Castulo City

History and legacy of an archaeological site.

By Conjunto Arqueológico de Cástulo

Conjunto Arqueológico de Cástulo

Archaeological Museum of Linares (1956)Conjunto Arqueológico de Cástulo

1. The Archaeological Ensemble of Castulo

The Archaeological Ensemble of Castulo is composed of the Archaeological Museum of Linares and the city of Castulo, located 6 kilometers from Linares. The Archaeological Museum of Linares preserves and exhibits the main collection of Castulo, formed in its initial stages with private donations and further increased thanks to the materials documented in numerous excavations archaeological. There is also a dispersed archaeological collection, "a Cástulo outside of Linares". Among other works, the National Archaeological Museum preserves the wake of "mining child" and the Deutsches Bergbau Museum in Bochum, Germany, the relief of the miners.

Aerial view of the archaeological site of CástuloConjunto Arqueológico de Cástulo

The relevance of the city of Castulo is evident since antiquity. We can find lots of citations in classical sources in addition to evidence of continued occupation, at least from the Copper Age to the fourteenth century. We are talking about more than 4,000 years of occupation.

The importance acquired by Castulo is favored by the abundance of existing argentiferous galena in the environment and its strategic location. Castulo is situated on a broad plateau of nearly 50 hectares along the river Guadalimar (Betis river to the Romans). Until the city reached the main roads in Roman times. This is the case of the Via Augusta, which ran alongside the river, where a harbor was built, which served as the backbone for the export of silver, lead, olive oil, cereal or livestock.

Despite the systematic pillaging suffered in Castulo throughout their history, archaeological interventions and various findings demonstrate the importance of the site and show great cultural and historical wealth.

The current archaeological site not only stands out for its high historical and archaeological interest, also has landscape and environmental resources which give it a special uniqueness.

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Demarcation of the Archaeological Area of Castulo by PNOA from © National Geographic InstituteConjunto Arqueológico de Cástulo

The protected area around the city of Castulo covers an area of 3,238 hectares declared of Cultural Interest. This area occupies part of the municipalities of Linares, Torreblascopedro and Lupión, and this is an area that shows the vast heritage linked to the ancient city.

The publicly owned land, expropriated by the state in 1972, covers an area of 74 hectares, encompassing the vast plateau on which the walled city and its slopes was.

Bifacial Handaxe (-180000/-40000)Conjunto Arqueológico de Cástulo

2. Prehistory

surveys carried out on the terraces of the Guadalimar River and the
environment of Cástulo have documented the presence of hominids
belonging to nomadic societies (Homo neanderthalensis) in stages Middle
Paleolithic (180,000 B.C. - 40,000 B.C.). The origin of the
city of Castulo can be dated to the Neolithic Age (5000 BC - 2000 BC), a
period characterized by the development of agriculture and livestock and
technological advances such as the use of polished stone or ceramic. This
favors the appearance of the first permanent settlements on the plateau. In the second
millennium, during the Middle Bronze Age, Castulo has established itself as a
major population center linked with mining operations in Sierra Morena. Its
strategic position next to the Guadalimar river will allow you to establish
business relations with the Mediterranean.

The presence of Neanderthals in the Alto Guadalquivir is represented by the existence of rough stone tools made more than 40,000 years ago.

Arrowheads and archer plate (-3000/-2000)Conjunto Arqueológico de Cástulo

The discovery of metallurgy is an important step for the development of new and more sophisticated tools for hunting.

Mining hammer (-2200/-1500)Conjunto Arqueológico de Cástulo

The exploitation of mineral resources occurs from very early stages, existing prehistoric efficient tools developed for this purpose.

Thymiaterium (-699/-600)Conjunto Arqueológico de Cástulo

3. Orientalizing period

Late Bronze Age, Castulo becomes primary receiver of the Greeks and Phoenicians mining interests in the Alto Guadalquivir, as well as an advanced center in the periphery of the tartesic culture. The arrival of Greeks and Phoenicians gave way to a new stage determined by their influence on the local culture, this period became evident mainly in the southeast slope of the plateau, along the river Guadalimar. There lies known as the Poblado de La Muela, dated around the eighth century B.C. In this area are also preserved remains of a temple or aristocratic palace that evidence social complexity of the moment.Archaeological interventions by Jose Maria Blazquez show several phases that confirm, thanks to the analisys of ceramics and constructions, initially predominance of the indigenous world and a slight presence of settlers (Phoenicians or Tartessos). In later stages, around the sixth century. C., this distinction begins to disappear between the indigenous and colonial. Although life forms and ritual uses have some changes, the purpose of the settlement (the exploitation of mines) will remain the same.

