The building of dry stone structures is a millennia old human activity,
requiring only the presence of suitable local materials and the
eye to interlock the rocks in to place. In the foothills of the Sierra
Filabres one of the most abundant rocks are schists containing
quartzite, whose flat structure lend itself particularly well
dry stone construction
techniques. As well as walling and terracing it has been used in the
of huts, known variously as chozas, covachas or cotijillos in
region. The harsh weather conditions that can occur in the mountains -
temperatures, high winds and storms of winter and the heat of summer -
that there is a place of respite in the barren landscape for farmers
shepherds. The huts may also be used for storage and larger ones may
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
low impact on the environment. They require no transport of building
in to the area and none of the most spare of resources in the Filabres
No tools are required and the only skill needed is the ability to
correct shape and size of stone to fit the requirement at each step.
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
decay of many of the dry stone structures and a subsequent loss in the
of the hills to retain water and in turn fertility. It is with regard
decay that I thought an attempt should be made to document those huts
remain and I hope that this website, as a small contribution, can also
engender a respect for the heritage of these small buildings which are
overlooked amongst the range of grander architecture.
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
beautiful landscape with many unique geological, wildlife and human
In this area the schist rocks meet with those of petrified coral reef.
different types of dry stone construction methods may be found,
attempts to use the coral rocks, a much more difficult material to work
producing less stable structures likely to be more temporary in nature.
Sources and Links
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
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,
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),
tempted to try their own construction.
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.
catalogue records the chozas
(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
June 2012 3 More chozas added to map and catalogue