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Home Culture This is how the rituals of offerings to Iberian deities were almost three thousand years ago | Culture

This is how the rituals of offerings to Iberian deities were almost three thousand years ago | Culture

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In 1914, a resident of the municipality of Galera (Granada) named Marta dreamed that “abundant and rich treasures” would be found in the then unknown archaeological complex of Tútugi, on the outskirts of the town, composed of a fortified settlement, an exterior necropolis and a nearby sanctuary, located on the so-called Castle Hill. The townspeople then began a mad search for the treasure that ended with numerous destroyed burial mounds and the discovery of what is known as the Galera Lady, today in the National Archaeological Museum. Despite the looting and enormous plundering that the site suffered in the seventies and eighties of the last century, archaeologists María Oliva Rodríguez Ariza, Eva Montes Moya, Paloma Muriel López and Carmen Rueda Galán have managed to reconstruct what the ritual of offerings to the divinities that the inhabitants of Tútugi adopted between the Bronze Age (7th and 6th centuries BC) and the Iron Age (5th to 2nd centuries BC) in the sanctuary. Gold tongues, dozens of bronze rings, thousands of pots and plates from which the base was torn off were part of a ritual that began at the base of the mountain and ended with the burying of the shattered ceramics halfway down the slope.

At the beginning of 2000, Rodríguez Ariza began the investigation of the necropolis, and in June 2021 the excavation and magnetic prospecting work of the hill was carried out by the group of the four aforementioned archaeologists, from the University Institute for Research in Iberian Archeology of the Jaen University. The excavation was promoted by the Galera City Council and subsidized by the Granada Provincial Council. The study of materials was carried out within an R&D&I project of the Ministry of Science and Innovation. The investigation of the hill thus revealed the Iberian sanctuary linked to the town of Tútugi, with two different chronological moments in its use: one protohistoric, between the 7th and 6th centuries BC. C., and another full Iberian one (IV to III BC) with pots and bowls made with a wheel.

Aerial view of the Castillo hill with the rectangular areas where the ceramics were deposited.

During the second period, rituals were held at the foot of the hill in which essences were burned, offerings and libations were made. Then, the ceramics that had been used were broken. The broken pots and plates were collected and deposited separately in the middle of the slope: the pots on the south side and the plates on the southwest side. Bronze rings were also included in the ritual. All this is told by the experts in the study The peri-urban sanctuary of Tútugipublished by the magazine Madrid Noticesfrom the German Archaeological Institute.

The fortified city the town of Tútugi, was an urban settlement from which the surrounding territory was controlled and exploited and a magnet that attracted, in turn, worship to the nearby sanctuary. “This became a means of reaffirmation, a space in which the development of practices that combined individual expression with mechanisms capable of ensuring social cohesion was promoted,” they say.

Front and back of the gold tab of a recovered necklace.
Front and back of the gold tab of a recovered necklace.

At the foot of the hill, 70 metal elements have been found, of which 46 are rings, two bronze plates, a button and the gold tongue of a necklace. On the other hand, in the middle of the slope, on some artificial terraces open in the mountain, about five or six meters wide and covered with a layer of plaster, numerous plates and pots without bases or broken that, at some point, contained wheat, barley or oats. “With the plaster they delimited a sacred space or temenoswhich contained the utensils that were offered to the divinity,” the researchers point out.

“Most ceramics are fragmented, responding to intentional breakage. Only some specimens are complete, although they have a dent. Several of the entire vessels were found upside down. This arrangement and the breaks would respond to some regulation of non-use of what has been in contact with the sacred. Although the most striking thing is the almost non-existence of the bottoms of the different vessels. Possibly, they were deposited separately in another place not yet located.”

The gold piece, a small sheet, was part of a necklace and presents the drawing of a flower with five petals, made with a fine gold thread and surrounded by small golden balls or spheres. “This would tell us about an important female presence, since it is a jewel eminently associated with women. These necklaces are a sign of distinction, of the feminine aristocratic image and of age.”

Another important part of the rite analyzed is marked by the discovery of a set of 42 rings, most of them recovered at the base of the hill. “It is assumed that they were made from cut bronze tubes, some being made specifically for their votive offering, since a significant number are documented without traces of use or wear.”

The researchers reconstruct the ritual in this way: “There remains much to reflect on and delve into in relation to the chain of ritual actions itself, but a proposal can be advanced that places some phases in this lower part of the hill, possibly those related to the offering of food or libations, next to the deposit of the rings. Essences were burned and vessels were broken. Unused pots and plates were deposited separately halfway down the slope. Its proximity to the city makes it a peri-urban sanctuary, outside the physical limits of the city, although under the political, economic and, there is no doubt, symbolic control of Tútugi itself.

Manuel Rojo Guerra, professor of Prehistory at the University of Valladolid and director of important Neolithic sites, adds: “The interpretation of ancient rituals is one of the greatest challenges that an archaeologist faces. Starting from scientific evidence, like this case, you reach interesting conclusions. That is making history, the other is describing. “I think it’s fantastic.”

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