On the banks of Ayamonte is the River Guadiana which is Europe's second longest river. From its mouth at Ayamonte, the river is now only navigable for about 40 miles as far as Mertola.
Some of the towns along the river banks can be traced back as far as the Bronze Age and up until the middle of the last century, the river was an important commercial route bringing traffic from the sea to the interior of the Peninsular.
The port of Sanlucar de Guadiana gained prominence in the first half of the nineteenth century when it was used as a base to export such crops as rice, soap, lead and wood. Now, however, the only boats to be seen are those of visiting yachtsmen and the local fishermen who live in the village.
The surrounding areas are renowned for their now dormant mines and the Rio Tinto mines are reputed to be the oldest mines in the world. According to myth, these are the fabled mines of King Solomon.
|35,000 - 5,000BC||The Iberians. Original stone age inhabitants.|
|5,000 - 1,000BC||Various immigrants including Jews and Celts.|
|1,100BC||Phoenicians founded the city of Gadir (Cadiz).|
|219BC - 202BC||Carthaginian occupation and the Punic wars with the Romans.|
|200BC - 400AD||Roman occupation.|
|468 - 537||Visigoths ally with Romans against the barbarian hordes from the north.|
|537 - 711||Visigoth occupation.|
|711 - 1492||Moorish occupation (Arabs and North African Berbers).|
|1492||Christian occupation begun by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella.|
Its situation on the Atlantic coast, its mild climate, its unique rich mining deposits and its advantages for settlers all explain why, centuries ago, Ayamonte and Huelva attracted a considerable wave of migrants, whose traces still remain to this day. In the city, and above all in the province, one is struck by the legacy of the ancient peoples of the eastern Mediterranean - the Phoenicians and the Tartessians - whose royalty settled here.
Tartessus (Atlantis) is today one of the unsolved mysteries of our past; the city has not been discovered yet, but traces of buildings and other objects have been found near Huelva, at the mouth of the Odiel and Rio Tinto rivers, at the mouth of Guadalquivir, and other places, like Sevilla. This is not obviously proof that Tartessus did really exist, but it demonstrates the existence of an ancient West Mediterranean culture, which could give us the answers to many questions about our past.
At later dates Roman, Visigoth and Arab royals came to stay - the presence of the last of these remains in the form of many monuments. Finally, Huelva and Ayamonte has a lot to do with the discovery of America. The voyage that was to change the course of history originated in La Rábida and set sail from Palos de la Frontera.
Ayamonte was part of Huelva's other claim to fame that it was from here in 1492 that Christopher Columbus set sail for the New World. He didn't know it at the time; he was actually looking for an alternative route to the far Eastern trading markets of China and India. His ships, the Niña, the Santa Maria and the Pinta, set sail for the West in the summer of 1492, only months after the last Moorish Caliphate in Spain had been overthrown and the country was reunited, after 700 years, under the joint banners of the Catholic Kings Isabella and Ferdinand.
Christopher Columbus was believed to have been born in Genoa (Italy) in 1451, but it was Spain that gave him his fame and fortune as the man who "discovered" America. At that time, everyone believed the world was flat and that it was impossible to sail to the west. Columbus thought differently; he believed it was possible to sail west and he decided to sail to India. In 1492, with funding from King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain, he was able to start his exploration. He left from the port of Huelva, Houston's sister city. To everyone's surprise, he reached America and called it the New World.