Almuñecar – El Majuelo Fish Salting Factory
“El Majuelo” Fish Salting Factory – Almuñécar
Almuñecar, as we now know it, acquired the status of a Roman town in 49 BC and was then called Sexi Firmum lulium. The city reached its zenith in the first half of the first centuty AD when it changed its infrastructure to suit the requirements of a Roman city.
The location of this fish salting factory was at a safe distance from the urban centre to minimize the impact of the odours produced during production. It occupied basically the same site as the current botanical park of El Majuelo, while also spreading across parts of the western and northern slopes below the San Miguel castle.
The boom in this industry was a result of the demand for this product from the whole Roman Empire, although production was first initiated during the Phoenician occupation of the city.
The production area, where the salting pits are located, forms the core of the factory. This is where fish fillets are places in layers of salt.
These pits were built at ground level for convenience in placing the fillets, were constructed with rounded edges in order to prevent cracking and were covered with opus signimun which was used as a waterproofing. The entire factory was covered with wooden roofing to protect the production process from the weather.
The salt fish produced from “Sexi” was very much appreciated in antiquity as shown by the chronicles of classic authors such as Pliny and Strabo.
In general, all types of fish were salted but the most preferred were sturgeon and tuna because of the juiciness of their meat.
Concurrent with the salt fish production was the production of garum, which was a kind of fish sauce made from a puree of fish waste, intestines and other ingredients. Garum was extremely popular in Roman times and had a wide variety of uses.
Administrative offices and warehouses were located adjacent to the production area, separated by a corridor that can still be seen. This area has been identified by archaeologists by the discovery of a large number of coins here and the absence of evidence of the use of opus signinum on the walls, among other archaeological evidence.
After twenty days, the salt fish were put into large amphorae for transport and sale throughout the Mediterranean area, especially to the cities of Carthage, Rome and Corinth.
The extent and complexity of the “El Majuelo” fish salting factory shows that the production of garum and other preserved fish was the main economic activity in Almuñécar, an activity which had its origins in the time of the Phoenicians.