WHAT COULD IT BECOME?
An exceptional monumental site
The magnitude and singularity of the structures, their excellent
state of repair and the enormous archaeological interest that
they hold mean that today, although still being excavated, the
fortified village of Vilars could already be considered an unequalled
monumental site which must be qualified as exceptional.
Elements of its defensive systems including the wall, the towers,
the dragon's teeth and the dry ditch or structures for collective
use like the tank-well have made Vilars a decisive element for
understanding the protohistory of Catalonia, the peninsula and
even of Europe, in fields such as fortifications and the origin
and diffusion of the "chevaux-de-frise."
Agricultural working and the levelling imposed by the needs of
irrigation have destroyed the remains corresponding to the most
recent phases. In its present state, the levelling of the fields
has led to the destruction of the elevated structures and the
covering of the sunken ones; the site appears like a kind of flat
encephalogram, where the magnitude of the constructions are camouflaged
for the non-expert eye. The restitution of the original volume,
reconstructing the wall and the towers and the recuperation of
the levels of use through the emptying of the ditch and the great
tank-well will spectacularly reveal the grandeur of the site.
To achieve these objectives, an ambitious project for the recovery
of this part of our heritage is necessary which, as well as guaranteeing
the restoring and consolidation of the known structures, contemplates
the restitution and recreation of certain elements on the basis
of the data obtained from the excavation. This way added value
will be obtained, above that of the knowledge about, and protection
of, the site itself, which will allow the visitor to be submerged
in the life of an Ilergetian village, stroll through the streets,
rest in the communal areas, enter into the intimacy of the houses
or contemplate the horizon from the top of one of the towers.
Recovering the material element of this dead reality and bringing
it to life, animating the structures, spaces and activities developed
as a way to learn directly about a fortified Ilergetian village
and its inhabitants, is the real justification for Vilars 2000.
A legacy for the future
To make it possible to present the archaeological remains and make
them of public interest as a monumental site for today's population
and for future generations, Vilars has to be provided with the
necessary mechanisms for its protection and promotion within the
framework of the Law 9/1993, dated 30th September, of the Catalan
Cultural Heritage, and the Law 16/1985, dated 25th June, of Spanish
The current legislation about heritage assumes its transmission
to future generations as its basic priority, while guaranteeing
access and enjoyment by all the population. The giving of priority
to the second aspect, in response to the social demands of the
present, often conditions administration policy and the concrete
actuations in the field of historical and/or archaeological heritage.
In the case of Vilars, convinced of how exceptional it is, we
propose a scrupulous plan of action, respecting the past and aware
that it is a social and cultural legacy to be enjoyed today, while
guaranteeing its future.
In this sense, the initiation of the legal process for the declaration
of Vilars as a Site of National Cultural Interest (BCIN) in the
category of Archaeological Zone (Resolution of 10th June, 1995
DOGC number 2236, 29/7/1996), guarantees legal protection, the
establishing of basic norms and of criteria for action which regulates
its management and makes its integral recuperation and conservation
compatible with its use, guaranteeing respect for the monument
through the reversibility of any work carried out.
The fixing of these basic criteria from the development of a General
Plan and a Special Plan and the consequent budgetary corresponsibilty
for the different municipal, district and autonomous administrations
implicated in the conservation being publicly owned, allows the
gifting of a fortified Ilergetian village anchored in the past,
to the society of the 21st century.
An instrument for leisure
Archaeology, understood as research, too often keeps archaeological
remains sacred while they are a source of knowledge, leaving them
to their fate afterwards. Abandonment and the lack of a cultural
policy capable of dynamising and providing archaeological remains
with a new life often provokes indifference and a lack of understanding,
even animosity towards our heritage. This, lacking policies which
make its possibilities and attraction evident, is regarded by
a large part of the population as a lost wealth which generates
outlays and only merits the curiosity of the erudite.
