07
Oct

Trading in Colour

Living in Barcelona one day I decided to visit Gava, a charming small town situated between the Natural park of Garraf and the mediterranean sea. I discovered this area also has an extensive neolithic mine complex running underneath for many kilometres. The mines are beautifully demonstrated through the Parc Arqueològic Mines de Gavà, which is designated a National Cultural Heritage site.

These mines were created to extract GREEN in the form of variscite, a gem stone possibly linked symbolically with the regeneration of life. This green mineral was crafted into ceremonial and decorative ornaments and traded throughout the Iberian peninsula of the time; through France and into Northern Italy, all of this 5000 years ago!

The mines are dated between 4100-3400 BCE and have an extensive network of tunnels with over 100 entrances to date excavated. The semiprecious green mineral is located here in seams of slate, within layers of limestone and dolomite(used in creating green celadon glaze for ceramics)the miners became familiar with the companion rocks and experts at discovering new seams.

ʺMeaning does not inhere in symbols, but must be invested in and interpreted from symbols by acting human beings. Interpretation is the product of a series of associations, convergences and condensations established through praxis.ʺ (Moore 1994: 74)

This may be true but there are symbols which have had seemingly universal and long-lived interpretations; colours are among the first. Green is a mixture of blue and yellow, symbolically heaven and earth combined, Spring, the triumph of life over death and spring over winter. The small variscite jewellery found in some of the burial sites , tells us how valued these objects would have been. The evidence of trading throughout such a large area encompassing many different peoples with their own cultural values, illustrates how colour had a physical and symbolic value in the form of green variscite.

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