Cerdanya

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Cerdanya (Latin: Ceretania; Catalan: Cerdanya; French: Cerdagne; Spanish: Cerdaña) is a natural comarca and historical region of the eastern Pyrenees divided between France and Spain. Historically it has been one of the counties of Catalonia.

Cerdanya has a land area of 1,086 km2 (419 sq mi), divided almost evenly between Spain (50.3%) and France (49.7%). In 2001 its population was approximately 26,500, of whom 53% lived on Spanish territory. Its population density of 24 residents per km² (63 per sq. mile) is one of the lowest in Western Europe. The only urban area in Cerdanya is the cross-border urban area of Puigcerdà-Bourg-Madame, which contained 10,900 inhabitants in 2001.

The area enjoys a high annual amount of sunshine – around 3,000 hours per year. For this reason, pioneering large-scale solar power projects have been built in several locations in French Cerdagne, including Font-Romeu-Odeillo-Via, the Themis plant near Targassonne, and Mont-Louis Solar Furnace in Mont-Louis.

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Antiquity

The first inhabitants of Cerdanya probably spoke a language related to the old Basque language and to Aquitanian. Many place names testify to this. In the first millennium BC came the Iberians from the south. Although their identity is still a matter of debate, some theories posit that they spoke an Afro-Asiatic language, and that they separated from the Berbers in North Africa and moved into Spain and then further north to the south of modern-day France.

In Cerdanya they mixed with the native inhabitants, and the resulting people were known as the Kerretes, from the native word ker or kar, meaning rock, related to old Basque karri (modern Basque harri), stone. The Kerretes were probably essentially of Basque and Aquitanian-related stock, as the Iberian clans who mixed with the native inhabitants can have comprised only small numbers of people. The Kerretes retained a language related to old Basque and Aquitanian, although some Iberian words may have entered the language, and Iberians probably occupied positions at the top of the Kerrete society.

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