What to do and what to see in Orce

The town of Orce is located to the northeast of the province of Granada, bordering on that of Almería. It has a population of about 1500 inhabitants, distributed between the urban area and the districts of Fuentenueva, Venta Micena and Pozo de la Rueda.

Traditionally its economy has been based on agriculture and livestock, highlighting its segureño lamb, highly appreciated for its incomparable flavor. In recent years, a new economy begins to gain importance around the exploitation of the important heritage, scientific and cultural resources of the locality.

Orce is in a semi-desert landscape of great beauty. The town has a great attraction with its beautiful corners dotted with historic buildings.

History of Orce

In Orce are some of the most important paleontological sites of Europe and Asia, comparable only in the world to the Africans of Olduvai. In them have been found evidence that witness the human presence from about one million four hundred thousand years ago.

Closer in time, are the deposits of the Cerro de la Virgen, a town dated in two thousand years BC where three phases of Neolithic strata have been found, followed by other Romans, Visigoths and Arabs. The Alcazaba of Orce, a summary of the history of this stage, was built at the beginning of the 11th century, coinciding with the dismemberment of the Caliphate of Córdoba. In 1320, it happened to belong to the Kingdom of Granada and was in permanent confrontation with the Christians of Cazorla, Segura, Caravaca and Lorca until its delivery to Fernando the Catholic in 1488.

Orce reached in 1752 a cabin of 56,540 heads of wool and goat, which meant an annual gross product of 236,100 monetary units of the time, making it the most prosperous town in the entire northeastern corner of the Kingdom of Granada. After the Independence War, the displacement of the Spanish wools in the European markets in favor of the Saxon wools caused it to decrease the economy of Orce.

In the twentieth century, Orce is alternately governed by liberals and conservatives. The population is large (about 4100 inhabitants) and scarce resources. Hunger and misery make their appearance and a deadly epidemic arrives to the town in 1917. Faced with this situation there is a movement of emigration to America. The sociopolitical situation worsens after the end of the World War I. The latent conflict and discomfort are silenced by the proclamation of the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera. In 1931 the dictatorship gave way to the Republic. In 1936 the Civil War begins and Orce remains in the Republican zone. During the conflict, part of the artistic-religious heritage is lost. After the difficult post-war and in the sixties decade, Orce begins to depopulate with emigration to other areas of Spain and Europe.

Today, at the beginning of the new millennium with just 1500 inhabitants, the expectations of development make a commitment to its cultural and historical legacy.

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What to see in Orce

The rich historical heritage of Orce will leave us impressed. The plains, plateaus and semi-desert ravines that today make up the landscape of Orce, were in other prehistoric times marshy steppes. The dark lines or layers of the ravines attest to this. These ravines are really spectacular, both for their natural and scenic beauty, and for the treasures (archaeological sites) they contain.

Archaeological site of Barranco León: Inside it there are abundant vestiges and lithic utensils, although no human fossils have yet appeared.

Archaeological site of Barranco del Paso: In 1991 pieces carved in flint and limestone were found associated with the fauna of Venta Micena. You can also find knives made by men who inhabited the area 1,400,000 years ago.

Archaeological site of Fuente Nueva: Where a large quantity of flint and dolomitic limestones were found, associated with the remains of elephants, hippos, rhinos and other large mammals. Considered as a archaeological site of exceptional value and the most important of those found.

Archaeological site of Venta Micena: Here was found the famous cranial fragment that is known as the "Man of Orce". It is very rich in lithic utensils, and the most characteristic is its amazing accumulation of bones, for having been the lair of the impressive hyenas that inhabited the area at that time. More than 2,500 fossil pieces belonging to all kinds of animals were extracted from the site, such as elephants, hippos, rhinos, horses, deer of a size similar to that of the great northern elk, water buffalo, musk oxen, medium-sized deer, goats , bovids of dimensions similar to sheep and with horns strangely directed forward, porcupines, dormice, field mice, moles, rabbits, demans, bears of great size similar to the current brown bears, two species of saber-toothed tigers, hyenas , wolves, badgers, lynxes, foxes, frogs, lizards and some birds.

Hill of the Virgin of the Head: Located a few kilometers from Fuencaliente, in the direction of Galera, in the excavations appeared several graves with human bones and argaric ceramics (2500 BC). Three phases of Neolithic strata were found, followed by other Romans, Visigoths and Arabs. A settlement surrounded by fortifications and endowed with a ditch was also discovered, in whose oldest morphology appear round houses, and later, rectangular construction, with several rooms, of one or two floors.

Apart from the archaeological sites in Orce we find other types of cultural attractions.

Palace of the Segura: Building of about forty meters of facade with two floors and solarium, located in the upper part of the Promenade of the Pipes. Built in the 17th century by gentlemen enriched by the wool cattle. It is a baroque rural palace, where the highlights are the forges of the balconies and the windows of the front of the mansion. Its rectangular interior patio measures about eight by fourteen meters, and from it emerge six white marble columns of the region, which support a spacious wooden gallery protected by a typical and artistic Spanish-style balustrade. In this palace is the Municipal Museum of Prehistory and Paleontology of Orce that has a complete collection of pieces that come from diverse deposits of Orce.

Belmonte-Segura Palace: Also known as the Great House, it was built at the end of the 18th century. It keeps the coat of arms of the family on the facade. At present it is a private house, not accessible to the public.

Alcazaba of the Seven Towers: It is from the post-Caliphate period, the precise date of its construction is unknown, although it is known that it dates from before the 11th century. The Homage Tower was built coetaneously to the castle, and rebuilt in the sixteenth century, after an earthquake. It is a quadrangular base tower about 12 meters on each side that is slowly reduced to reach 30 meters high.

