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Introduction
  
  The building of dry stone structures is a millennia old human activity, requiring only the presence of suitable local materials and the strength and eye to interlock the rocks in to place. In the foothills of the Sierra de los Filabres one of the most abundant rocks are schists containing quartzite, whose flat structure lend itself particularly well to dry stoneChoza Group construction techniques. As well as walling and terracing it has been used in the building of huts, known variously as chozas, covachas or cotijillos in the region. The harsh weather conditions that can occur in the mountains - low temperatures, high winds and storms of winter and the heat of summer - require that there is a place of respite in the barren landscape for farmers and shepherds. The huts may also be used for storage and larger ones may even contain hearths and room to enable an overnight stay.

 
  The refuges blend perfectly into the landscape being constructed from the very materials upon which they sit and because of this they exert an extremely low impact on the environment. They require no transport of building materials in to the area and none of the most spare of resources in the Filabres - water. No tools are required and the only skill needed is the ability to select the correct shape and size of stone to fit the requirement at each step. Many huts would have been constructed by agricultural workers themselves, although at one time there were ribaceros, men who were able to earn a living building dry stone structures.

 
  Land use in the Filabres reached a peak in the early 1900's, but the second half of the century saw a dramatic de-population which has resulted in the decay of many of the dry stone structures and a subsequent loss in the ability of the hills to retain water and in turn fertility. It is with regard to this decay that I thought an attempt should be made to document those huts that remain and I hope that this website, as a small contribution, can also help engender a respect for the heritage of these small buildings which are easily overlooked amongst the range of grander architecture.
 
 
Prickly Pear and RockEl ChiveThe Sierra de la Atalaya 
 
The Sierra de la Atalaya lies in the foothills of the Sierra de los Filabres, south-east of the main range. There are several small villages including El Chive, La Mela, El Pilar and the hamlets of the Cariatiz valley. The hills and surrounding areas form a beautiful landscape with many unique geological, wildlife and human features. In this area the schist rocks meet with those of petrified coral reef. Several different types of dry stone construction methods may be found, including attempts to use the coral rocks, a much more difficult material to work with, producing less stable structures likely to be more temporary in nature.

 


Sources and Links

 
  There are a few resources for stone huts, but not much available in English. This website in Spanish is particularly relevant to the buildings in the Filabres. It has a lot of information on the construction and use of the huts and even an "internet translation" of the Spanish can give a valuable insight into dry stone construction in the area. Also pertinent to the area is the book Arquitectura y Tecnologia Popular en Almeria, (Antonio Gil Albarracin, Almeria, 1992, ISBN 84-604-3801-5) which has a small section on chozas. More widely in Spain, the Casetas y casetones website has information on stone buildings in Aragon. A comprehensive website, in French and English has a number of articles on dry stone architecture from across Europe. They also produce a pamphlet Building a drystone hut: an instruction manual, Christian Lasure, 2001 (ISSN 0751-9656), for anyone tempted to try their own construction.
 
The Catalogue

 
  For the pupose of compiling the catalogue I have used the following definition for a choza: a structure built from local rocks, largely without the use of mortar and small enough to be roofed without the use of beams (or at most minimal use), usually accomplished by the tapering of the walls to allow the roof space to be capped by large flat rocks.
 
  Below are links to a map showing the logged huts and the catalogue. The map (opens in new window) shows the Sierra de la Atalaya area and is "zoomable"
, hovering over a pin will identify the reference number of that choza. The catalogue records the chozas found (in a pdf document), to which I have assigned a CP reference number and gives a photograph along with the dimensions of the structures and a brief description. I have shown only one image for each choza, however I have recorded many other views, both external and internal.

If you have any comments or would like further information, contact me here

Choza Map
The Catalogue

Updates:

June 2012              3 More chozas added to map and catalogue

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