Barcelona rediscovers the Cagalell, the missing Raval lagoon

When you walk through the narrow streets of the Raval it is hard to believe that in the past it would have been impossible because most of the terrain that you walk today was a marshy area. New geological surveys carried out on a site during a work on Arc del Teatre street have shed light on the old pond known as Cagalell. The name could indicate that it was a not very idyllic area but recent research points in another direction.

This lagoon would have lived its moment of maximum plenitude in the Neolithic period, between 6,500 BC and 2,000 BC, according to the latest findings in the framework of the PaleoBarcino project, which for years has been studying the configuration of the Barcelona coastline in a joint work between the Archeology Service of the Barcelona City Council and the University of Barcelona (UB).

The extension of the Cagalell in the ancient Neolithic

PaleoBarcino / LV

“After analyzing the sediments, we found that the Cagalell water was sweet and clean,” says Santiago Riera, professor at the Department of Prehistory and Archeology at the UB. In fact, experts see the end of the Cagalell when the Neolithic period ends.

“What we observe is that in Roman times the Cagalell would have already disappeared because we have Roman remains on it. From the founding period, there are roads, necropolis areas and the great Roman villa in the surroundings of Sant Pau del Camp ”, adds Carme Miró, archaeologist in charge of the Barcino Plan of the Barcelona City Council Archeology Service. “There are medieval quotes that speak of the Cagalell but we think that perhaps in times of many floods it could form again but it would not be a permanent place of water,” says Riera.

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The old pond would cover about 20 hectares and around it a prehistoric population settled

The analysis of the remains found, which is still in the study phase, have also made it possible to delimit the approximate extension of the Cagalell and the hypothesis with which they are working is that they would be two lagoons. “It is a very extended pond that would be made up of two. If we put them together, we calculate an area of ​​20 hectares of water at its moment of maximum expansion that would go from Paral·lel avenue to the foot of the old Táber mountain, almost to Avinyó street ”, Riera advances. Regarding its depth, it details that “at least it was two or three meters.”

Despite the fact that this humid area was close to the sea, it was formed mainly from the streams that came down from Collserola, such as Magòria, la Malla and Creu d’en Malla. Barcelona coast and its relationship with the people of Barcelona, ​​a exhibition in the castle of Montjuïc.

View of the organic (black) clays characteristic of a wetland found on a site in Arc del Teatre and which shows the existence of a lagoon in the area

View of the organic (black) clays characteristic of a wetland found on a site in Arc del Teatre


The fact that the Cagalell was formed by fresh and clean water would have caused prehistoric populations to settle around it, since important Neolithic sites, such as those of Sant Pau del Camp, have been located around this place.

“A clean water pond offered many possibilities. Not only for feeding on fishing, but also for washing and for other activities that require water, such as pottery. We have also found shells that they used as personal garments or tools to decorate ceramics ”, Miró details.

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Map of the streams in the Neolithic

Map of the streams in the Neolithic

PaleoBarcino / LV

The organic remains discovered will offer other information that will help to reconstruct the landscape, the diet and even the health of the ancestors of the people of Barcelona. “El Raval and El Cagalell have been basic places to understand the formation of the city later”, concludes Miró.

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