Pot with stand (-700/-600)Conjunto Arqueológico de Cástulo

The richness of the area favors the early arrival of settlers in the eastern Mediterranean, who introduce new technologies and styling applied, for example, to pottery, like this pot with stand.

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Pebble mosaic (-600/-500)Conjunto Arqueológico de Cástulo

The presence of the Phoenicians and the oriental character of the temple of La Muela is evident in pebble mosaics, can find constructive parallel from the first millennium B.C. in the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean.

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Thymiaterium (-699/-600)Conjunto Arqueológico de Cástulo

This bronze thymiaterium is an import from the eastern Mediterranean that would be used to burn incense in some ritual, until eventually is deposited as grave goods in the tomb of a prominent person in town, no doubt related to it.

Thymiaterium lid (-699/-600)Conjunto Arqueológico de Cástulo

The lid of the thymiaterion has triangular holes that allow the smoke to escape.

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Bronze bull (-699/-600)Conjunto Arqueológico de Cástulo

Over the lid, forming part of it, a hollow bronze bull that also allowed the smoke to escape through his mouth.

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Sphinx (-699/-600)Conjunto Arqueológico de Cástulo

The Sphinx was part of the ritual set, and possibly was the handle of the lid of the box destined to store the incense.

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Virtual reconstruction of the set of Thymiaterion and Sphinx from Cástulo (-699/-600)Conjunto Arqueológico de Cástulo

Virtual reconstruction of the set of Thymiaterion and Sphinx.

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Castulo cup - Kylix (-425/-400)Conjunto Arqueológico de Cástulo

4. Iberian period

Since sixth century A.D. the oppidum of Castulo develops a stage of splendor to become one of the largest cities in the Iberian Peninsula thanks to its strategic location next to the Guadalimar river, the fertility of environment, mining, development of new technologies (such as work with iron) and trade relations with the Mediterranean.


Testimony of this trade with the Greek world are the attic pottery documented in archaeological excavations. The beginning of the import of these products is placed chronologically in the last quarter of S. V B.C. increasing gradually, until the second quarter of the fourth century B.C. it arrived massively. The splendor of the city is also reflected in the fact that it was one of the few Iberian cities that minted its own currency, away from the coastal communities in direct contact with the colonizers from Eastern Mediterranean.

Greek Krater (-350/-300)Conjunto Arqueológico de Cástulo

Trade routes through the river Guadalimar allowed the arrival of luxury items such as the Greek craters, used in funeral rites and deposited in tombs as grave goods.

Iberian Capitel (-500/-200)Conjunto Arqueológico de Cástulo

Currently there are few visible architectural remains of this phase, but thanks to the sources and archaeological studies, we know elements that allow us to approach the monumentality of some Iberian constructions in Castulo.

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"As" coin from Castulo (-195/-179)Conjunto Arqueológico de Cástulo

Since the late third century B.C. until the first century B.C. Castulo mints its own currency in which we find symbols such as the Sphinx and the name of the city with Iberian characters.

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Falcata (-499/-300)Conjunto Arqueológico de Cástulo

The falcata is a characteristic weapon of the Iberians, an effective and feared weapon by enemies. According to Diodorus (5.33.4) “cuts through anything which gets in its way, for no shield or helmet or bone can withstand a blow from it, because of the exceptional quality of the iron”.

Bronze ex-voto (-500/-200)Conjunto Arqueológico de Cástulo

With the votive offerings we can make an approach to religion and beliefs of the Iberians. These figures are representations of humans, animals or body parts, and were deposited in sanctuaries, such as Collado de los Jardines or Castellar de Santisteban, in honor of the gods in exchange for welfare, health, protection or prosperity.

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Iberian slate plate (-425/-350)Conjunto Arqueológico de Cástulo

This particular representation of an Iberian rider on a blackboard allows us to observe details of the clothing and equipment of the Iberian time that otherwise would be impossible to know. Among them, the saddle made from animal skin and the cinch for clamping it. Such materials are not generally preserved, due to their organic nature.

