Museu de Gibraltar

80 anos de história no Gibraltar Museum.

Gibraltar has a rich and varied past, and this is reflected in its archaeological record. The archaeology of Gibraltar is an area of study that has really come into its own within the past decade and has been steered and regulated by the Gibraltar Museum.

 

There have been a number of archaeological projects to date.

 

 

Bray’s Cave

and Gibraltar’s Recent Prehistory

 

 

The Pillars of Hercules

and the Phoenicians

 

 

Cosmopolitan Gibraltar

Urban Archaeology

 

 

Gibraltar during the World Wars

Stay Behind Cave

Celebrating 80 years of the

Gibraltar Museum

2010 commemorates the opening of the Gibraltar Museum in 1930.  A variety of events commemorating this event will take place during this year.  You can also learn more about the Museum’s 80 year history.

for your diary…

the last 80 years

15th March to 7th December 2010

Museums Day 2010

museums for social harmony

15th May 2010

Chapel inside Tower of Homage
A fifty-two year-old knight kneels in front of a box containing some human remains. A tear falls onto his maille. After a brief pause, he picks himself up and leaves the chapel that he has hurriedly built inside this tower, potent symbol of a place that his family regards as theirs. The year is 1462. The place is Gibraltar and the chapel is in the Tower of Homage. The knight is Don Juan Alonso Pérez de Guzmán y Orozco and he is the first of a long lineage to bear the title of Duke of Medina Sidonia. The bones are his father’s…

The duke’s father was Don Enrique Pérez de Guzmán y Castilla, second Count of Niebla and grandson – his mother was the bastard daughter of the king – of Henry II of Castille. Being a descendant of the king this particular Guzmán had competence, under the peculiar medieval rules of warfare and engagement, to conquer cities. And he put this right to effect when chance came his way.

Tired of constant raids on his border lands between Tarifa and Cádiz by Muslims from Gibraltar, Guzmán decided to put a stop to the incursions. And so in 1436, one hundred and twenty seven years after Alonso Pérez de Guzmán – “El Bueno” – had first taken Gibraltar from the Muslims, his great grandson sought to emulate the achievement. In the interim Gibraltar had been retaken by the Muslims in 1333 and was now in the hands of the sultans of Granada. Guzmán’s intelligence was either out-of-date or simply wrong. He seemed unaware that the Muslims had, since the second capture, built a defensive wall around Gibraltar. His attempted amphibious landing was a disaster. Guzmán and forty knights drowned on the narrow beach between the walls and the sea as the tide rose. The Muslim’s beheaded the count and placed the decapitated body in a basket which they hung over the city walls. There it remained for twenty six years as lesson and reminder to others of the fate that awaited those attempting a similar folly.

Taking Gibraltar twenty six years later – in 1462 – was a simpler affair. Treachery made it possible without having to spill a drop of blood but it was not devoid of internal bickering and dispute over who was the rightful owner. It is a lesson of life that, in fighting the palpable enemy without, noble souls often succumb to the cryptic enemy within. The capture of Gibraltar in 1462 happened because a Gibraltar Muslim – known to the Spaniards as Alí El Curro – defected and converted to Christianity, in the process changing his name to Diego del Curro. He informed the Mayor of Tarifa – Alonso de Arcos – that Gibraltar could be taken easily and provided him with intelligence of such detail that convinced Alonso to mobilise and march on the Rock. This was not part of a concerted plan by the internally divided Kingdom of Spain; it was instead, like so many other gains wrongly attributed to a religious and righteous Reconquest, a scrap for booty and glory among warlords hiding under a veil of hereditary nobility. It was thus that flags, lances and cavalry gathered round the walls of Gibraltar – to the surprise of a terrified and unprepared garrison – in the August heat of 1462. Nobody could have predicted the unbelievable story, involving bureaucracy, deceit, disloyalty and betrayal, that would eventually allow Juan Alonso Pérez de Guzmán y Orozco to give rest to his father’s remains inside the Tower of Homage…

Clive Finlayson
This article was first published in the Gibraltar Chronicle

Friday, December 31, 2010

 

All change: Theories of human ancestry get an overhaul

Article in BBC News Online, today 31st December, 2010 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-12093345

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

 