For this reason, Vilars is conceived as heritage to be enjoyed,
a place to visit and a playground where the visitor can enjoy
the contemplation and understanding of the archaeological remains,
a historical witness to the collectives that preceded us. A primordial
objective is to ensure that the restoration and urbanising of
the surroundings, the building of infrastructure and installations
and a suggestive ambientation of the constructions and archaeological
spaces convert the ruins and their hidden scientific values into
a monumental site for explicit and transparent understanding by
the visitor. Their reconstruction and restitution are aimed at
rescusitating the past and, thus, stimulating the curiosity and
imagination of the visitors, and leading them to explore unsuspected
corners of the past.
A teaching tool
This vision of Vilars as an instrument of leisure is perfectly
compatible with its educative aspect. Effectively, its enormous
potential for transmitting knowledge converts it into a prime
teaching tool for placing the Ilergetian past within reach of
the general population.
The informative and educational message will be addressed to the
general public, both local and from afar, and to tourism in its
different modalities. It must be borne in mind that the specific
programmes dedicated to pedagogical methods and contents will
be aimed at what will undoubtedly be the majority component of
the visiting public, namely school parties. This alone guarantees
the cultural profitability of the project and obliges the project
to give preferential treatment for the infantile and juvenile
visitors. Vilars will be a permanent school which complements
their learning, an interactive school on the history of the past.
The partial reconstruction of certain functional spaces of different
use will allow, thanks to the recreation of situations, an understanding
of many of the aspects of the daily life of our Iberian forebears.
Walking through Vilars will mean entering a time tunnel where
visitors will become actors in a fantastic historical adventure.
On the way they will find the same instruments, tools, arms and
objects of all types as used by their Iberian ancestors, in faithfully
Specially trained monitors, acoustic guides and material for working
on will all help to take the passengers on this trip into the
past in accordance with their level of knowledge and age. The
adult public will have the additional opportunity to participate
in workshops prepared in the stage. They will have the opportunity
to learn actively to make the tools, mix clay and make an earthenware
dish, or adobe, or to build a house in the same way the Ilergetians
did 2,500 years ago. In this sense Vilars will become an obligatory
visit for schools from all around the country.
A range of didactic materials and publications will constitute the
complementary tools to facilitate this educational task in accordance
with the needs and desires of the spectator, child or adult, simply
curious or interested in learning more.
A research and experimental centre
The potential information available in Vilars could allow the setting
up of a number of experimental workshops orientated towards research
into the past, with the possibility of becoming a pilot centre
for the country.
Construction techniques in earth, formwork and adobe, mud wall
or dry stone, farming techniques, the production of earthenware,
metalworking or textile activity can be reproduced in these workshops,
which would function as regular courses aimed at everybody interested
in the past or in the recovery of traditional activities.
Parallely, Vilars 2000 would become an archaeological reserve.
The enormous wealth of the site, far from being exhausted, will
allow the systematic development of archaeological excavations
aimed at the training of new professionals. The site would comprise
a continuously active permanent research centre linked to the
University of Lleida (UdL) and able to offer theory and practice
in archaeology and related subjects to its students and those
from other centres. Undoubtedly, the possibility of showing the
visitor the processes and techniques used in excavations will
be another attraction.
An engine for social and cultural dynamisation
The Garrigues, a district with a little-known, even ignored, historical,
archaeological cultural and ethnological heritage would be given
a boost through Vilars. In the district or supra district framework,
the wealth and variety of the heritage would allow the designing
of routes based on one, or a variety, of themes, and the development
of the project from a point of view based on the ecological aspect
of museums, which would make it interesting to integrate natural
and ethnographic values.
Vilars will be integrated in the touristic circuits of both the
wider state and Catalonia. The name of Vilars and of the Garrigues
will become inseparable. Tourist offices, travel agencies, administrative
centres dedicated to dealing with the retired and the different
modalities of tourism, will include Vilars on their lists of not-to-be-missed
The Ilergetian fortress of Vilars, Arbeca, the Garrigues will be
signposted on the roads and motorways. Specially designed panels
will tell the traveller how to follow these tourist routes in
the interior, where they will simultaneously be able to make history
and enjoy the attractions of the district.
The local products (olives, olive oil, fruit) will be on offer
and will be promoted together with the cultural and ethnological
heritage of the district. A network of previously defined establishments
will offer the visitor the local gastronomy, contributing to making
a visit to Vilars into an unforgettable memory of the Garrigues.