皆是的山崖峭壁和大片尾矿中,我们就能清楚地看出古代人劳动的痕迹。现在,尾矿被用于农业耕作。

source: UNESCO/ERI
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Район древней золотодобычи Лас-Медулас

В I в. н.э. власти Римской империи начали эксплуатировать золотые месторождения этого района на северо-западе Испании, используя гидравлический метод. Через 200 лет разрабатывавшие месторождения римляне ушли, оставив после себя обезображенный ландшафт. Поскольку в последующем местность активно не использовалась, здесь и в наши дни повсюду можно наблюдать отчетливые следы той древней деятельности, такие как наклонные штольни по склонам гор, а также обширные отвалы, ныне используемые для нужд сельского хозяйства.

source: UNESCO/ERI
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Las Médulas

En el siglo I d.C., el poder imperial romano empezó a explotar el yacimiento aurífero de este sitio del noroeste de España recurriendo a una técnica basada en la fuerza hidráulica. Al cabo de dos siglos, la explotación se abandonó y el paisaje quedó devastado. Debido a la ausencia de actividades industriales posteriores, las espectaculares huellas del uso de la antigua tecnología romana son visibles por doquier, tanto en las pendientes montañosas desnudas como en las zonas de vertido de escorias, que hoy están cultivadas.

source: UNESCO/ERI
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

ラス・メドゥラス
紀元1世紀ローマ帝国はスペイン北西部のこの地域で、水圧を利用した金鉱の掘削を始めた。2世紀後ローマ人は荒廃した光景を残して去っていった。それ以来いかなる産業活動も展開することはなく、今は農地となっているこの地には、山腹の切り立った採掘現場や選鉱屑の散らばる広大な面積に、在りし日の古代技術の跡を偲ぶのみである。

source: NFUAJ

Las Médulas

Het noordwestelijke deel van het Iberisch schiereiland werd als laatste door de Romeinen veroverd. In de 1e eeuw na Christus begonnen de Romeinse keizerlijke autoriteiten met het winnen van goud in deze regio, waarbij ze een op waterkracht gebaseerde techniek gebruikten. Na twee eeuwen werken op de plaatsen met goudafzetting, vertrokken de Romeinen en lieten een verwoest landschap achter. Aangezien er geen verdere industriële activiteiten waren in het gebied, zijn de dramatische sporen van deze opmerkelijke oude technologie nog te zien als 'gezichten' in de berghellingen en de uitgestrekte gebieden, die tegenwoordig gebruikt worden voor de landbouw.

Source: unesco.nl

Las Médulas © UNESCO
Outstanding Universal Value

Brief synthesis

Las Médulas is a Roman mining area located in the Autonomous community of Castile and León, in a mountainous zone in the Northwest of Spain. In the 1st century AD, the Roman Imperial authorities began to exploit the gold deposits of this region, using a technique based on hydraulic power. After two centuries of working the deposits, the Romans withdrew, leaving a devastated landscape. Since there was no subsequent industrial activity, the dramatic traces of this remarkable ancient technology are visible everywhere as sheer faces in the mountainsides and vast areas of tailings, now used for agriculture.

The area inscribed on the World Heritage List, the Archaeological Zone of Las Médulas, covers over 2000 ha. It comprises the mines themselves and also large areas covered by the tailings resulting from the process. There are dams which used to collect the vast amounts of water needed for the mining process and intricate canals through which the water was conveyed to the mines.

There are villages of both the indigenous inhabitants and the Imperial administrative and support personnel (including army units), as well as one major Roman road and a large number of minor routes, used during mining operations. The mining process, known to Pliny as ruina montium, made use of the immense power of large bodies of water. Water from springs, rain and melting snow was collected in large reservoirs, connected to the mines by a system of well-built gravity canals over long distances. They were cut into the sterile strata, many metres deep, over the layers of auriferous conglomerate. When the sluices of the dams were opened, enormous quantities of water flowed into the canals, which were closed at their ends. The pressure thus built up caused the rock to explode and be washed away by the water, forming enormous areas of tailings, several kilometres in length. The process is vividly apparent on the working face at the main Las Médulas site, where the half-sections of the galleries used for the last operation there stand out against the sheer rock face. The layers of the auriferous conglomerate were broken up in the same way, but the friable conglomerate was run through washing channels, the heavy gold particles falling to the bottom of the channels. The non-metallic part escaped to the layers of sterile tailings. The large boulders resulting from this process were removed by hand, as the neat heaps scattered around the landscape demonstrate.

The operating face of this spectacular mining process slowly moved across the landscape. The main Las Médulas pit covers more than 10 km2 and the working face on the subsidiary La Frisga pit is more than 600 m across. The system of water canals and conduits extended for at least 100 km. Contours were used with great skill to maintain even gradients over long distances so as to provide a steady build-up of water when the sluices were opened. These channels, short sections of which have been cleared, can be seen in many parts of the site. Archaeological survey over many years, both on the ground and using aerial observation and photography, has identified a number of settlements within the area. A selected group has been partially excavated and demonstrates the essential differences between the way of life of the indigenous and of the incoming administrative communities.

