Sunday, 15 August 2010

Wot I Did On My Holidayz III: Pit or Tower?

I still do not know what this structure is. At first I thought it was a pen for corralling livestock – most likely goats or sheep that had been left to browse through the scrubby coastal forest but it seems a lot of trouble to go to for a few goats, especially as there is obviously better grazing to be had further inland. Another theory is that this may be a shooting cover, similar to the grouse butts found on the moors of the North Pennines, which are often build of local stone and turfed over to provide cover for driven shoots. However, nobody is ever going to get a shot at anything from the bottom of a pit with a 4 metre wall enclosing them – unless the trick is to place oneself at the top of the wall and shoot out over the tops of the low scrub. Either way this is a modern structure and must have a use – answers on a postcard please.

5 comments:

Nick O'Siris said...

Looks very much like an old snow pit. I'm no expert but I have seen similar.

TenHornedBeast said...

A snow pit? As in a cistern that would collect snow in winter which would then melt? Does the south coast of Menorca get much snow?

Nick O'Siris said...

The story I was told about snow pits on Mallorca was that they would be packed with snow in the winter which would last well into the spring and even summer. A large percentage of the paths through the mountains that exist today were created by the snow workers.
Having said all that I reiterate that I'm not an expert on these things and it could easily be a lime-kiln or something. As you say, Menorca may never have had the snowfall to make this a worthwhile pastime.

Nick O'Siris said...

Oh. A little research has turned up this:
"The packed snow was put into the pit and each layer covered with càrritx, a pampas-like grass, to make it easier to split the blocks later. When the pit was full it was covered with ashes and branches then carefully guarded. On summer nights blocks of ice were taken down on mules to the villages and towns. It was not only used for ice-creams and cooling drinks, but also medicinally. The local authority controlled the price and a tax was fixed on it. Sometimes ice had to be imported from the mainland, but in glut years it was exported to Menorca. The last time a snow-pit was used was in 1925 on Puig de Massanella."
Perhaps not then.

TenHornedBeast said...

Many thanks for the info - I find these folk customs very interesting. I love the Balearics and their mix of European, Phonecian and Moorish culture/mythology. Going to Ibiza next year, hopefully try to find signs of the Ibizan Genet.