Two decades ago, the discoveries made in the archaeological site of A Lanzada, located in a wonderful settlement by the sea, proved that the province of Pontevedra had been a strategic place for trade between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic people. After the excavations, this was no longer regarded as an isolated land and showed that contact with other cultures has been very fluent since the 6th century BCE. As Rías Baixas were part of the long trade routes controlled first, by the Carthaginians and, later, by the people of Gádir.
The northwest of the Iberian Peninsula was a land well-known for its resources, primarily mining, which caught the interest of Rome. This territory, which was then called province of Gallaecia, was a well-structured and complex land with well-defined cultural and social traits. The castros, hillfort settlements of the Gallaeci, located in idyllic spots, are now traces of the past, a collective heritage of great value which is still present in the landscape.
The exhibition “The Gallaeci. A community between two worlds”, promoted by the Provincial Council of Pontevedra through Turismo Rías Baixas, takes us back to this land, to a period of over a thousand years, between the Bronze Age (1,500-800 BCE) and the 6th century AD. More than 65 pieces are part of this exhibition that will first travel to the Museo Arqueológico Nacional in Madrid, on 31 October; later, it will be in Valencia; finally, it will visit the Museo de Pontevedra, just in time to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the Archaeological Society of Pontevedra, where it has its origins.
The exhibition “Galaicos” displays valuable pieces. They were loaned by ten institutions and are accompanied by photographs, texts, replicas and audio-visual projections. Each part of the exhibition boasts several emblematic objects, such as the helmet of Leiro, the Warrior stele found in Castrelo do Val, a pot from A Cabeciña, a dagger from A Lanzada, a diadem from Elviña, a hoop earring from Vilar de Santos, a bracelet from Meis, a tessera hospitalis from O Courel, a pickaxe or dolabra from the mines in Carlés, an altar stone from O Facho Hill and a belt buckle from Moraime.
Some pieces will leave the Museo de Pontevedra for the first time since their discovery. This is the case of the pot and the zoomorphic fibula from O Castro Hill, the ancient Greek pottery vessel askós from Alobre and the the votive axe from Lalín.
Santa Trega (A Guarda, 4th century BCE-1st century AD)
Is a fortified place from the Iron Age located in an incredible spot, where the Miño River flows into the Atlantic Ocean.
This is a symbolic place found in a strategic position which preserves a great number of rock engravings from the Bronze Age. It is known, after consecutive excavations, that the site covered over 20 hectares, even though nowadays there are only four sectors visible: the north sector, called the Calvo; the central one, the Mergelina; the south door, and the houses on the top of the hill.
The first written references about this site date back to the second half of the 19th century, and they mention several archaeological pieces discovered all over the hill, from the top to the banks of the Miño River. Among these, a bronze statuette representing Hercules, found in 1860, stands out.
A Lanzada (Sanxenxo).
This castro by the sea was inhabited from the 8th century BCE until the Middle Ages. The most important periods were the settlement of the Gallaeci (1st-3rd century BCE), the saltfish factory (3rd-2nd century BCE), the Roman occupation and necropolis (1st-2nd century), and the medieval fortress (11th-15th century).
Like other ancient coastal settlements from the Final Bronze Age, A Lanzada was also inhabited in the Iron Age, but there is no evidence of fortifications, which makes it unique in the northwest of the Iberian Peninsula. It was large in size, and it became a long-lasting and growing commercial emporium, opening new trading routes for the northwest of the Peninsula during the ancient world.
The discoveries showed how people exploited the resources in the area, in which salting was crucial for establishing economic relations with distant lands. This emporium may have been a settlement, a production centre, a place for redistribution of goods or even a sanctuary.
The most remarkable documented element is the large necropolis, exceptional because of the good state of preservation of the bones. In the Middle Ages, the settlement moved to the top, where a fortress was built in the 11th century to defend the coast from the attacks of the Saracens and the Normans.