The Goth, the Arab and the Berber

Jebel Musa (Africa) from Jebel Tarik (Europe)
The atmosphere was tense as tired and hungry soldiers anticipated long-awaited orders. Finally Alaric, the King of the powerful Visigoths, gave the signal. On the 24th August, 410, they marched into Rome and sacked it. It was the end of an era. Rome would never be the same again. Flavius Honorius, Western Roman Emperor, could only contemplate civilization’s impotence from his distant refuge in Ravenna. As always, the mighty had fallen…

Later that year the forty-year old Alaric – his name meant “the king of all” – succumbed, it seems to malaria, and died. The accelerated life of the man born on the shores of the Danube thus ended in Cosenza, southern Italy. Thirteen years, almost to the day, after the sack of Rome the thirty-nine year old Honorius, emperor of a decayed empire, died of dropsy. Others, soon forgetting the nature of their own mortality, also allowed ambition and greed to rule over them. They filled the empty niches and perpetuated history.

One consequence of Visigothic success was their entry and settlement, five years after the sack of Rome, of the Roman territory of Hispania. Six hundred and thirty three years after the hard-earned Roman conquest of Hispania from the Carthaginians the Visigoths, with Roman encouragement, eased into the Iberian Peninsula and made it their home. Time had eroded the bravery and nobility of the great Roman general Scipio Africanus, victor over Hannibal in Zama, into forgotten futility. For history does not matter when confronted by expediency.

Almost three hundred years after the Visigoths had entered Hispania, a new king comes to the throne. This is not an unusual occurrence. Roderick happened to be the thirty-third monarch since Hispania came under Visigoth control, a testament to the turbulence and violence of the time. But even by Visigoth standards – I calculate the average life span of a reign to have been under nine years – Roderick’s seventeen-month sovereignty was, to say the least, brief. It is not unusual, either, that he came to power after a bloody civil war. It was the Visigoth way. On the 1st March, 710, Roderick was proclaimed king of Hispania. He was to be the last king of the Visigoths.

From the outset this king had to contend with intrigue and vengeance plots from those he had defeated and deposed: the brother of Witiza (Roderick’s rival) – Oppas, the bishop of Seville – among them. He sought refuge and assistance on the other side of the Strait of Gibraltar, in Ceuta. Ceuta was under the control of an obscure character, a Count Julian who is often regarded to have been a Gothic relative of Witiza. Others regard him to have been the former Byzantine governor of Carthage, which had fallen to a new force – the young Muslim Empire – in 698. Julian, it seems, had good reason for wanting to remove Roderick from power. He had, in accordance with tradition, sent his beautiful young daughter Florinda to the Visigothic court in Toledo where she would receive education close to the king. Roderick raped the girl.

While all this was happening the relentless westward expansion of the Arabs across North Africa had brought them to the Maghreb where they had to contend with a tough resistance from the local Berbers. They were renowned warriors and had home advantage in the abrupt terrain of the Rif and Atlas mountains. Conquest took the route of absorption into the faith. Equipped with the fervour of their new-found religion, the Berbers were unstoppable. Tension and rivalry between them and their Arab masters simmered but a common faith kept the pot from boiling over. In history, the call of the gods has often been a powerful rallying force. Territorial expansion has been its close ally. Count Julian knew this and was about to exploit it to his advantage…

Two men sit, minds wonderfully concentrated, as Samuel Johnson would put it in another place and time, with the prospect of death looming. One is an Arab and the other a Berber. Here in Damascus in February of the year 715 it all seems so distant in space and time. Sulayman b. ‘Abdilmalik, has just achieved absolute power – he is the Caliph, successor to the messenger of God. The Caliph summons the Arab who approaches uneasily. It is hard to believe that this Arab – Musa b. Nusayr – had been the governor of the whole of North Africa and had been instrumental in the conquest of the territory that the Arabs had chosen to call al-Andalus – the old Hispania of the Romans and Visigoths. Why was he here and in such a precarious position? He had overstepped his authority. Worried that his massive achievement, beyond the orders given, might overshadow the Caliph, Musa had been summoned to Damascus. But Sulayman was also, more mundanely, concerned with the spoils of war. Musa had arrived as the former Caliph, al-Walid, was dying. Sulayman, al-Walid’s brother, ordered Musa not to enter Damascus – he wanted to receive Musa, once proclaimed Caliph, and receive the treasures for himself. But Musa ignored the order.

