Copper, Copper, Everywhere

I love history, but I’m no historian. It was always one of my favourite subjects at school, despite the fact that I wasn’t especially good at it (particularly when it became Historiography). Were it not for History, I might have achieved a string of straight As at A Level. I didn’t. The temptation to study a subject I loved but wasn’t brilliant at was too strong. It’s a lesson I didn’t learn when I went on to study Arabic at university. There, too, I paid for my interest. But I can’t help myself. I love a challenge, and I love history even more. Ever since getting my first Horrible Histories book as a kid I’ve been hooked.

Please don’t ask me about the Chalcolithic Age, though.

Yesterday I went to Almendralejo’s EOI (Escuela Oficial de Idiomas) to take part in an excursion to Huerta Montero, a Copper Age tholos or communal passage grave on the outskirts of town. The visit was primarily for the benefit of the B1 level students of the school, so that they could learn some of their history of their town at the same time as practising their English. We don’t get many tourists coming out here for the history (we don’t get many tourists out here at all, come to that), so rather than hiring the local guide, the EOI decided to use one of the auxiliares to give the tour. Tasha knew me for a history boffin and suggested me. Yours truly then had to clue up on this obscure Chalcolithic (please don’t make me pronounce that again) sepulchre, gleaning facts and titbits about Copper Age Spain to produce a reasonably interesting (and, crucially, intelligible) presentation for the students. I did say I like a challenge…

I learned a lot, I must say. I’ve never really looked into the Copper Age, or the Bronze Age, or even the Stone Age for that matter. Did you know, for example, that the average life expectancy in the third and fourth millennia BCE was around 23 years old? It was pretty humbling to be giving out that little factoid with twenty-three years to my own name. Also new to me, and perhaps more interesting still, was the knowledge that Almería, once home to El Argar, Spain’s dominant Bronze Age culture, is in part the product of Bronze Age environmental meddling. The El Argar civilisation, Spain’s most advanced in its day, developed at such a voracious speed that, together with a shift in climate, it resulted in the creation of Almeria’s vast semi-desert, such as the Sierra de Baza and the Tabernas wastes. A message for our time if ever there was one.

I’m not sure how much information the students gleaned from my presentation alone. I did my best. The ensuing hour or two over a pint in Almendralejo’s Hotel Acosta Centro was a great deal more informative, and it re-affirmed my faith in humanity in finding more than one avid naturalist amongst the Extremeño community. The fires of Catalonia are still smouldering, but on an environmental front, I do believe Spain is changing for the better. Whether it is too little too late remains to be seen, but a little awareness can do so much good.

Here’s to that. Chin chin! BB x

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