Cordoba, as with so many Spanish cities whose roots go back a couple of thousand years, was a city of strategic importance to a succession of invaders, commencing with the Romans who made it the capital of Baetica province, followed by the Moors who made it the Islamic capital of the Iberian peninsular.
The consequence of this means ruins…lots of ruins…and not terribly far below the surface… which means potential problems if one wants to develop a site. Several proposed building works in the city were on hold because the demolition of an old building, exposed even older foundations, that then have to be carefully excavated and assessed for significance.
Additionally, the passage of time saw extensive recycling of building materials into new structures. Roman columns were recycled into Moorish buildings. Moorish stone blocks found their way into Medieval walls.
The Medina Azahara – a fabulous city built by a caliph to impress emissaries from across Europe. Less than 12% of the site has been excavated, according to a range of modern techniques i.e. aerial photography, geophysical resonance, infrared, used to identify where best to spend the archaeological euro. Artefacts telling the story of the Azahara are displayed in an ultramodern museum on the site, built so that it disappears into the landscape.
The Archaeology Museum is actually built over the top of part of a Roman Theatre – the rest of the theatre is under the plaza outside the Museum … which means buildings surrounding the plaza also stand on important archaeology. The large, regional railway station is built over ancient Roman ruins. Resolving the tension between excavating the past, maintaining excavated ruins, and continuing modern life and development in cities which have been inhabited for millennia, is a continuing struggle.