“Maestrazgo lets us peek into the demise of the dinosaurs and the formation of the Pyrenees”
The Maestrazgo Cultural Park UNESCO Global Geopark lies between Zaragoza and Teruel in the catchment of the Rio de Guadalope. The area belongs to the Iberian Range, a dry mountain land characterized by hot summers and cold winters and with deeply incised yellow-brown valleys.
The Maestrazgo Cultural Park UNESCO Global Geopark is part of the Spanish western Iberian Range that was formed during the Alpine orogeny. Some areas of the Geopark are characterized by a large and varied number of Mesozoic stratigraphic formations. In the Mesozoic, 220-65 million years ago, an embayment of a warm sea periodically covered this area. During these times the bottom of the sea was colonized by corals and other invertebrate animals. At other times, the sea retreated and rivers deposited sediment here. 65 million years ago during the formation and folding of the Pyrenees a geological saddle, or anticline, orientated approximately north-south, was formed. Subsequently a geological depression, or syncline, running nearly towards east-west was created. Therefore, this UNESCO Global Geopark is an exceptional laboratory for exploring the geological evolution of the Iberian Plate during Mesozoic and Tertiary periods.
Inside this territory it is possible to discover superb Geosites like the Crystal Caves in Molinos, the Órganos de Montoro, the Natural bridge over the Guadalope´s river or the Spring of the Pitarque river, all of them Natural Monuments, and stratotypes in Lower and Upper Cretaceous. The little village of Aliaga, 50km northeast of the town of Teruel, is interesting because it lies at the nodal point of two geological folds that followed one another. After that the Guadalope River and its tributaries cut deep into these structures. An educational path with eleven interpretive points explains these geological processes. At Galve, a small village with an important ensemble of dinosaur fossils, there are a number of footprints and life-size reconstructions of the most representative specimens. Another site, near Castellote, is an interesting site of Cretaceous petrified trunks was found some years ago.
The UNESCO Global Geopark also has an important palaeontological heritage which has been used to accurately reconstruct palaeoenvironments that existed millions of years ago in this area (just concerning dinosaurs there are 76 palaeontological catalogued sites).
© UNESCO/Laia Nebulosa Gráfica
The Maestrazgo Cultural Park UNESCO Global Geopark has around 14,000 inhabitants. The area lies in the former Kingdom of Aragón and in the Middle Ages it was named "Maestrazgo" by the "maestres", a military order which administered this region. The Maestrazgo Cultural Park UNESCO Global Geopark covers 43 municipalities from six different Comarcas of the Teruel province: Andorra-Sierra de Arcos, Bajo Aragón, Cuencas Mineras, Gúdar-Javalambre, Maestrazgo and Comunidad de Teruel. They conform a vast territory with a wide heritage, both cultural and natural. This heritage combines the amazing geologic and palaeontological features with more than 600 archaeological sites (some of them included in the UNESCO's World Heritage List).
Due to its palaeontological interest, inside the UNESCO Global Geopark there are two facilities of Dinópolis: in Galve (a small village with an important number of dinosaur bone and ichnite sites), and in Castellote (a surprising town with interesting Geosites of dinosaurs and Cretaceous petrified trunks); there is also an associated Dinópolis exhibition in Mas de las Matas. An ancient industrial building has been restored as a visitors centre. It includes a room that can be used both as a laboratory for students and as a lecture room for small meetings, conferences or workshops. A second room has become a small geology museum which will display interpretation of the geological processes to visitors. A Mining Interpretation Centre is also placed in Aliaga. In the past, coal was used to generate electricity until the power plant was closed in 1982. Mining created a whole lifestyle that continues today. There are 13 historical villages that have been designated "National Monuments" for their Middle Age castles and country houses known as "masadas“. This outstanding heritage can be easily visited thanks to the growing tourism infrastructure that is supported by the Maestrazgo Cultural Park UNESCO Global Geopark.
In addition, the Maestrazgo Cultural Park UNESCO Global Geopark has a great wealth of spots with interesting geo- and palaeo-features. This area can be admired and understood by means of signposted pathways, guidebooks and guides. It includes points of special interest showing explanatory diagrams and panels. Moreover, within the environmental education programme the UNESCO Global Geopark organizes workshops, field trips (for universities or general public) and different activities as a drawing contest to spread the UNESCO Global Geopark values.
Splendid geological formations and structures, modelled into impressive landforms, are highly valued for scientific and educational activities. They are very interesting also to tourists, who get acquainted with the local nature and geology thanks to the intense research carried out here by geologists and palaeontologists in the last decades.