The Cultural Landscape of the Serra de Tramuntana located on a sheer-sided mountain range parallel to the north-western coast of the island of Mallorca. Millennia of agriculture in an environment with scarce resources has transformed the terrain and displays an articulated network of devices for the management of water revolving around farming units of feudal origins. The landscape is marked by agricultural terraces and inter-connected water works – including water mills – as well as dry stone constructions and farms.
The cultural landscape of the Serra de Tramuntana constitutes a significant example of the Mediterranean agricultural landscape, which, after centuries of transformations of the steep terrain morphology to exploit the scarce available resources and thanks to the specific orogenetic, climatic and vegetation conditions, has been made productive and well-adapted to human settlement. The system of terraces and cobbled road network, common to many Mediterranean landscapes, is here combined with an articulated network of devices for the management of water, revolving around farming units of feudal origins. Several villages, churches, sanctuaries, towers, lighthouses and small dry-stone structures punctuate the terraced landscape and contribute to its actual character.
The landscape of the Serra de Tramuntana eminently exemplifies the interchange between the Muslim and Christian cultures, which is representative of the Mediterranean area, in the combination of the Arabic water harvesting and management technology with the agricultural know-how and the territorial control system introduced by the Christian conquerors, who took over the island of Mallorca in 13th century AD. By this cultural interaction, a terraced agricultural landscape was created, featured by an articulated waterworks network, orchards, vegetable gardens and olive groves, which were earlier organised around small farm holdings, and later in large estates (posesiones) and which nowadays make up the physical and functional features of the Serra de Tramuntana.
The cultural landscape of the Serra de Tramuntana represents a spectacular, peculiar example of a terraced. farmed landscape which combines an interconnected and highly specialised system of waterworks for collecting and storing water, featuring qanats, that are underground channels to harvest and transport water, canals, ditches, storage basins, with a system of terraces supported by dry-stone walls so as to make possible the cultivation of vegetables as well as fruit and olive trees in the terraced plots and including a sophisticated drainage system to avoid soil erosion.
The settlement pattern of the Tramuntana area bears significant witness to human adaptation to difficult environmental conditions, which has ingeniously made a region with scarce resources, both in term of land and water, suitable for farming and living. The feudal land subdivision system, applied to extreme orographic conditions, combined with the sophisticated waterworks technology of Arabic origins has resulted in complex farming units. Their land distribution and use pattern, comprising rocky areas on the tops of mountains, strips of woodland, slopes with terraces, extensive grazing land, fields for reaping, vineyards or fruit crops on flatter land, ensured over time the full exploitation of the existing resources. The Tramuntana area thus pays testimony to the continuous evolution of human settlement in a rugged and steep area of the island.
The property is characterized by a high level of uniformity, in which the defining elements – the terraced land arrangements, the olive groves, the spatial organization in rural estates and the water supply network – retain their visual integrity to a considerable extent. The functional and socio-economical integrity, however, is today fragile due to the progressive increase of tourism and the possibly related development pressures. The entire Tramuntana district, witness to the same historical and development processes, acts as the buffer zone of the property. Today, the property does not seem to suffer from immediate development pressure, although the highly populated buffer zone may pose threats to the nominated property and these should be carefully monitored over time.
The property bears credible witness to the historical, cultural and socio- economical processes that have taken place in the Tramuntana area, gradually modifying the landscape to make it productive, and have shaped its actual aspect, although these traditional dynamic processes are declining in favour of tourism activities. The setting still exhibits a strong continuity with past layouts and the aesthetic qualities of this landscape have been appreciated by well-known artists and intellectuals who have contributed to amplify its evocative value. Traditional skills for the building and repair of the dry-stone structures have been consciously maintained through the establishment of a school of dry-stone masonry, to counter the changes brought by social and economic change.