Carthaginian tower (-228/-200)Conjunto Arqueológico de Cástulo

In 228 B.C. Castulo is submitted by the Carthaginians in command of Amilcar Barca, after its entry into the Peninsula in 236 B.C. after the defeat in the First Punic War against Rome.

Iberian Peninsula was the main supply base of men, food and riches, to organize the expedition to Italy in the Second Punic War. Castulo with argentiferous wealth was the main source of income.

After the defeat and death of Amilcar by Orisio, oretano ruler, in 228 BC, his son-in-law and successor Asdrubal come his death and conquer the Oretania initiating a policy of friendship with the nobility that would further enhance his successor, Aníbal Barca.

Anibal married the daughter of a ruler from Castulo to strengthen its alliances and start from here the conquest of the Plateau and lead the beginning of the Second Punic War against Rome with the conquest of Sagunto in 219 BC.

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Hypocaustum of Roman bathsConjunto Arqueológico de Cástulo

5. Roman period

The start of the Second Punic War resulted in the entry of the Roman legions in the Iberian Peninsula, which cut the supply route of Hannibal's troops, who were advancing towards Rome. Castulo was conquered by Rome in 214 B.C. but not for long, because in 211 B.C. the Carthaginian army commanded by general Mago Barca and Hasdrubal Gisco again conquered the area and killed the Roman generals Publius and Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio.In 209 B.C. the Roman general Scipio Africanus, conquer Carthago Nova and begins the conquest of the Iberian Peninsula. At first it is directed towards Castulo, besieging and conquering it through a pact with the local aristocracy in 206 B.C., entering the city in the Roman orbit until the end of the Empire.

Idealization of the city of Castulo in Roman timesConjunto Arqueológico de Cástulo

During the late Republic and Roman Empire Castulo enjoyed enormous economic and social prosperity known through the remains of public buildings that have been documented by archaeological methodology in recent decades or epigraphy, by which we know the existence of a theater and an amphitheater.

Mining pick (-100/100)Conjunto Arqueológico de Cástulo

After the conquest of Castulo by Rome, were granted to the city social and political privileges and economic control over the metalliferous deposits of Sierra Morena Oriental, on which quickly began work attracting many publicans from southern Italy to exploit mines.

Silver denarius - Caesar's comet (-19/-18)Conjunto Arqueológico de Cástulo

At the beginning of the Roman period, Castulo becomes federated city ("civitas et liberae immune") partially exempt from tax payments, but should hold a Roman garrison and provide troops in case of war.

It is possible that Castulo began his political and administrative organization with Caesar in the first century B.C., being with Augustus when it seems that the administrative organization is adapted to the Roman model, configured as municipality of Latin law.

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Marble base (122/140)Conjunto Arqueológico de Cástulo

In Roman times the cultivation of olive groves in the area of Castulo should be of great importance as evidence this rescript, a legal rule issued by the emperor in response to a legal consultation in a dispute about an issue of taxation or administration about olive oil.

Lion sculpture (-199/-1)Conjunto Arqueológico de Cástulo

Over time, the city recycles on itself, and materials of buildings and structures in ruin are reused for new constructions, as seen at the monument located on the north wall, where the lion sculpture was documented.

Among its claws shows the torso and head of a human figure with African features, perhaps showing how nature overcomes the human condition.

Lion sculpture (-200/200)Conjunto Arqueológico de Cástulo

Other sculptures have not been preserved as well as the previous one, and in some cases erosion and deterioration have given an almost cartoonish peculiar aspect.

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Mosaic of Eros (82/96)Conjunto Arqueológico de Cástulo

One of the most important elements in Castulo is the mosaic of Eros, a room of 70 square meters in excellent condition located in a building that would possibly be intended for the imperial cult of Domitian.

In the center are two main symbols with representations of classical mythology, the myth of Selene and Endymion and the Judgment of Paris.

Most of the mosaic is composed of stone tiles, however, there are also numerous glass paste tiles that provide the most vivid colors. In the emblem of winter is possible to distinguish twentyfour different shades of color, being 18% of the tiles of glass paste.

