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The Phoenicians’ Route in As Rías Baixas

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The Phoenicians, a historic community of great merchants, opened big trade and cultural exchange seaways in the Mediterranean Sea more than three thousand years ago. Their anxiety led them to expand borders and establish bonds with different people of the Atlantic. So, in the 8th century BC the relations with the northwest of the Peninsula began. The large number of findings uncovered in the archaeological sites in As Rías Baixas proves those bonds and that this land was one of the central points of the Atlantic Phoenicians’ Route.


O FachoO Facho Hill (Cangas)

The Phoenician’s Route was consolidated as one of the main sea routes used by this civilisation for trade and cultural exchange in the Mediterranean since the 12th century BC. The origin of these journeys contributed to the creation of a Mediterranean cultural community between the Phoenicians and other great civilizations of the area, which is called “koiné". This maritime trade caused an intense exchange not only of materials and products but also of people and ideas.

The excavations carried out since the 20th century, especially in the last decade, in some archaeological sites in the province of Pontevedra−such as the pre-Roman hillfort settlement castro Punta do Muíño do Vento (Vigo), A Lanzada (Sanxenxo), the O Facho Hill (Cangas) and the castro of Alobre (Vilagarcía de Arousa)−document the mark left by the Phoenician-Punic world in the northwest of the Peninsula, at least since the 8th century BC. Nowadays, these places, in full process of restoration together with other 15 settlements, are perfect for a tourist experience that transport visitors to those times of trade and cultural exchange in a fantastic natural environment.

These merchants from the south of the Peninsula or the north of Africa also covered the route to As Rías Baixas because it is a territory rich in metals like the tin, used by the Phoenicians for making bronze. Besides, the richness and abundance of natural resources, which were especially maritime and difficult to find in other territories, added attraction to this Atlantic trace called the Route of the Kassitérides.

Asentamiento en A LanzadaSetting in A Lanzada (Sanxenxo)

The most accepted hypothesis is that this ancient civilization travelled to the well-known Tin Islands or Kassitérides, which would correspond with the archipelago of Scilly in the United Kingdom, but there are other theories considering that it was in the Galician coast where they really ended their voyage. In the 18th century José Cornide, regarding a document about Estrabón, defends that these islands belonged to Spain and they were located whether in front of the Galician coasts (and now covered by water) or would be the same inlets and the nearby islands.

The trade between the Phoenicians and the northwest of the Iberian Peninsula increased after the First Punic War (264-241 BC). The loss of some Mediterranean territories and the irruption of Rome as new power forced the merchants to look for other destinations where they could exchange raw materials with their products. During this search the trade routes were established, which brought to the Northwest a large number of materials and artefacts of Mediterranean origin.

The Phoenicians’ Route disembarks in Pontevedra

The Phoenicians’ Route is one of the international cultural routes acknowledged by the Council of Europe, which passes through 80 cities and 18 countries from three continents, where there are sites and archaeological Phoenician and Punic remains.

Without being washed by the Mediterranean Sea, Pontevedra is the first Spanish province which is part of this seaway. This destination, selected to lead the promotion and dissemination on the Atlantic coast, is part of a national network composed by other cities such as Cádiz, Cartagena, Ibiza, Palma de Mallorca, as well as the Provincial Council of Jaén or the University of Jaén and the town of Santo Tomé, among others.

From the 22 November, the hall of the building Pazo provincial of the Provincial Council of Pontevedra will house an exhibition with images and information boards about some archaeological sites in Spain, which are included in the State Network of the Phoenicians' Route.

The archaeological sites in As Rías Baixas

A Lanzada (Sanxenxo)

This setting in the town of Sanxenxo is located in a privileged environment by the sea and it was inhabited in different periods of the ancient times. It is worth mentioning the importance of the remains of the Gallaecian settlement (5th-2nd centuries BC), the fish salting factory, the necropolis, the small church and the medieval fortress.

The archaeological site in this settlement from the Iron Age established a model of exploitation of the sea and a Phoenician-Punic fish salting factory related to the merchants from the Mediterranean, which was possibly the first fish or tinned food salting factory in the northwest of the Peninsula clearly connected to the Punic world.

O Facho Hill (Cangas)

This setting, with stunning views over the Cíes Islands, the archipelago A Illa de Ons and the Costa da Vela, is an internationally renowned place that houses a sanctuary with altars from the Roman era. In this site over a hundred altars were recorded. This spot is privileged for being 184 metres above sea level and coastal, which probably promoted the relationships with the Phoenicians. There, other artefacts such as ceramics of Mediterranean origin were found.

Asentamiento A LanzadaSetting in A Lanzada (Sanxenxo)
O FachoO Facho Hill (Cangas)

Castro of Alobre (Vilagarcía de Arousa)

The archaeological excavations in this castro, currently located in the very heart of the old town, proved its large richness because of its different occupation levels at the end of the Iron Age, in the 1st century BC. In addition, its strategic location in the inlet Ría de Arousa and near the mouth of the Ulla River gives access to the trade routes of the Phoenician merchants.

Castro de AlobreCastro of Alobre (Vilagarcía de Arousa)

The materials documented in the discoveries proved its relation with the Mediterranean world and especially with the south of the Iberian Peninsula, the Italian Peninsula and the Balearic Islands. A large number of Punic imports (since the 8th century BC) and Late Punic ones were identified. The metal pieces are very important, especially in bronze, which are over 400 in number.

Castro Punta do Muíño do Vento (Vigo)

This castro is one of the oldest settlements in the town of Vigo. It is located in a small cape known as Punta do Muíño do Vento. Its name is due to the possible existence of an old mill in this area, surely reusing the old structures. Now in this place, on the banks of the inlet Ría de Vigo, we can find the Museo do Mar de Galicia.

It has been proven that in this privileged location there was a commercial relation with the Punic people since it houses some elements of worship and an altar with a quadrangular floor plan of Punic origin as a symbol of unity between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.

O Castro Hill (Ribadumia)

This archaeological site in O Castro Hill, in the town of Ribadumia, is a fortified settlement from the Iron Age located 110 metres above sea level. Due to its documented remains, it is said that it may have been inhabited during the 4th and 1st centuries BC and AC. In the excavations carried out in 2011, thirteen circular houses, a big courtyard house and a wall were uncovered, as well as thousands of pieces including ceramics from the 5th-1st centuries BC from the north of Africa or the surroundings of Gádir, and a fragment of an aryballos from Rodas.

Castro de Punta do Muíño do Vento (Vigo)Castro Punta do Muíño do Vento (Vigo)
Monte do Castro (Ribadumia)O Castro Hill (Ribadumia)
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