Alfarnatejo's history... Neolithic Phoenician Roman Moors
5000 years of human settlement
Neolithic, Phoenician and Roman presence
Alfarnatejo and its twin village three kilometres away, Alfarnate, have both developed as settlements from the fact that there is a natural pass between the mountains that connects the provinces of Málaga and Granada and share a common history.
Behind Alfarnatejo are the three peaks of the Tajos del Sabar, possibly the most spectacular peaks in the province of Málaga, as celebrated in the large tiled sign as one enters the village.
Also, it is on or near the Tajos that the history of the area can be traced back to.
Archaeological discoveries here include significant Neolithic relics some 5000 years old found in the gorge of the River Sábar. In addition, the cliffs of Vilo, the caves of Pela Horá, Chamizo and Morronquera, and the shelter of El Cortijo de la Cueva boast pictorial remains ranging from the Paleolithic to the Chalcolithic period.
The first modern settlers we have evidence for are the Phoenicians. There are tombs from their era at the foot of the Sierra del Rey, near the Cortijo de Auta (see below).
Later on, the area known as El Puerto de los Alazores, not far from Alfarnatejo, was an ‘inland port’ for the caravans of people and goods travelling between the provinces of Málaga and Granada, something probably going on since Roman times. There is also evidence of a Roman villa not far from the village.
However, there doesn’t seem to be any permanent settlements in the area until the Moorish period in about the 10th century. It was probably just a loose collections of farms though, and fragments of Arabic ceramics and walls have been found around Cerro del Castillejo.
As time went on the Moors took full advantage of the lush green fertile land to develop an agricultural industry in the region, and to this day wheat crops are still grown in abundance in the area. It may be this that gave rise to the name Alfarnate – from the Arab word ‘Al Farnat’ which means ‘flour mill’.
One particular building which can be visited which reflects the ancient history of the area is Cortijo de Auta (photo, below right). On or around the site of the present farm buildings have been found Phoenician tombs, a Roman villa, a Moorish fortress (the Castillo de Auta), and a flour mill from the later Christian period.
The presence at the cortijo of an important water source gushing out of the ground (hence its name in Spanish – Fuente del Borbollón), must surely be one of the reasons why this area was settled.
To protect their farmsteads the Moors built the Castillo de Sabar, or Sábar Castillejo, the ruins of which are still extant high on top of Alto Fraile, one of the peaks of the Tajos. It was a small building made up of thick irregular stone walls. From this high vantage point intruders could be easily spotted entering the pass. Some historians believe that Alfarnate was founded as a result of the protection that the castle afforded the area.
Some believe that the Muladi leader, Omar Ben Hafsun, who organised and built the rebellion against Umayyad caliphate of Cordoba between 880 and 918 AD, was born in this area.
Legend of the lever-bearers and the badgers...
Alfarnatejo was linked with its neighbour Alfarnate for hundreds of years, and both communities share an unusual legend that is derived from their respective nicknames, ‘los palancos’ (the lever-bearers) from Alfarnate, and ‘los tejones’ (the badgers) from Alfarnatejo.
The story can be traced back to the old horse track that used to link the two villages, where a huge stone was considered to mark the boundary between them.
Legend has it that a heavy storm caused this stone to roll, coming to rest right in the middle of the track, rendering it impossible to use. In order to unblock it, so the story goes, the people of Alfarnatejo used shovels and picks to dig underneath it like badgers, while their neighbours from Alfarnate carried sticks with which to lever the stone, so that it would roll away. Alfarnatejo’s method finally prevailed and the stone rolled down to the river, on whose bed it is still believed to lie.
The story is commemorated in Alfarnatejo’s official coat of arms (pictured right). Certainly, this mountainous limestone country is strewn with boulders (photo above taken near Alfarnatejo), so the legend could well be based on a real incident.
19th century independence
The first documentary evidence of Alfarnatejo as a village was not until 1609, during the Christian period.
The village slowly developed over the centuries, but still remained small, linked with Alfarnate until the 19th century, when they became separate municipalities.
As in Alfarnate, the mountains surrounding the village made the area a refuge for bandits, who took advantage the many caves in the region, using them as shelters and hideaways, (see a fuller description of this era here).
Alfarnatejo pages guide
Use the links below to explore what you can see and do in Alfarnatejo, what festivals take place through the year, and to read about the area’s fascinating history.