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Home / Exhibitions / Showcase samples

Cade oil kilns. An industry in Riba-roja d’Ebre

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Foto: Andrea Manenti
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Curated by

Josep Aguilà, Josep Blanch and Maria Dolors González

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11 Jul 2019 –
13 Oct 2019

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Annex in the Montcada Venue's reception area

How to get there

This exhibition deals with all those stories, with the ethnographic heritage of our past. Old documents and tools used by the people who transported the cade oil reveal the antiquity of its commercialisation.

Other traditional tools, a large model and virtual-reality glasses tell us how the large kilns, which were dotted all over the municipality of Riba-roja d’Ebre, were built and what they were like. Various audiovisuals also take us step by step through the dry combustion processes that turn the juniper wood into cade oil inside the kilns.

But it isn't all in the past. The production of cade oil is still going strong today. A series of cosmetic and personal-hygiene products reveal that, after so many centuries of production in Riba-roja d’Ebre, cade oil is still present in our lives.

Riba-roja d’Ebre became a major centre for cade oil production in the pre-industrial period, with documents dating back to the start of the 17th century. The showcase exhibition «Cade oil kilns. An industry in Riba-roja d’Ebre» explores this important architectural and ethnographic heritage.

The riverside municipality of Riba-roja d’Ebre has conserved the largest number of cade oil kilns in the whole of the Iberian peninsula. Cade oil is obtained from the wood of cade juniper Juniperus oxycedrus trunks and roots. This tree is related to the common juniper (Juniperus communis), and it has a number of antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, healing, parasiticidal and pesticidal properties.

These therapeutic properties meant that cade oil was formerly used to treat various human ailments and more especially, animal ailments. There is evidence that it was used as an ingredient in ointments applied to human beings afflicted with eczema, warts and parasites, but also in poultices used to treat chest pains, angina and colds, as well as in herbal tea as a remedy against digestive and nervous disorders.

Cade oil was used more extensively in veterinary medicine, for topical use to treat injuries, as it was an extraordinary disinfectant with healing powers, and it was also used to eliminate intestinal parasites and for combating lice and ticks.

All of these functions and properties of cade oil led to Riba-roja d’Ebre becoming an important production centre, with cade oil production becoming a major industry in the pre-industrial period. Documents from the start of the 17th century show the existence of an established commerce, which as so often in these lands, found one of its main allies in the river Ebro, as it was easy to transport the product downriver to Tortosa and upriver to Zaragoza.

In any event, as cade oil was used most in veterinary medicine, its main commercial route was towards the Pyrenees, through the provinces of LLeida, where they usually made a stop. The oil was transported in trains of donkeys, mules and horses. The Riba-roja producers travelled as far as the large livestock areas of the Pyrenees to sell their prized oil to the farmers there.

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