Located in rural Catalonia, nine kilometres north of the city of Tarragona, is the Mèdol quarry.
The quarry is up to 20 metres deep, 200 metres long and 40 metres wide, it is thought that 50,000 cubic metres of stone were quarried from here ! It dates to the Roman presence when Tárraco (Tarragona) was the provincial center of Hispania and is thought to have been the source of much of the stone for many of the great public buildings in the city.
What is striking as you enter the quarry is the huge pinnacle of rock, L’Agulla del Mèdol, which the extraction of the quarry respected through out its use and which has survived intact to this day. A solitary and mysterious figure, it dominates the space,
but as you move further into the quarry you are met with dense vegetation of oak, olive and mastik trees, it feels like a lost world…!
Mèdol quarry was inscribed in 2000 as part of the UNESCO world heritage site Archaeological Ensemble of Tárraco. Further details about Roman Tárraco can be found at the El Museu Nacional Arqueològic de Tarragona (National Archaeological Museum of Tarragona) website. More information about Roman quarries in North-East Hispania can be found in a published thesis by Anna Gutiérrez Garcia-Moreno, Roman Quarries in the Northeast of Hispania (Modern Catalonia). The thesis is an fascinating study of the minerology, techniques of quarrying and the cultural background to their use in the Roman period and beyond. There is an excellent account of the subsequent understanding by archaeologists of El Mèdol, which is unexcavated, in which it is noted that between 1931 and 1934 it was the focus of a
‘concert-natura’,… which was supposed to give El Mèdol an international reputation as the Auditori Natural de Catalunya (ibid 147)’
Its amazing to think that there still remains such striking evidence of Roman activity in the landscapes of Catalonia but no surprise that they continue to capture the imagination.