“Las Medulas”, declared as “World Heritage”
Rural cottages near the site of “Las Medulas”
The World Heritage status granted to Las Medulas confers the status of cultural landscape for the whole area as a space combining natural and cultural values. As such it is today an explicitly acknowledged patrimonial heritage of world scale.
Firstly for its historic significance, as a testimony of the changing modes of exploitation of the resources and of the changes in the way of life of the local communities during the Antiquity. On the one hand this was the largest open cast mine in the whole roman empire, with the mining clearances, reaching 3 km in its maximum extension and more than 100 meters deep.
On the other hand, Las Medulas is, above all, an exceptional example of a historic process. It is the best specimen, although not the only one, of the profound change that the roman gold-mining produced on the communities that inhabited the north-west of the peninsula.
Secondly, because all these transformations (that one can appreciate and understand directly on site, shaped out, for some part, as a relic or fossil landscape) gave rise to new realities that have conditioned its use up to the present day. This is not a static landscape, as it has always been subject to a permanent dynamism: the historic process did not end with the roman era.
The more than one thousand hectares transformed in the Roman Era gave a new articulation to the territory. The artificial plains by the wastes from the mines created new access routes to the zone. The Carucedo lake, produced by blocking up a valley with these wastes later on became a valuable fishing resource and is today a protected wetland. The old courses of the canals that carried the water used in the gold-mining process were re-used as lanes or routes for communication and moving cattle by the inhabitants of the zone. The crops introduced during the Roman Era, particularly the chestnut, have survived and have become an intrinsic sign of identity of “ Las Medulas”. Even the same areas left by the old mining clearances have given way to new forms of land exploitation.
Its inclusion in the World Heritage list (a fact that is also part of the history of Las Medulas) is a challenge, not just for those who are responsible for its protection or for its inhabitants but for all of us. One has to consider that Las Medulas is not a renewable property and that we all need to be involved if we want this to become a lasting asset all over.
On your way to las Medulas, or coming back, we recommend that you visit the Castle of Cornatel.
As interesting as its history is the singular location of this fortress : on an isolated rock leaning over the torrent of Rioferreiros. From there it is inevitable to feel vertigo by surveying everything. The landscape is amazingly varied and from this point we can admire the Aquiana peaks (south), the red and capricious Medulas gold mines and the Carracedo lake nearby (west), the green and luxuriant Sil river and a bit further away the Ancares peaks (north) and a large view over a group of various mountains (east).