Musa faced many charges, most to do with division of spoils of conquest and misappropriation of treasury shares. Tariq, the Berber, confirmed the charges against his master. This should not surprise us. When Tarik crossed the Strait of Gibraltar in April 711 he had marched on and faced none other than Roderick in one of those singular battles of history that decided the fate of a kingdom. Tarik had managed to “sneak” twelve thousand men across the Strait and landed on the Rock which since then has borne his name. He did it with the help of the astute Julian – he provided Tarik with Visigothic merchant vessels that disguised conquest in a veil of commerce. He also advised Tarik on the manner of the conquest by providing him with intelligence. Julian had avenged his daughter.

Tarik, with significantly smaller numbers than Roderick’s army, won the protracted battle in July 711 and eventually caught up and killed Roderick. Betrayal played a central role in the defeat. Witiza’s sons had plotted to abandon Roderick in full battle, leaving his flanks exposed to the attacks of the Berber cavalry. They had expected Tarik’s to have been a raid followed by withdrawal, leaving Hispania to them. They had not anticipated Tarik’s rapid drive to the capital Toledo. It seems that Musa had not either. Envious of Tarik’s success, and not wanting to miss out on the booty, he quickly followed him to Toledo. When Tarik came to greet his master, the reward for his achievement was to be struck by Musa’s whip for having exceeded the limits of his authority. The division between Arab and Berber could not have been more accentuated – envy had, on this occasion, overruled religion.

Musa seems to have pacified Sulayman with his treasures to the point that both later travelled together to Mecca in 716. It seems, rather obscurely, that he died on the way. Musa’s family and friends were treated badly by the new regime in North Africa. Tarik’s fate seemed a better one for a while as Sulayman contemplated making him governor of al-Andalus but envious advisers told the caliph that “if Tarik were to tell the Muslims of al-Andalus to pray facing any direction other than the qibla, they would obey him, without thinking that this was heresy.” Tarik, a Berber after all, never got the job and died in total obscurity. Were it not for the Jbel Tarik in which we live, most of us would probably be oblivious of this Berber general’s achievement.

In the end, the loss of energy that defeated the Romans ironically affected the formerly energetic conquering Visigoths who were themselves conquered by a new wave of energy. Once in al-Andalus these new settlers would also be accused by other North African dynasties of having become soft. The Strait of Gibraltar would see repeated waves of conquerors from the south over the next six hundred years…

Clive Finlayson
This article was first published in the Gibraltar Chronicle



Thursday, December 16, 2010

 

The Prince and the Tadpole

A decomposing, decapitated, frogman floats off Pilsey Island in Chichester Harbour. It is the 9th June, 1957. Out of a wave of controversy a coroner announces that he is convinced that the frogman was Lionel Crabb. At the end of 2007, a 74-year old former Soviet frogman – Eduard Koltsov – clears his conscience by admitting to having killed Crabb in Portsmouth Harbour in 1956. In a different time and place, the 26th August, 1974, Junio Valerio Borghese who had settled in Conil de La Frontera, Cádiz, died in suspicious circumstances. It is thought that he may have been poisoned.

Borghese had had a distinguished career in the Italian Navy. He had been born in Rome in 1906 into the rich Aristocrazia Nera (the “black nobility”) Borghese family and, by 1933, he had become a submarine commander. Seven years later, on the night of the 29th September, 1940, Borghese – the Black Prince – was 50 miles off Gibraltar in command of the 620-ton Seria Adua class submarine Scire. It was a dark night, the moon was in its last quarter, and the Black Prince was poised to exploit the cover of darkness and attack the British Fleet in Gibraltar Bay. The moment had been carefully chosen. Then the disappointment came. The British Fleet had sailed to escort a convoy and the operation had to be aborted. Borghese was back a month later.

Scire had been refitted in la Spezia in order to carry out covert operations with manned torpedoes – the Maiale . It had been given a smaller conning tower than other submarines and she had been painted a pale green colour. The outline of a fishing boat had been painted on the bow, pointing in the opposite direction to the movement of the submarine. All these adaptations had been designed to promote stealth. The Black Prince was appropriately at the helm – he had after all organised the Decima Flottiglia, arguably the first modern naval commando unit – as he entered Gibraltar Bay. So, on the night of the 29th October, 1940, Scire surfaced at the entrance to Gibraltar Bay. But finding too much surface activity she submerged once more and made for the northern end of the Bay. Here, in shallow water off the Guadarranque River, she spawned her Maiale and left. The plan was that the frogmen manning the torpedoes would make their escape by swimming to the Spanish beaches.

