Spanish Answers

by Deb on June 1, 2012

Iberian Lynx

Something completely different – what do you know about Spain? Click to see the questions first.

1.     The Way of St James is El Camino de Santiago. Santiago de Compostela is the capital of the autonomous community of Galicia, and Santiago is Galician for St James. It is the legendary resting place of the remains of St James the apostle, and was one of the major mediaeval pilgrimages. It is tied to the Reconquest after the Moorish occupation of Spain, as the spirit of St James is said to have fought with the Christian armies, but before that the pilgrim’s trail was a trade route.

There are many different variations that feed from Europe across the north of Spain, with a pilgrimage the destination and journey are important, not the exact way that is travelled. Now I suspect there are more tourists than actual pilgrims. Have a look at the lovely video at the bottom.

map

2.     The oldest evidence of people in Spain is around a million years old. Spain today may be culturally European, but it is a very easy trip from Africa. There are remains from Atapuerca that are dated at 700,000 to 1.2 million years old. There is some debate over who the mysterious people are – they are definitely Homo and therefore human, but not modern Homo sapiens like us. They are some type of precursor who used fire and stone tools.

There are also many later human fossils and remains in Spain, including Neandertals – fully human with brains larger than ours but possibly not the same species as us – and beautiful cave art from Altamira.

altamira

3.     Spain was historically many small kingdoms that combined after the Catholic reconquest into Imperial Spain.  Each kingdom had its own language, and while they are closely related they are different. Spain has a national official language which we call Spanish, but some regions also have their own official language which is generally used in that region rather than Spanish. In order,

  • ‘Spanish’ is Castilian, the Kingdom of Castile was dominant in the formation of Spain.
  • Catalan is spoken by around 17% of the population, on the eastern coast and islands.
  • Galician is spoken by around 7% of the population, on the west coast north of Portugal.
  • Basque is spoken by around 2% of the population in a small northern region in the Pyrenees. Basque is a very mysterious language – it is not part of the Indo-European language family and appears to be unrelated to any other known language except pre-historic Aquitainian. It seems to be the only remnant of the languages spoken in Europe before the spread of the Indo-European languages that dominate today. The other modern Spanish languages are romance languages descended from Latin thanks to Roman conquests, that took over from the original local languages.

4.     The Pyrenees are a mountain range across the neck of the Iberian peninsula, between Spain and France. They are older than the Alps and formed when the sea floor to the west spread, creating the Bay of Biscay. This pushed the Iberian peninsula south and and east, creating enormous wrinkles in the neck that we call mountains.

Pyrenees

5.     The cutie up the top is an Iberian Lynx, a critically endangered animal unique to Spain and Portugal. It is related to the European lynx but lived alongside them before being confined to Iberia. They hunt small animals in open scrubland and population numbers have rapidly dropped in the last century, mainly due to loss of habitat and prey. They are now protected but there is only one breeding population and there may only be 100 animals left. There are currently some artificial breeding programs and charities trying to maintain them.

 

I still don’t think that I’d walk for a month, but this does make it look like an awesome thing to do. My parents said it was worth it just to see the incense in the cathedral.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Belen June 1, 2012 at 8:29 am

I’ve been following your blog for long and picking up many of your ideas for science projects (thanks for sharing!). But left no comment until today, that I felt so far away but so close… I’m from Spain and it was so nice to see your comments about my country. Your description of “El camino de Santiago” was great. My family comes from Galicia, but I currently live in Catalonia (eastern coast) and pilgrims to Santiago are not so unusual, specially in summer.

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Deb June 1, 2012 at 9:29 am

Thanks so much for saying hello 🙂
My sister actually lives in Tarragona, she is married to a Catalonian. I’m really glad you appreciated this, it’s hard to write about someone else’s country as an outsider.

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