Mosaic stratigraphy: Proposal on the implementation of Winter allegory (82/96)Conjunto Arqueológico de Cástulo

By experimenting with various applications of low cost, and after obtaining high-resolution images of mosaic of Eros, it emerged challenges designed to further research the mosaic. One such study, by using stratigraphy, allowed closer to the only people who used that space, its creators.

Virtual reconstruction of the room of mosaic of Eros (82/96)Conjunto Arqueológico de Cástulo

The remains unaltered of the demolished building permit to know in detail the decoration of the walls of the room, with interlocking swastikas, red stucco panels, false pilasters with floral decoration and a height of 3.80 meters.

Mosaic of Eros and idealization of roman city of Cástulo (82/96)Conjunto Arqueológico de Cástulo

Along with the archaeological excavations and analysis and study of the written sources throughout history, the use of new technologies such as geophysical prospecting, 3d computer graphics, virtual reality or low cost applications allow us to know a little more general details and particulars of the ancient city of Castulo.

Christian building (325/399)Conjunto Arqueológico de Cástulo

In 313 A.D. Constantine I legalized Christianity, and in 325 D.C. with the First Council of Nicaea gives legitimacy to it in the Empire that would favor its expansion. In Castulo stands the presence of one of the oldest Christian buildings in the Iberian Peninsula, dating from the fourth century A.D. and wherein the paten of Christ in Majesty was found.

The paten of Christ in majesty (325/399)Conjunto Arqueológico de Cástulo

Paten of Christ in Majesty of Castulo is one of the best preserved pieces of this type in the world. In it we find the representation of Christ's oldest documented in the Iberian Peninsula.

Roman lucerne with menorah (300/499)Conjunto Arqueológico de Cástulo

Recent archaeological excavations also have documented a set of materials associated with a burned building around the IV-V centuries A.D. that reveal the presence of a Jewish community installed in the city center.

Visigoth brooch (576/600)Conjunto Arqueológico de Cástulo

6. Visigoth period

Visigoth stage has little archaeological evidence in Castulo, except
some remains documented in the Northeast plateau and the necropolis
of the North Gate, although there are record of historical references
of them. During
this stage, when Recaredo leaves Arianism in 589 A.D. promulgating
Christianity as the official religion, Castulo is represented in the
various Councils by his bishop or priest on their behalf. Castulo's
bishopric and his diocese has its origins in Roman times, and it
interrupted the late seventh century A.D., when the episcopal
bishop's chair moved to Baeza. The Tenth Council of Toledo is the
last attended by the bishops of Castulo.

At this stage the city would have suffered a drastic reduction of the population and would be found partially abandoned. Archaeological evidence suggests a concentration of the population in the northeast plateau of the city, where burials have been located reusing Roman structures.

Visigoth burial (600/699)Conjunto Arqueológico de Cástulo

The abandonment of the central area of the city in Visigothic period is manifest with evidences as this burial in a mass grave of two people that were killed, buried in a secluded and abandoned place, away from unwanted looks, in what previously was the heart of a great city.

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Emiral oil lamp (800/925)Conjunto Arqueológico de Cástulo

7. Islamic period

In times of al-Andalus the city is known as the hisn of Qastuluna, a fortification that according to recent archaeological investigations occupy the elevated area northwest of the large plateau, with the remainder of the old roman city a place of settlement of small nuclei dispersed within the walls.

Silver dirham (1121/1269)Conjunto Arqueológico de Cástulo

About the history of the city at this stage we have some historical references, such as the Battle of Qastuluna in 786 A.D. between the troops of Abderramán I and AI-Fihiri Yusuf, the governor of the Mark of Toledo who rebelled against the emir. We can find another later reference with the uprising of the Muladies in Qastuluna by which Ubay ben Alah ben AI-Shaliya proclaims king and rule about for twenty years until Abderramán III decides to end the revolt and AI-Shaliya must deliver the city unable to cope with its small troops to the caliph.

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Aerial view of the castle of Santa EufemiaConjunto Arqueológico de Cástulo

Between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries the main fortification is positioned at the southern end of the old city. The Castle of Santa Eufemia is in this phase, which only remains of a tower built in the late twelfth century. This castle is located at the southern end and is isolated from the main plateau, with a moat to the north to favor the defense of the most vulnerable area.

After the Christian conquest, Cástulo continued occupied with a small village until the fourteenth century, before being finally abandoned. From that moment, the rise of Baeza and Linares supposed the dismantling of Castulo, serving its ruins as quarry for the growth of these two cities.