The attack was one of three attacks of this kind and they met with varying success. A year later, the Black Prince was commanding Scire off Alexandria and severely damaged HMS Valiant and Queen Elizabeth. The success refreshed his spirit and he refocused on Gibraltar. He introduced the GAMMA group of elite frogmen who were specially trained for underwater sabotage. They reputedly attacked ten ships, damaged six and sank four. They operated from the Olterra in Algeciras harbour, a refitted 5000-ton Italian tanker which had been scuttled by its crew in 1940 when Italy entered the war. The conversion allowed the human torpedoes to operate from a fixed base.

The threat was countered in Gibraltar by a mine and bomb disposal unit – the Underwater Working Party. In November, 1942, a young naval lieutenant arrived at Gibraltar. Born in 1909, Lionel Crabb, was three years younger than the Black Prince. His job had been to disarm mines removed by divers but the determined lieutenant, by all accounts not a good swimmer, learnt to dive and was soon checking ships’ hulls for limpet mines. They swam breaststroke, without fins, using the rudimentary Davis Escape Apparatus which had only been used for breathing close to the surface. It was a kind of oxygen re-breather that had been invented in 1910. On the 8th December, 1942, they acquired two Scuba sets (these had first appeared in 1939 and are not to be confused with the open circuit – aqualung – system invented later by Cousteau and Gagnan) from two Italian frogmen who appear to have been killed by depth charges in the bay. Crabb became known as “Buster Crabb”, after the American actor and swimmer Buster Crabbe although his subordinates called him Tadpole.

When I walk past South Jumpers Bastion I sometimes imagine the sound of a dog barking and a parrot squawking… It was here that Tadpole and the Underwater Working Party had their headquarters and they lived, reputedly, with a few canaries, an Alsatian with six pups, and a parrot which belonged to Crabb himself.

A small rowing boat weaves its way round the large warships and merchantment anchored in Gibraltar Bay. In it is a shabbily dressed Mediterranean-looking individual, nondescript, a fisherman. But he is no ordinary fisherman. His name is Elvio Moscatelli, an Italian, and he is the doctor of the secret unit operating from the Olterra. His intelligence was invaluable in selecting the targets that the Maiali would hit. We can only imagine Crabb sitting on his boat, preparing to dive or drop depth charges, watching Moscatelli fishing close by. Did they ever make eye-contact?

By 1944, after Italy had fallen to the allies, Crabb was given command of anti-sabotage diving in northern Italy. Some Italians had joined the allied cause while others fled the country. While head of the Clearance Diving Team in Venice, Crabb’s senior diver and medical officer was none other than Elvio Moscatelli! Among those who fled was the Black Prince. An ardent fascist, it is no surprise that he chose to carry on fighting alongside the Nazis. After the war he was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment but was released by the Italian Supreme Court, four years later, in 1949. On the 8th December, 1970, the Black Prince returned to the centre stage. He was thought to be at heart of a failed coup d’Etat – the Golpe Borghese – and fled the country.

By then Crabb had been long dead. Crabb, by then retired, was recruited by MI6 to check out the Soviet Cruiser Ordzhonikidze which had brought Nikita Khrushchev and Nikolai Bulganin on a diplomatic mission to the United Kingdom. On the 19th April, 1956, the Tadpole dived in Portsmouth harbour and was never seen alive again…

Clive Finlayson
This article was first published in the Gibraltar Chronicle

Friday, December 10, 2010

 

Warren’s Map

The fog swirls down the Thames as the night sets in. The timeless mists are ready, one more time, to hide the shadowy activities of Londoners who, like bats, swarm the back streets after dark. Will the city’s most notorious predator, a veritable vampire, pounce tonight?

The lazy autumn sun single-handedly battles miasma and smog as it struggles to make dawn. A shaky hand drops a Wedgwood cup, spilling some Earl Grey on a clean tablecloth, a metaphor for a decaying Empire. But the matter at hand is more pressing than the uncontrollable geopolitics of world affairs. The vampire struck again last night. The cause of the interrupted breakfast is not the news of the latest predatory strike. It is the realisation of what will follow: impotence is a powerful political force that can destroy even the most accomplished. This is the last straw: Charles Warren, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, has been defeated and must go. Jack, our blood-sucking ripper, lives on and will strike another day.