Church of Saint Maria: Built on the site of an old mosque, it is Baroque and of a single nave with a transept on which rises a dome before the main chapel. The cover of stonework is of classic style almost without decoration. Another element to emphasize in its interior is the Main Altarpiece, that was destroyed partly in the Civil War, although it conserves great part of its structure and original decoration.

Hermitage of Saint Sebastián: It is the oldest church built in Orce, located on the edge of the royal road. In its first period it was looked after by a hermit who lived inside it. In the 18th century it was rebuilt. It housed a magnificent carving of Saint Sebastián that disappeared during the Civil War.

Hermitage of Saint Antón: Because of the popularity in the celebrations in honor to this saint, was constructed like a new hermitage in the District of the Chorreador, known like the District of Saint Antón.

The watchtowers were part of the defensive circuit of the Granada highlands.

Watchtower of the Umbria: Belonging to the Nazarí era, it is located in the Sierra de la Umbría. It has a circular plant and cylindrical development. Its maximum height is 5 meters. It is made of masonry, and can be seen in lines of gravel for support and embedding of stones.

Watchtower of the Salar: It also belongs to the Nazarí era, it is located on a promontory of the Cañada del Salar. He watched the passage of Caravaca, and communicated with circuit of watchtowers of Huéscar. Built in masonry, retains much of the plastering. It also has a lintel ceiling.

Troglodyte dwellings: It has been the most common habitat mode among the population, except for the high social class, until recently. Excavated to peak and shovel in the rock, initially had only two or three units, the minimum for a very meager living conditions. As the needs and family possibilities grew, they expanded. After a time when they were very undervalued, they have started to arouse interest again. Today they are the subject of magnificent remodeling projects and an alternative accommodation of great tourist interest. They are very comfortable and keep inside a natural temperature that ranges between 15 and 17 degrees throughout the year.

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What to do in Orce

In Orce we can visit the museum or one of the different natural areas that it has.

Municipal Museum of Prehistory and Paleontology of Orce: Located in the Palace of the Segura, it collects a complete collection of pieces that come from the different archaeological sites of Orce. It consists of three large themed rooms. The first dedicated to fauna, with cranial and postcranial remains of the main animal species found in these sites; the second, to complete fractions of archaeological sites; and the third, to the lithic industry and human remains among which is a copy of the famous human skull fragment found in the archaeological site of Venta de Micena and which is believed to belong to a child of 5 or 6 years. On the edge of the skull are marks of having been devoured by a large carnivore, specifically a hyena. These remains are the oldest found until now in all of Europe.

Recreational Area of the Forest: Located 12 km from Orce, on a forest track that starts in front of the football field at the exit of the town, on the road that leads to María (Almería) and consists of picnic areas, barbecues and a picturesque well drinking water manual. Abundant Aleppo pines and native aromatic plants such as thyme and rosemary.

Recreational Area of Fuencaliente: Located about 2 km from the town of Orce, in the direction of Galera. It is a spring of water, transformed into a free bathing area and a place for recreation. It is unique for the clarity of its transparent waters and the presence of barbels that share habitat with bathers. The water is born from the engraved bottom of this pond, and is renewed continuously, without filter. It maintains its constant temperature all year. The water has medicinal properties. Located under weeping elms and willows, it is the ideal place to escape the summer heat, cool down and snack at the "chiringuito" that opens every summer. A recreational area equipped with barbecues has been set up for public use.

Rapamonteras: It is a hill of a certain height, which takes the shape of the bow of a ship and looks out over the valley on which sits the town of Orce. Its flat summit invites to the walk, and offers us a beautiful aerial view to the town and its spectacular landscape.

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Traditional festivals in Orce

As in any other municipality, in Orce you can enjoy different festivities.

Festivities of Saint Antón and Saint Sebastián: From January 16 to 20. They are very old and still retain all their flavor and popular roots. The "collation" with cuervas, hemp seeds, chickpeas and crespillos is of special importance, and where the typical gandulas, seguidillas, rondeñas, etc. are danced. Also worth mentioning are the dances of the temptations of Saint Antón, the "Danzantes", which are danced only in Orce. They are made by a group of eight people dressed picturesquely in black corduroy trousers, white shirt, brightly colored flannel girdle, white stockings and sneakers, and multi-colored ribbon ornaments everywhere. They also wear a top hat adorned with wide colorful ribbons and a bouquet of flowers.

Lardero thursday: It is a profane celebration that takes place on the thursday before Ash Wednesday. It is tradition to go to the country to eat tortilla de patatas, remojón and cod.

Festivity of the Virgin of the Dolores: Patroness of Orce. It is celebrated from 12 to 15 August.

Day of the Cross: It is celebrated on May 3. Crosses are decorated inside the caves and houses, and also in streets and squares.

Pilgrimage of the Virgin of the Head: The last Sunday of May the pilgrimage of the Virgin of the Head is celebrated in which all the people, after the mass, go to eat to the field, in the surroundings of the hill of the virgin, where the hermitage is located.

The Innocents: December 28. It is customary for a group of young people to take to the streets disguised as the authorities that day, taking the town and "fining" those who cross their path.

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Gastronomy of Orce

Based on the segureño lamb, typical of the Altiplano of Granada, in Orce various dishes are cooked: in sauce, grilled, with aioli or in baked tins. Another typical dish is its homemade sausages of great quality, such as the chorizo, the embuchado loin, the stuffing, the morcón, the salami, the longaniza and the blood sausage. They are also typical gurullos with hare, Saint Antón soaking, eggs with snow, fried roscos, rags and exquisite crumbs of flour or candle.

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