The Carthaginian Walls
But having got to the centre of the Roman town, I thought I might as well go on to the far side, and visit the other surprisingly spectacular monument, the Carthaginian Walls. Even though the Carthaginians were only there for eighteen years this was long enough to build some stout defences.
In the 1980s a stretch of the Carthaginian wall was discovered and has since been put on display in a magnificent new building – a splendid model of modern concrete and glass architecture. This consisted of a double wall with rooms between the two walls where, the archaeologists suggest, horses may have been stabled, perhaps with accommodation for the grooms above them and then a broad wall walk on top.
However adjacent to the Carthaginian wall is another remarkable monument of a very different era. This is an underground burial crypt first recorded in the 17th century and apparently part of the Guild of St.Joseph (San José). This is an oval structure surrounded by niches in which burials were made and then plastered over, with a macabre Dance of Death painted on the outside. The niches have now all been opened — 110 in all — and at one end a modern staircase leads down into the crypt, so that one can go down and admire the bones close up.
The modern building is very impressive: there is a small theatre attached where the visitor can watch a film giving the historic background. I was there alone and they had an English soundtrack for me. Along the outside of the museum is another defensive wall which had me puzzled until they explained that this was the wall built by Charles III between 1771 and 1792 – Charles III is the best of all Spanish Kings who administered the kingdom with considerable efficiency.
But it is the double Carthaginian wall, with its internal rooms or casemates, that form the most remarkable element of the new museum. The Carthaginians may only have been there 18 short years – but they did a remarkable lot in that time.