The sands settle once more. Nothing has changed. Like many a modern football team striving for success, a change of manager has not altered the fortunes. Jack continues to terrorise the streets of London. Warren takes stock of his life. In a distant time and place, a tiny limestone Rock at a time when Empire still had meaning, a young officer had lived a life of freedom under the Mediterranean sun. Gibraltar was unaccustomed to peace and it was making the most of it. The city was a bee hive as wind and steam brought people and merchandise from the furthest confines of the planet. But so many people and so little hygiene were soon to create havoc in the population as the spectre of cholera loomed.

Charles Warren had not worried about these things. He shared every youth’s belief in personal immunity from fate. Nothing could stop him. He walked and climbed every bit of the limestone Pillar that had been put there by Hercules for him to survey eons later. And he was going to chart every one of its hidden secrets. Warren produced a spectacular map of Gibraltar, with the elegance and character that escapes a modern-day geographic information system. Things took longer then but, then again, the best dishes take time to bake. We have lost in quality what we have gained in speed.

The year is now 2010 AD. A family visits the Gibraltar Museum and they marvel at a wonderful model of the Rock that occupies an entire room. It took three years to make, from 1865 to 1868 and they wonder how it was made and who did it. The young boy calls his parents over and draws attention to a plaque that tells them the model was based on a detailed survey by a Lieutenant Charles Warren. They move on to the next room and Warren returns to anonymity. Meanwhile Jack the Ripper’s infamy guaranteed him immortality. Life and history are contingent. If we could go back to Warren’s time on the Rock and replayed the tape, would he have become Commissioner of the Metropolitan, and would Jack have terrorised London?

Clive Finlayson
This article was first published in the Gibraltar Chronicle

Thursday, December 2, 2010

 

Next Museum Lecture

The Ghosts of History

It is Sunday. As is usual most weekends, I am in the museum working on some research article, preparing for a lecture or simply thinking. The telephone doesn’t ring and I can keep the pushy email at bay.

We spend most of our lives racing without dedicating enough time to pausing and contemplating. Last year we celebrated Darwin and his work and I stop and ask myself if the world of the 21st Century might be capable of producing a Darwin? The Origin was the product of observation and thought: Darwin one day took off on a world tour and had the time to do both. He did not have the incessant interruptions and bureaucratic intrusions that might have otherwise plagued him and kept him from expressing his genius. And the world would have suffered as a result.

Being alone inside the museum is almost like being in Dr Who’s tardis. I’m sitting in a room that is a curious mix of Mediterranean and Empire: sash windows and Genoese shutters are at peace today; as if this day of rest had given them a temporary reprieve from the hooting monsters that spew out diesel and petrol fumes on Line Wall Road every other day of the week. A hanging uniform, once proudly worn by a regimental sergeant-major of the South Staffordshire Regiment around 1900, silently imposes its presence upon me and makes me feel miniscule within history’s macroscopic agenda. Books narrate to me the well-rehearsed stories of Empire’s splendour but I just cannot get into the mind of the person who wore that coat. And I wonder whose history it is that I am reading?

The ageless church bells peal. You might be forgiven for almost expecting to hear the clatter of a company of Tommies as they march past outside, but that was another time…The space that I am occupying is timeless. How many stories have been told here? How many ephemeral lives have entered and left this space, unrecorded by the scribes, discarded to eternal anonymity? It is not an easy thing to grasp history’s reality. We construct and deconstruct filtered strands that have reached us from the past and which our imaginations then shape; and like Borges’ Averroes the characters simply vanish the moment I stop thinking of them.

I leave the room to wander along the galleries of an unlit and sleeping museum. My torch shines here and there revealing muskets and scarabs, flint knives and steel swords; and I see myself in the reflection on the glass pane from one of the cases. I struggle to assimilate how many other reflections there might have been in this very place. Perhaps we should imagine the lives of those other people who have shared the same space. With a little help from the objects which they left behind, and with a large helping of humility, we might just be able to get under their skin; in the process we may get glimpses of their lives and discover history.

Clive Finlayson

This article was first published in the Gibraltar Chronicle

22nd July – City Walls

29th July – 100 Ton Gun, Rosia, Parsons Lodge

5th August – TBC

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Maníaco por museus de todo mundo. Eles trazem a história, o futuro, o diferente e a cultura. Entretenimento e educação. Viaje em maniamuseu.
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