Evidence of man's presence on the Pitiusa islands (Ibiza and Formentera, from an ancient Greek word meaning "pines") goes back only as far as the Bronze Age. The most eloquent testimony from that period is the megalithic burial site of Ca Na Costa, dating from 1600 BC, on Formentera, on the outskirts of the modern resort of Es Pujols. This splendid example of funerary architecture was discovered in 1974, marking the Pitiusas' debut on the map of pre-history. Unless new evidence turns up to the contrary, it would appear that Ibiza and Formentera were virtually the only islands in the entire Mediterranean to be uninhabited until four thousand years ago.
With or without an intermediate period of depopulation, the Pitiusas stride back onto the stage of history in the 7th century BC when the Phoenicians founded the city of Ibiza, leading to one of the most glorious periods in the island's history. Courtesy of Diodorus of Sicily, the 3rd century BC account of one Timeos of Taormina has come down to us. In it he tells how the Pitiusas are covered in dense pine groves, noted for their natural harbours and well-built houses. Ibiza town was a walled fortress, he observed.
Indeed, the visitor who makes the steep uphill climb to the Old Town, known as Dalt Vila, will come back with a fair idea of what it was like in the city of some 2,700 years ago. From these heights, with magnificent views over the sea routes leading into the port, the visitor also can shift his gaze to the city of the dead, the necropolis of the Puig des Molins, located on the adjacent hill.
The Puig des Molins is probably the most historically significant Punic necropolis in the western Mediterranean. A museum stands at the site, but visitors are also handed a map so they can go directly inside the ancient burial chambers. As well in Ibiza Bay, the Phoenicians also settled at Sa Caleta, where the ruins of the ancient village can be seen.
Towards the end of the 6th century BC, the
settlement began mushrooming into what was unquestionably a major
city of and for its time, as the island, by virtue of its strategic
crossroads location, consolidated its position as a distribution
hub for goods being traded on the Mediterranean. Ibiza's trade-driven
economy reached such heights of prosperity that by the 3rd century
B.C. the island was minting its own currency, stamped with the
effigy of the Phoenician god Bes.