O Facho (Cangas do Morrazo)
O Facho was located on a hill with stunning views over the Cíes Islands and the Costa da Vela. Just like Santa Trega, this archaeological site was inhabited for a long period, which, in this case, lasted from the 8th century BCE to the 4th or 5th century AD.
This site is unique and internationally renowned for having a sanctuary from the Roman era with over one hundred documented altars from different historical periods. It gathers elements from different periods in history, and their features have raised the possibility that the religious universe reflected in these altars from the Roman era could recreate cults from even former times. So, this site from the Iron Age may have been a sanctuary where ritual activities were performed.
A Cabeciña (Oia, 10th-8th centuries BCE).
This archaeological site is also located in a unique landscape and clearly shows the transition between the Final Bronze Age and the Iron Age. Around the settlement, a great wall was built. Outside it, there are some rock engravings of incomplete connected circles.
These decorative motifs, exceptional in Galicia, are identical to those of the dolmen of Gravinis, in Brittany, documented in the final stage of the Meghalitic era. In fact, A Cabeciña is part of a network of castros that exchanged ideas and objects at the beginning of the 1st century BCE.
Alobre (Vilagarcía, 1st century BCE).
Nowadays, this castro is part of a park in the town centre. There, one can visit an ancient settlement from the Iron Age. Alobre was at first a commercial settlement due to its privileged location in the inlet Ría de Arousa.
The artefacts discovered in their excavations were a proof of the strong bonds with the Mediterranean world and, particularly, with the south of the Iberian Peninsula, the Italian Peninsula and the Balearic Islands. The metal pieces are very important, especially the ones in bronze, which are over 400 in number. As the castro was close to the sea, its inhabitants were skilled fishermen and shellfish catchers.
Castrolandín (Cuntis, 4th century BCE - 1st century).
The excavations carried out in 2004 documented the existence of eighteen buildings with differences regarding their period, uses and number of floors. Nowadays, only ten of them can be visited. The settlement had a monumental and stepped entrance flanked by two fortified towers. Inside the upper part or acropolis there were different spaces for the family with small patios, stairs, storage rooms and houses. During the Roman era this site was almost abandoned, leaving only one house in place.
O Castro Hill (Ribadumia, 6th century BCE-1st century AD).
During the excavations in 2011, remains of completely different castros were found in three areas. In the north area, according to some documents, there were several circular and oval houses; the central one could be a place for working, in fact, it has remains of four different structures, one of which was related to the metallurgical work; and in the south area there seemed to be a construction with a rectangular sole, which is considered an area for storage because some Roman amphoras were found.
In the fourth excavation campaign – carried out in a 4,800 square-metre area – 2,039, stratigraphic units and over 100,000 archaeological pieces were documented. Ceramic was the material most commonly found.
Adro Vello (O Grove).
According to the data collected during the excavations, there may have been a salt factory which might be related to a Roman village or a former one. On the grounds of this Roman settlement, an ecclesiastic building and a burial necropolis were erected. Finally, a tower was built and the structures were enlarged in order to protect the inlet Ría de Arousa from the attacks of the Vikings.
Penalba (Campo Lameiro, 9th-7th centuries BCE).
The castro, located in a place with a large number of rock engravings, was originally a settlement from the Final Bronze Age with an economy based on farming. On the top is preserved the so-called rock Pedra da Serpe, a snake-shaped petroglyph linked to fertility rituals. In a second stage, the defensive structures of the village were erected.
Other archaeological sites in the province of Pontevedra are Porta de Arcos (Rodeiro), Igrexa Vella (Valga), Alto dos Cubos (Tui), Castro de Taboexa (As Neves), A Subidá (Marín), Toiriz (Silleda), Mercado dos Mouros (Valga), Alto da Cruz do Castro (Cerdedo-Cotobade), Salinas de Vigo, Villa Romana de Toralla (Vigo) and Castro de Troña (Ponteareas).
For more information about “The Gallaeci. A community between two worlds”, please visit galaicos.depo.gal