The origins of the Olive Stones Spitting Competition go back to the Stone Age. The first remains are from the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods, which were found in the caves of the Barranco de los Grajos and La Serreta in the Murcian town of Cieza.
In these archaeological remains one may contemplate prehistoric pictures depicting a primitive man preparing a spitting and it called like Homo Salmenorosus. The city hall of Cieza is promoting these paintings to be restored, and they are proposed to be declared World Heritage sites by UNESCO.
Some archaeologists from the University of Oxford say that the competitions rapidly spread in the area when human beings moved from caves to villages, where they domesticated animals and cultivated wild fruits. The stones spitting were used as weapons against all kinds of enemies, but also for fun while hunting mammoths.
In the 776 BC, a Greek expedition arrived to the coasts of the Spanish Levante. A Greek called Bartolopoulus went inland and reached the Caves of Cieza. There he contemplated the pictures of the stones spitting and he could not believe it.
Bartolopoulus went back to the ancient Greece, to be more precise in Olimpia, where he was born. In those times they liked to organise games for the athletes from other Greek cities to participate in. Bartopoulos proposed the Olive Stones Spitting Competition as a trial for the games, as he thought there were many olive trees in that country. However, the Greeks finally decided that a Discus Competition would be promoted.
Some Greek texts have been found recently describing that Pepelopoulus patron influenced the organisers. He said that the spitting competition was trivial and insanitary. Bartopoulos, very sad, then decided to move with his family to Cieza, as he realised that his idea had been refused in the Olympic Games. There he lived in the Almadenes Canyon.
In Cieza, this sport has been preserved by its inhabitants. In the Roman archaeological remains of the ruins of Bolvax, it has been found the first public “Huesódromo” (where there were already competitions for Roman citizens and slaves). In addition, the incriptions of those times describe how Bartolopoulus
built a house inside the cave of La Serreta in Cieza to watch over the prehistoric pictures depicting the competitions (and the house still remains as the unique sample found in the interior of a cave in Western Europe).
In the Visigothic Era, the Olive Stones Spitting Competition became an expression of joy and mental wellbeing. The competition was at the end of August to cellebrate the change of season and also in memory of Bartolopoulus. Some thesis describe this activity as the origin of the current San Bartolomé festivities of Cieza.
With the ascendancy of Islam in the peninsula, the muslim governors forbid the spittings, so the Christians played it in clandestinity. Some Latin, Hebrew and Arab texts testify that Christians spitted olive stones by the river Segura in Summer. The Muslim inhabitants of Medina Siyasa (Cieza nowadays) knew risky and secret paths to access the river. This event became very important for the union between Muslims and Chritians.
In 1243, the Spanish King Alfonso X El Sabio creates “La Orden de los Caballeros Lanzadores de Huesos de Oliva”. Their mission was to provide “oliva chafá” from Cieza and protect the plantations of olive trees from the attacks of enemies.
In 1667, a new City Hall is created and El Valle de Ricote becomes part of their domination. They forbid the competitions to avoid battles between the people from Cieza (who always won in the games) and the other towns.
In 1995, some friends from Cieza and Bartolopoulus descendants create the “Asociación Amigos de las Oliveras” (friends of the olive trees association). They retrieved the competition traditions and habits aiming to make Bartolopoulus dream come true: the Olive Stones Spitting Competition be part of the Olympic Games. After that, the regulation for the competition was written… and today…
Based on popular sayings. Any similarity with reality is coincidence.
Copyright © M. Villa y M. Ato. Murcia, 2006, RPI nº 08/2006/263