Rites, objects and places: Materials of the Mediterranean Imaginary
Representation of the goddess Astarte belonging to a thymiaterium from the Torrubia necropolis, near Cástulo and that it would have been manufactured in a Phoenician workshop in the South of the Iberian Peninsula. This figure, along with two similar ones as caryatids, was the support of the bowl in which to burn incense in ritual ceremonies.Along with this element numerous bronze fragments of the thymiaterium were preserved, such as the bowl, a doe and another similar caryatid.
This frieze of sandstone comes from the Estacar de Robarinas Necropolis, near Cástulo. The iconography refers to the Iberian culture both by the typical concentric circles and by the lotus flower, since this is the symbol of Astarte, a very important divinity in the Iberian Phateon and in the city of Cástulo. This goddess, therefore, is related to the custody and protection of the dead, so their location in a burial mound of an important Iberian character is perfectly compatible.
Ring with oval chaton in which is represented a winged sphinx played with an Egyptian klaft, and on which is the solar disk.This type of decoration could have a protective role against evil, since the Sphinx in the world is a divine animal guardian and protector of the deities.The orientalizing character of the decoration reflects the Punic influence in Iberian society, and according to its typology could be framed in a chronology of the end of S. V a.C. and the first half of the S. IV a.C.
This pot is dated in the seventh century BC, and evidences the contacts at that time of Castulo with tartessios and Phoenicians. Since prehistory, the connection with the eastern Mediterranean is established through the Guadalimar river.
This object is an obvious example where you can see the beginning of the Iberian Ancient Age. The decorative motifs of series of concentric circles in the ceramic vessels were typical of the societies of the Iberian, this motif being practically unknown in the Phoenician settlements of Andalusia.
We observe, therefore, a transformation of the cultural features of the Phoenician colonizing-commercial societies, towards a very particular interpretation of them by the indigenous world, which will give as a direct result the formation of full Iberian society.
The ex-votos offerings are typical elements of the religious character of the Iberian culture, which is characterized by the use of public sanctuaries linked to the city and the territory, located in the middle of nature, in places where the landscape is impressive and there are caves strategically located, which are given the value of a sanctuary and where water from nearby springs is of great importance.
The votive offering was made with the intention of giving thanks to the benefactor deity. For this reason, it was mostly individual and, above all, voluntary. The devotee deposited an ex-voto before his god; it was, therefore, a gift in aeternum, different from the one verified in a sacrifice or in the offering of flowers, fruits of the earth or prepared foods.
Small amulet carved on bone that represents Harpocrates.
This character was adapted by the Greeks from the Egyptian god Horus child, who represented the rising sun. Greeks transforming it into their Hellenistic god known as Harpocrates, an interpretation of the Egyptian Har-pa-khered.
This amulet was found in the northwest area of the city of Cástulo, where the presence of a temple or sanctuary and elements related to the worship for the deities stands out at least from the orientalizing age.
This intaglio probably belonged to a pendant, and is made on high quality rock crystal.
The representation shows a rural scene, in which Eros appears in the attitude of trying, with a stick, to drive away a bird that is perched on the branch of a vine, a tree that also supports a ladder, on the side opposite.
The representation of Eros is common, having very close parallels in similar chronology, as in the Mosaic of Eros, in which also the scene presents a combination of winged birds and mythological beings.
This object was part of an askos, a deer-shaped jar. It is a piece that should have a ritual function, perhaps the realization of libations within religious and funeral activities.
Libations are rituals consisting of pouring wine or other liquids on some sacred element as an offering to the gods.
This type of foot-shaped containers are known in the Eastern Greek world since the beginning of the 6th century BC, although there are precedents in previous periods.
The place where we find it and its context allow to ascribe a ritual function, being located in the area of the Alba Tower sanctuary next to other elements deposited as an offering.
This oinochoe in a production of black varnish pottery from the workshops of the city of Teano in northern Campania, and is an imitation of metallic productions, much more expensive.
This imitations of black varnish have their origin in the workshops of the Etruscan area since the end of S IV a.C.
This type of containers are identified as objects destined to ritual activities related to the cult of the deities. In this case, the container has been located, as an offering and together with other materials, next to the Torre Alba sanctuary of Castulo, allowing to determine its functionality within the cult activities.
In the Iberian Peninsula this type of tweezers were already known in contexts of the Bronze Age, although with a smaller size. In Iberian times, the tweezers ended up being part of funeral trousseaux, specifically warriors.
