The first thing to emphasize about the Garraf treasure is that it is not a legend. Exists. It is not an uncertain X on a map. It exists and was carefully photographed and documented in 1954 by a numismatist, because the treasure consists of, at a minimum, 176 precious, valuable and exciting silver dirhams from the 7th and 8th centuries. An antique dealer brought them in for him to appraise. It was probably a moment of indescribable emotion for that numismatist. That set of silver coins, around the year 750, had crossed half of the hitherto known world to end up hidden in the Garraf massif. But after enjoying them briefly at his office table, poof! They vanished without a trace. Until today, when…
The last clues about that treasure, that there are, we leave for later. Before, what, a possible portrait of the treasure, a story built with the invaluable collaboration of jordi gibertacademically professor of Sciences of Antiquity and the Middle Ages at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, but in this adventure, the archaeologist bent on finding the coins.
Let’s go back. In the year 739, the Berbers of the Maghreb rise up in arms against the Umayyad caliphate. Their reasons would have. The insurgency gives rise to three years of bitter skirmishes that the caliphate decides to break the tie by sending 27,000 soldiers from the so-called Greater Syriaa modern troop from the eastern shore of the Mediterranean, very professional men in killing the enemy and, consequently, well paid.
They cross the sea from east to west and, although very decimated after some fights in which they fought in brutal numerical inferiority, they fulfill their mission, but what is interesting is not the result of the battle, but the changes that occur in the metropolis they left behind. . The caliphate collapses. There is a change of dynasty. As a result of that, the Caliphate of Córdoba will become independent, as the ESO students study very well in the chapter of the lesson dedicated to Al-Andalus, but the crucial thing in this story is that part of that soldiery, given the political situation, will never return to their homeland. Many of them cross the Strait of Gibraltar and settle in the south of the peninsula. The proofs of this are several and irrefutable, and among them, the fact that In modern times, six treasures similar to that of Garraf have been found in that crescent in the south of present-day Spain. vases or bags of coins hidden in those centuries and never recovered by their owners. The one in Baena is the most famous of them.
What did those treasures consist of? I said, in coins, but not all identical. That’s why they are exciting. The ones that the numismatist Philip Mateu Llopis had briefly in his hands in 1954 had been minted in a constellation of distant mints, 21 in Damascus, one in Basra, eight in Marw, three in Ram-Hurmuz, two in Baratpur, and so on up to 21 different ancient cities in the Middle East that today are distributed among Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Iran, India… Only six of the coins were from southern peninsula mints.
Islamic civilization imitated the Persian monetary system, which is extremely fortunate for modern archaeological research. The city in which the coin was minted was printed on the pieces, the year and, in the absence of images of living beings, something expressly prohibited by religion, phrases from the Koran, something that, by the way, did not please, so seems, to the alfaquies, the fussy doctors of Islamic law, so those coins were contemptuously known as the ‘makruha’, that is, the hated ones.
Hated or not, silver dirhams were the 500 euro bills of old. What could be bought with loot like that of the Garraf? “A couple of slaves, for example & rdquor ;, explains Gibert.
The oldest clue of that about that disappeared treasure is in a text that the expert, Llopis Mateu, published that same 1954 in a specialized magazine under the title ‘Muslim Numismatic Finds’. He referenced there the name of the antiquarian, Antonio Villoldo Roca, and transcribed what he told her. “The discoverer was a peasant from the outskirts of Garraf, who, while carrying out some agricultural tasks, found the treasureof which he did not give more details, ignoring the total number of pieces, but according to the information collected by Mr. Villoldo, there must have been quite a few of the views, at least about 200 & rdquor ;.
The rest of the text was a very professional description of each one of the pieces and, in the last paragraph, a final speculation, which was the verification “of the passage of the Muslim hosts to the Narbonne and, possibly, the use of these rugged coasts as boarding places and occasional concealments & rdquor ;. By the latest minting date of the coins, year 745, 127 in the Muslim calendar, that episode fully coincides with the 82 years that Barcelona was Muslima circumstance that must be taken into account.
Neither the descendants of the numismatist nor those of the antiquarian have been able to provide Gibert with threads to pull, so the third option, perhaps the best, is to go in search of the mysterious peasant, but where?
It is at this time that the exceptional archaeological site of Can Sadurní appears on the scene, in the municipality of Begues, administratively Baix Llobregat, but topographically already Garraf. Can Sadurni is a cave where Manel Edo, a noted specialist in prehistory and ancient history, has been working as an archaeologist for 44 years, which has turned him (hopefully you’ll excuse us) into a sort of Doctor Who of archaeology. The protagonist of the iconic television series that the BBC began broadcasting in 1963 travels back in time on board his ship Tardis and Edo every time he enters the cave or works around it. The evidence of human presence in that privileged viewpoint dates back to 11,000 years ago. In times of the bronze age the cave was used for burial rituals. But the two best-known ‘hits’ of the work carried out there by Edo and his team are, without a doubt, the certification that 6,000 years ago there was beer in that cave (the oldest in Europe) and, later, the discovery of an idol barely eight centimeters high, about 6,500 years old, the so-called Encantat de Begues. To these two exceptional finds it may be necessary to add, here is the novelty, the Garraf treasure.
Why? A year ago, confirms Edo, a contemporary Islamic coin appeared among those that Mateu Llopis registered in 1954. It was a surprise until, as Gibert recounts, he realized that two nearby museums, in Vilanova and Gavá, have two other similar coins in their collections, also discovered in the entrances to the cave. In this case, it is advisable to use Okham’s Razor, methodological principle that supports two hypotheses, the simplest is usually the correct one. What is more reasonable, that there were two solitary and exceptional treasures of Islamic coins in the Garraf, a true rarity, or that they are simply the same?
From the Can Sadurní cave it is known that during the postwar period, in one of its many reincarnations (cemetery, prehistoric brewery, Neolithic cattle barn…) it was during the postwar period a place where mushrooms were planted. It could have been then, during the preparation of the land, before the archaeological value of that place was discovered, when that loot appeared that someone, some 1,277 years ago, could not collect. That the antiquarian Villoldo told the numismatist Mateu Llopis that the treasure was more than 200 coins and not the 176 that he took to his office indicates, that is the suspicion, that several of them were distributed among this, that and that of Begues. It is for this reason that days ago Gibert gave a well-documented conference precisely there, a peaceful town, with just over 7,300 residents, for sharing his research and, for that matter, for collecting answers or any clue that leads to new clues about the treasure of the Garraf.