the result is a bizarre atlas of a world that no longer exists

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If one winter night a time traveler arrived and took us, I don’t know, to the Spain of Felipe II, he would not recognize the Peninsula or the mother who gave birth to it. We have changed a lot in the last 450 years, but most of the time we are not aware of it. A good example is what happens with respect to flora and fauna. Above all because a huge historical cartography (just out of the oven) has just given names and surnames to the plants and animals that existed in Spain less than a century after the conquest of America.


Spain 450 years ago. The truth is that we know very little about the fauna and flora of the early 20th century… imagine what we know about the bugs of 450 years ago. For this reason, researchers in historical ecology look for all kinds of resources to try to compose a clear picture of what happened in the pre-industrial past: it is the only way to fully understand how botanical and zoological dynamics work in the long term.

The good news is that this information is there, what happens is that it is not accessible. In this case, a team of conservation biologists from the Doñana Biological Station has just analyzed in detail a historical document from the court of Felipe II in which interviews with countrymen from 628 towns were collected: the ‘topographic relationships‘. Processing it, they have created a database with the “7,300 records of wild plants and animals, crops and livestock” that appear in the Relations and, thanks to this, they have drawn a robot portrait of cHow was the world 450 years ago?.

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What was grown? This is perhaps the easiest thing to imagine because the expression “that came from America” ​​is quite popular. Without potatoes, beans or tomatoes, in the Spanish fields they were cultivated Lentils, peas, broad beans and other typical Mediterranean legumes such as yeros or almorta. Something that is only used (and in that way) in Manchego porridge.

beyond food, according to the researchers, flax and hemp were cultivated to make fabrics and silk was produced in many areas of the country. However, what really surprises you is the fauna and everything we have lost.

When the “zebras” were Iberian… Beyond rabbits, partridges or hares (which were widely consumed by the popular classes) and the deer, roe deer or wild boar that the upper classes hunted, the most outstanding thing was the vast extension in which the wolf, the brown bears and the lynx.

All that and of course the enzebros; the mythical breed of wild Iberian horse that is now extinct and that gave its name to the South African zebras. For the rest, there were still no crabs and the rivers were full of eels (something that today almost seems like science fiction).

A world that no longer exists. The database is amazing and tells us about a world that not only does not exist, but is very difficult to imagine. Often, we tend to imagine the world as an extension of “ours” and, as soon as we learn what it really was like… we discover it was much more different than we could suspect.

If one winter night a time traveler arrived and took us, I don’t know, to the Spain of Felipe II,…

If one winter night a time traveler arrived and took us, I don’t know, to the Spain of Felipe II,…

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