In this case, they were located in the area of the Alba Tower sanctuary, buried in the ground as an offering next to other objects, such as ceramics or the claw of a bear.
The claw of this bear was located in the area of the Alba Tower sanctuary, in a votive context with other elements deposited in the place as sacred offerings.
The presence of brown bear in Andalusia is confirmed until modern times, in the mid-seventeenth century, placing its definitive extinction throughout the nineteenth century.
This object, by its shape and size seems to have a domestic use. This use could be ritual to burn aromatic essences in the small altars of the gods lares and penates or simply as a prophylactic function.
In Roman times it was very frequent the use of these gems in rings, whose use within society was recognized as a privilege that differentiated free people from slaves.
The engraving of the gems was carried out mainly in the manufacture of jewels, in rings especially. But the it were not only used on this support, but also use as amulets, whose possession protected the owner from various ills and diseases, and in many cases was deposited in the tombs, to protect the person even after his death.
In the Western tradition, quartz has always been considered as a rock with high supernatural power. In ancient times, citrine quarz was used as a talisman to protect against plague, some skin problems and even to avoid evil thoughts, like the evil eye. Also it served as an enhancer of spells, some of which were certainly singulars, providing an antidote for bites of poisonous reptiles.
It is known that the gems-amulets were as important as frequent, and possessing them was not luxurious, instead it was something normal, like other bronze or terracotta amulets, much more present in the archaeological record.
Magical gems served as protection amulets against diseases and misfortunes, and began to have use from the second century AD. with the arrival of Eastern religions and Christianity.
These amulets are usually engraved on both sides, representing a figurative theme on the front and an inscription on the back, so that when the piece is linked to a ring, the text is hidden.
The inscriptions, which corresponded to words or magic formulas, are usually made with Greek characters, and in the representations were used Egyptian, Greek or Roman deities.
This lead plaque is written on both sides and it contains a prayer of magical-religious character, addressed to a divinity always referred to as "Dominus", so we do not know his identity. It is likely that the person who commissioned the inscription will be called Calvius Callidus, although we know for sure who it was intended for: Iulius Paternus, who is mentioned several times on both sides of the lead. It is probable that Iulius Paternus had committed some offense, for whose punishment, by the person who commissioned the inscription, the intervention of the divinity was necessary.
Archaeological excavations in the center of the city of Cástulo have revealed the existence of three lucernes decorated with the menorah, the seven-branched candelabrum that represents one of the most important ritual elements of Judaism.
These fragments of ceramics, together with the presence of other elements with writing in Hebrew, evidence the existence of a Jewish community in Cástulo around the 5th century AD.
In the center of the town of Cástulo, a fragment of a ceramic bowl with a possible graphite in Hebrew was recovered, a bowl that should have been used as a cover for another container.
At this time, with few exceptions, in the Jewish communities they did not know Hebrew, although this was fossilized in small footprints that do not presuppose a sufficient knowledge of it.
Different interpretations of the text are proposed, although with difficulty, due to the nature of the support, the brevity of the text and the little skill of the person who wrote it.
One of the possible readings could be the following:
This type of square silver coins were minted for the first time in the Islamic West by the Almohad emirs, an empire that spread through North Africa and al-Andalus between 1121 and 1269.
On the obverse and on the reverse we can find in cursive scripture the shahada or profession of Islamic faith, the declaration of faith in a single God (Allāh) according to the Islamic faith and the teachings of Muhammad, also indicating the name of the Almohad Imam Al Mahdi.
The paten represents one of the oldest and best preserved manifestations of Christian iconography on this support of the Iberian Peninsula.
The piece shows three characters with halo, highlighting the central figure, a Christ in Majesty flanked by two Apostles, probably Peter and Paul. The scene unfolds in the celestial orb, framed between two palm trees, which, in Christian iconography, represent immortality, the hereafter, the heaven...
Beliefs: Nature, Magic and Religion
Conjunto Arqueológico de Cástulo, Linares (Jaén)
Consejería de Cultura de la Junta de Andalucía
Universidad de Jaén – Instituto Universitario de Investigación en Arqueología Ibérica.
Curated by Marcelo Castro López y Concepción Choclán Sabina.
Texts: Francisco Arias de Haro, David Expósito Mangas y Marcelo Castro López.
Photography: Francisco Arias de Haro, Jose Manuel Pedrosa Luque and Yolanda Ogayar Martínez.
Infographic: Isidoro García Hernández (esTRESd Patrimonio Virtual) and Francisco Arias de Haro.
Digital layout: Francisco Arias de Haro.