Criterion (i): Las Médulas is a major work of human creative genius in the field of mining, and specifically the technology of ruina montium, the application of water power, and systems of gold mining on a scale, efficiency, and economic importance that were of decisive economic importance for the Roman Empire in the first two centuries AD.

Criterion (ii): Las Médulas is a remarkable example of the application of Roman mining techniques to exploit precious metals. It is exceptional that subsequent works, which have largely destroyed such evidence elsewhere, were here limited or non-existent, so that this property is unquestionably the best preserved and most representative of all the mining areas of the Greco-Roman world in classical times.

Criterion (iii): The Roman gold-mining operations in the Las Médulas area were the most extensive ones in Antiquity. The spectacular remains illustrate both the remarkable technology and the administration of this Imperial estate in every detail.

Criterion (iv): The Las Médulas gold-mining area is an outstanding example of innovative Roman technology, in which all the elements of the ancient landscape, both industrial and domestic, have survived to an exceptional degree.

Integrity

Las Médulas has all the necessary elements to express its Outstanding Universal Value, since it includes the Roman mines, large areas where the tailings resulting from the process were deposited, the hydraulic canals used in the process of ruina montium and human settlements related to the mining work.

Las Médulas, due to its location on a rural area, with small communities, shows no negative effects of development.

Authenticity

The authenticity of the property is absolute, since no changes have been made to the Roman installations and deposits since they went out of use in the early 3rd century AD. The landscape of this area was formed by the extensive Roman mining operations. It was subsequently settled by small farming communities. This pattern endured until comparatively recently, when the area experienced the drift from the countryside to the towns that characterizes most of Europe. It has therefore conserved an organic landscape that has changed very little over many centuries. No changes have been made to the Roman installations and deposits since they went out of use in the early 3rd century AD.

Protection and management requirements

The Archaeological Zone of Las Médulas was registered as Bien de Interés Cultural (Property of Cultural Interest) in 1998, which means that this property is legally protected at the highest level; the zone was extended in 2007, in order to include all the World Heritage protected area. Furthermore, Las Médulas was declared a Historic Monument in 1931, and a Natural Monument in 2002. It is set under the responsibility of the Junta of Castile and León, through the General Directorate of Cultural Heritage.

Any intervention in this site, including archaeological investigation, therefore requires previous administrative authorization, according to the current Cultural Heritage Laws (Law 12/2002 of 11 July, of Cultural Heritage of Castile and León, Decree 37/2007 of 19 April, that approves the Rules for the Protection of Cultural Heritage in Castile and León and Law 16/1985, of 25 June, of Spanish Historic Heritage). All projects concerning this site must be previously approved by the Commission for Cultural Heritage of Castile and León.

Las Médulas is a Natural Monument, so it is also subject to the current Environmental Laws.

The municipalities of Borrenes, Carucedo and Puente de Domingo Flórez have an overall supervisory function in respect of the privately owned properties within their territories. Other institutions working in the area are the Las Médulas Foundation, which collaborates in the promotion of the site (Visitors Centre), and the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, which has been leading an archaeological research program for several years and elaborated in 2001, commissioned by the Junta of Castile and León, the first Plan of Organization, Use and Management of Las Médulas.

Las Médulas, besides its declaration as National Monument and Property of Cultural Interest (Bien de Interés Cultural), has been registered as a “Cultural Area” (Espacio Cultural) in 2010. This protection is based on the Law of Cultural Heritage of Castile and León and is applied to those properties that have been already declared Bien de Interés Cultural which, due to their special natural and cultural values, request a preferential attention in their management and promotion. This declaration of “Cultural Area” aims at promoting the cultural and natural values of the site and encouraging all the activities leading to the sustainable development of the area. Its area is larger than that protected by the World Heritage Convention, because it includes the valley surrounding the site and the whole network of canals, aiming at controlling possible negative visual effects on Las Médulas.

For the adequate management of the “Cultural Area”, a Plan has been prepared, with the participation of local communities, the archaeological research team and the assessment of experts, to set the rules referring to protection, conservation, promotion and research, not only for the Archaeological Zone, but also for the World Heritage property. It is a roadmap that sets all the principles and features that the public administrations -at national, regional and local level- must take into account, in order to adapt their policies to the conservation of the Outstanding Universal Value of the site, which must prevail over other considerations. It includes a diagnosis of the state of conservation on the site, its cultural properties (archaeological sites, vernacular architecture, etc.) and the natural ones; and all the criteria to manage the World Heritage property (delimitation of the protected area; archaeological research; visits, accessibility and transport; principles for the urban planning; creation of a management organ which includes all the public administrations, experts and associations, etc.).

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