The first navigators


Evidence exists for coastal navigation of the Mediterranean sea from prehistoric times.

The Phoenicians (a people based at the eastern end of the Mediterranean who, at the beginning of the first millennium BCE, began a gradual expansion westwards) were the inheritors of earlier nautical lore, specifically knowledge of sea currents, improvements to ships and the mastery of navigation by the Phoenician star, the North Star, enabling them to become the leading seafarers of the ancient world.

After the Phoenicians, the Greeks began trading from Asia Minor. Their trade networks and cultural influence spread along all the Levantine coasts and the South-Eastern Iberian Peninsula to Tartessos and eastern Andalusia. The hegemony of the Punic Carthaginians gradually grew until they controlled a territory from Ibiza to the southern coasts of Hispania and their principal access routes.

The colonies detached themselves from the East and began to define their own areas of influence, building a new political structure in which Carthage would control all the central Mediterranean. This is the context for the founding of Qart Hadash (Cartagena), one of the greatest ports of the Mediterranean, situated in a mining area of vital importance.

The immediate consequence of the arrival of Phoenicians, Greeks and Punics on the coasts of the Iberian Peninsula was a process of acculturation of the indigenous peoples, propitiating the exchange of new products for raw materials such as gold, silver, tin and copper. These peoples introduced iron, the potter's wheel, weights and measures, coins, urban architecture and the Mediterranean polyculture (wheat, vines and olives), as well as writing, the idea of earnings, sacred monarchy, and so on, contributing with these contacts to the appearance of a new way of organising society, hierarchical and based on new religious concepts.