The early Phoenician settlers in the area, a nation of seafarers and traders, established a lucrative fish-salting industry in the town and some of the old salting pits – salazones – and building foundations can be seen in El Majuelo Park. See Map. Only a part of what must have been a large site has so far been excavated.
The fish-salting industry in Sexi, as Almuñecar was known at that time, was one of the most important in the Mediterranean.
The Romans followed the Phoenicians, and the town became known as Sexi Firmum Julium. The Romans built an aqueduct in the first century AD and greatly expanded the fish-salting industry which continued to thrive until the decline of Rome as a world power at the end of the fourth century AD.
One of the most famous products, or delicacies, was a highly nutritious, but apparently awful tasting, sort of fish paste called Garum.
Garum was basically made from the intestines and roe of small fish, such as mackerel and anchovies, which were dried, soaked in brine and then allowed to ferment through the process of bacterial fermentation. Although highly nutritious and prized as a ‘delicacy’, it was by all accounts so bad tasting that wine, spices, honey, herbs…just about anything really…was generally added to make it more palatable.
Garum was also prized for its medicinal qualities and was used to cure such things as dog bites, ulcers, dysentery, diarrhea and constipation. Amazing to think it could cure both of the latter, but there you go. Or don’t, as the case may be.
It was also apparently even used as an ingredient in cosmetics and for the removal of unwanted hair and freckles.