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LopezPinto (1656)Conjunto Arqueológico de Cástulo

8. Modern age

the fifteenth century Castulo suffered the demolition order of its walls and
the remains of buildings still standing for "not serve as a refuge for
bandits and highwaymen." With that disappear the remains of one of the
most important Ibero-Roman cities of the Peninsula.After
the final abandonment of the site, interest begins on its ruins. The first
visit to Castulo with interest about his story that is recorded was the
ambassador of the Republic of Venice, Andrea Navaguero in 1526, interested in
the architecture of the Roman cities mentioned in classical literature.

During the reigns of Carlos I and Felipe II various catalogs of Antiquities was made. Castulo deserves the attention of authors as Gregorio López Pinto, who in his "apologetics History of the very ancient city of Castulo" described the site indicating the strong walls of same and localized four main gateways to the city in the four cardinal points. He also represents one of the last buildings in Castulo, the hermitage of Santa Eufemia, dedicated to the worship of this holy behind the false attribution of martyrdom in the city by Jerónimo Román de la Higuera in the late sixteenth century.

The most comprehensive description of the archaeological site was made by J. Martinez de Mazas in the eighteenth century, which highlights the existence of numerous ruins in the vicinity of the walled city.

In the nineteenth century Castulo was the subject of various descriptions such as Pascual Madoz or Manuel de Gongora, Inspector of Antiquities of the Real Academia de la Historia, who visited the site and identified four gates in the city walls, like Lopez Pinto, and several towers of cyclopean stones, making a detailed topographic map in which we discover the state of the site.

La descripción más exhaustiva del asentamiento la realiza en el siglo XVIII, J. Martínez de Mazas, que pone de relieve la existencia de numerosas ruinas en el entorno de la ciudad amurallada.

En el siglo XIX Cástulo fue objeto de diversas descripciones como las de Pascual Madoz o las de Manuel de Góngora, Inspector de Antigüedades de la Real Academia de la Historia, que visitó el yacimiento e identificó cuatro puertas en el recinto amurallado, al igual que Lopez Pintó y varias torres de piedras ciclópeas, realizando un detallado plano topográfico en el que nos descubre el estado del yacimiento.

Castulo City in 1656. (1656)Conjunto Arqueológico de Cástulo

The plan drawn by Gregorio López Pinto in 1656 is the first mapping performed on the Cástulo ruins, and the first idealization of the ancient city, which was already devastated, although documented existing buildings such as the chapel of Santa Eufemia, others like perimeter wall of the city had to interpret from the remains that were preserved.

Archaeological excavation in 1973 (-500/-300)Conjunto Arqueológico de Cástulo

9. Contemporary era

From the 60s of the twentieth century many archaeological excavations were made in Castulo and its environment, highlighting the excavations directed by Jose Maria Blazquez, who conducted numerous studies in the city and in necropolis around it, using a scientific methodology to reveal the rich heritage of the ancient city.

Castulo Siglo XXI Project teamConjunto Arqueológico de Cástulo

In 2011, with the creation of the Archaeological Ensemble of Castulo, began a new stage of investigations by the Project Forvm MMX, the germ of General Research Project "Castulo XXI Century" which takes place today, combining the efforts of different administrations (Consejería de Cultura and Consejería de Economía, Innovación, Ciencia y Empleo of Junta de Andalucía; Universidad de Jaén; Instituto Universitario de Investigacién en Arqueología Ibérica; Diputación Provincial; Ayuntamiento de Linares and Chapman University (USA); an extensive multidisciplinary technical team and citizenship, betting on research, valuation and protection of our Heritage.

Credits: Story

Castulo City: History and legacy

Conjunto Arqueológico de Cástulo, Linares (Jaén)
Consejería de Cultura de la Junta de Andalucía

Curated by Francisco Arias de Haro and Marcelo Castro López.
Texts: Francisco Arias de Haro y Marcelo Castro López.
Photography: Francisco Arias de Haro, Jose Manuel Pedrosa Luque and Yolanda Ogayar Martínez.
Infographic: esTRESd Patrimonio Virtual.
Digital layout: Francisco Arias de Haro.

Archaeological Ensemble of Cástulo.

Credits: All media
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