Human activity in the Mazarrón area has a long history. It is said that Mazarrón has 180 archaeological sites dating from Stone Age times onwards, but it is much later – in the 4th millennium BC that things really start to become interesting with the very important remains of a Chalcolithic (Copper Age) settlement and burial in the Cabezo del Plomo south of Mazarrón, which are well worth visiting.
The Cabezo del Plomo
The Cabezo del Plomo is not much more than a kilometre north of Bolnuevo. Along the road from Mazarrón to Bolnuevo, just after a sharp right bend, there is a sign to the Virgen del Milagro Desaladora, (water desalination plant), which indicates to turn off along on the right. There is ample space to park off this road. About 200 metres along it, a short asphalt track goes at a very acute angle up the hill towards the Cabezo del Plomo site. We have always parked at the bottom of this hill and enjoyed a leisurely walk up it while admiring the surrounding scenery.
The Cabezo del Plomo is an excellent example of a hilltop settlement and considerable archaeological investigations have been undertaken by the University of Murcia in several stages between 1979 and 1985. Several hut circles were closely studied. This work dated the settlement at the late 4th millennium to the mid 3rd millennium BC.
After about 200 metres ascending the asphalt road, you turn to the left to go up a concrete track with a sign Cabezo del Plomo, which gives details about the site. This path is steep, but again, the distance is quite short. Before the path does a right angled turn to the left to rise very steeply for another 100/150 metres, you will find a signboard indicating that you have now reached the remains of a burial area situated at the foot of, but outside, the main settlement area. This rare subterranean construction was built sometime in the first half of the fourth millennium BC and consisted of a trapezoidal chamber covered by a mound, (tumulus). The monument was built in the form of a circular hut to be a dwelling for the deceased in the afterlife. Some similarities have been observed between the type of construction found here and others, (Tholoi tombs), found further east in the Mediterranean and Aegean Sea areas. It is likely that the burials took place one after another in the chambers and objects have been found belonging to the deceased buried alongside them. Cremation would appear to have been the order of the day.
Nearly at the top, the path curves around to the right, with the desalination plant and reservoir immediately in front of you. It is then a short distance on a roughish, curving track to another signboard telling you that you have arrived at the remains of the settlement – the Poblado Enolítico, of the Cabezo del Plomo. We suggest you simply use the path to wander around to see the exposed remains. In addition, there are again excellent views of the surrounding countryside, including the old mines of Mazarrón.
As you walk around, you will find two further informative bilingual signboards. One tells you that the circular living quarters had stone floors and would have been roofed with thatch or similar materials. You can see the wall base stones of one dwelling immediately behind the signboard. The other signboard is concerned with the settlement’s defences and tells you that the inhabited area of the huts was protected by a defensive wall located in the most vulnerable southern and western parts of the site. The wall had numerous bastions placed along it and the outline of several can be seen. Inside the walls were 11 houses.
Many items of daily use were recovered from the huts, especially arrowheads and scraping tools, as well as eating utensils. Personal items included shell and limestone bead necklaces. Carbon 14 dating has indicated that the settlement was in existence around 3220-2900 BC and the number of habitable units suggests a total population of slightly less than 100 people.
The Cabezo de los Gavilanes Archaeological Site
As you drive along the road from Bolnuevo to Puerto de Mazarrón, passing a roundabout on the seafront by the sign for the old salt extraction works (Entrada del Abastacimiento de Agua de las Salinas) and a blue and white painted hut by the road, you will see the constructed wooden walkway going to the remains of the water extraction area immediately in front of you.
At the end of this short walkway, the promontory of the Cabezo de los Gavilanes is clear – an area of rock rising from the sand to your left. A short walk around the small bay brings you to the entrance of the remains of the prehistoric settlement and a viewpoint. Today, the settlement remains are well protected by large gates and a wire fence so that entry is normally impossible. However, you can walk up a constructed path on this small headland, past the fence and the remains to a viewpoint – the Mirador del Cabezo Pico del Aguila.
The viewpoint is on the second rise past the archaeological remains, giving a stunning view back inland to the mountains and up and down the coast. The constructed path passes over a small wooden bridge which is located just past the settlement remains, where the rocks give way momentarily to sand, with a final ascent of 54 steps to the viewpoint. This is a wide flat area where you can wander or just sit down on one of the several concrete seats to enjoy the views.
Looking back you will see the settlement remains at the beginning of the headland. Excavation of these archaeological remains has taken place over several years with the finds, at least in winter, covered with plastic sheeting when no work is underway. If you are lucky enough to be there when the remains are uncovered, you should be able to see clear hut outlines and wall foundations, as well as entrances.
What precisely is the interest of this site?
It is said that this headland was, in fact, first occupied during the first centuries of the second millennium BC (ie some 4000 or so years ago) by the Argaric peoples who were a Bronze Age culture in the south east of Spain. In the 8th and 7th Centuries BC the headland was a trade centre for the Phoenicians while silver smelting took place there somewhat later, perhaps in the 4th and 3rd Centuries BC. The headland was apparently abandoned as an occupied zone at around the time of the end of Roman settlement.
Based upon extracts from the book “Exploring Murcia – Mazarrón” by Clive and Rosie Palmer, who have written several guide books on towns and regions in Murcia. Their book, “Exploring Murcia, Days Out” is available to buy from the Costa Cálida Chronicle office on Camposol B, Best Wishes (who also stock their other books), or phone Patti on 968 433 978.
All their books can be viewed at and obtained from www.lulu.com, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.