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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 Historical Heritage.

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 reproduced surroundings.

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 places.

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.