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Three remarkable urns from 'Iberian Pompeii' tell the mythical story of its aristocracy

An urn that depicts one fighting against another, another with two deer opposite to the tree of life and a third that illustrates a great symbolic battle reveal the mythology of the final Iberian oligarchs that faced Romanization in the Peninsula. The pieces were discovered at the site of Libisosa (Albacete), the best preserved archaeological site from the final Iberian period in Spain.

Tinaja de los caballeros. / Héctor Uroz Rodríguez.
Tres vasos singulares de la ‘Pompeya ibérica’ cuentan la historia mítica de su aristocracia. Photo: Héctor Uroz Rodríguez.

Un vaso que representa una lucha uno contra uno, otro con la figura de dos ciervos frente al árbol de la vida y un tercero que encarna una gran batalla simbólica dan a conocer la mitología de los últimos oligarcas íberos que se enfrentaron a la romanización en la Península. Las piezas se hallaron en el yacimiento de Libisosa (Albacete), el mejor conservado del periodo ibérico final en España.

Yacimiento de Libisosa. Photo: Héctor Uroz Rodríguez.

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Tinaja caballeros detalle. Photo: Héctor Uroz Rodríguez.

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Vasija de la muerte mítica. Photo: Universidad de Alicante

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Tinaja de los caballeros. / Héctor Uroz Rodríguez.
Tres vasos singulares de la ‘Pompeya ibérica’ cuentan la historia mítica de su aristocracia. Photo: Héctor Uroz Rodríguez.

Un vaso que representa una lucha uno contra uno, otro con la figura de dos ciervos frente al árbol de la vida y un tercero que encarna una gran batalla simbólica dan a conocer la mitología de los últimos oligarcas íberos que se enfrentaron a la romanización en la Península. Las piezas se hallaron en el yacimiento de Libisosa (Albacete), el mejor conservado del periodo ibérico final en España.

Yacimiento de Libisosa. Photo: Héctor Uroz Rodríguez.

.

Tinaja caballeros detalle. Photo: Héctor Uroz Rodríguez.

.

Vasija de la muerte mítica. Photo: Universidad de Alicante

.

Tinaja de los caballeros. / Héctor Uroz Rodríguez.
Tres vasos singulares de la ‘Pompeya ibérica’ cuentan la historia mítica de su aristocracia. Photo: Héctor Uroz Rodríguez.

Un vaso que representa una lucha uno contra uno, otro con la figura de dos ciervos frente al árbol de la vida y un tercero que encarna una gran batalla simbólica dan a conocer la mitología de los últimos oligarcas íberos que se enfrentaron a la romanización en la Península. Las piezas se hallaron en el yacimiento de Libisosa (Albacete), el mejor conservado del periodo ibérico final en España.

Yacimiento de Libisosa. Photo: Héctor Uroz Rodríguez.

.

Tinaja caballeros detalle. Photo: Héctor Uroz Rodríguez.

.

Vasija de la muerte mítica. Photo: Universidad de Alicante

.

Tinaja de los caballeros. / Héctor Uroz Rodríguez.
Tres vasos singulares de la ‘Pompeya ibérica’ cuentan la historia mítica de su aristocracia. Photo: Héctor Uroz Rodríguez.

Un vaso que representa una lucha uno contra uno, otro con la figura de dos ciervos frente al árbol de la vida y un tercero que encarna una gran batalla simbólica dan a conocer la mitología de los últimos oligarcas íberos que se enfrentaron a la romanización en la Península. Las piezas se hallaron en el yacimiento de Libisosa (Albacete), el mejor conservado del periodo ibérico final en España.

Yacimiento de Libisosa. Photo: Héctor Uroz Rodríguez.

.

Tinaja caballeros detalle. Photo: Héctor Uroz Rodríguez.

.

Vasija de la muerte mítica. Photo: Universidad de Alicante

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Only warriors, knights and oligarchs could be represented in heroic publicity commissioned by Iberian aristocrats in the first third of the first century BC. In order to create an epic past, these nobles went from using sculpture to embodying this propaganda on earthenware vessels.

Scientists from the University of Alicante discovered a total of 16 of these vessels with figurative images at the site of Libisosa (Albacete). Three of them are described in an article published by Archivo Español de Arqueología.

“They are three urns showing the three principal mechanisms of the final Iberian aristocracy’s heroic mythological past, symbolising their own self”, Héctor Uroz Rodríguez, main author of the study, told SINC.

For scientists, Iberian iconography in general is a type of book of images that they have to decipher.

In particular, these urns mainly consist of figurative decoration, whether human or animal, of the Iberian aristocracy for propaganda purposes. They try to construct a curriculum evoking a heroic past that did not exist. A mythology of their own lineage.

"The urns are as important alone as the context in which they appeared. This site represents that which could be called an 'Iberian Pompeii', because it boasts the best preserved final Iberian phase of Spain", he added.

Uninterrupted excavations began in 1996 at the site of Libisosa – which dates back to prehistoric times and in which medieval remains have been documented, continuing through the Roman and Iberian periods.

A city destroyed overnight

The period which the vessels belong to is the Final Iberian. “The site appears to be a tomb in life”, Uroz argued. ”A settlement suddenly destroyed overnight, creating a ‘Vesuvius effect’, but in this instance it was caused by the Roman army”.

It is a time of civil wars among Romans driven by a desire for power. Different factions of its aristocracy fought for individual control, something which would not become a reality until the reign of Augustus, the first Roman emperor.

According to the researcher, the Iberian Peninsula – which was already a province of Rome – served as the battlefield for the conflicts among Romans. Libisosa disappeared in the Sertorian War, a Roman general in conflict with Caecilius Metellus. There are no literary sources on the affiliation of this settlement with respect to the conflict.

“Libisosa is not only important for that which has been discovered up until now, but also for the potential that it possesses. We have taken part in 17 excavation campaigns, on 10% of the site. We have inventories of more than 145,000 pieces. I always say about the Iberian world that the best is to be discovered and possibly we will find that here one day", concluded Uroz.

The three remarkable urns

The “large earthenware jar of the knights” is the first of the three urns described in the article. It depicts a fight, one against another. “Normally in this type of fight, the best from each army would confront each other. It is an antiquated noble practice of the time. There is also a flautist present to liven the act. The winner is immaterial. It is a depiction of aristocratic values”, Uroz underlined.

A collective combat appears on the second vessel, a symbolic mythical battle. The propaganda consists in representing values, such as falling in battle. “This urn is very important because on the other side, we observe a very old language, where two deer with birds perching on them are facing the sacred tree or the tree of life”.

It is a language that in some way inherited a very old tradition. The extent to which that could be discovered without written documentation is a fact that surprised scientists.

The last urn depicts a heroic equestrian procession of a mounted monarch, probably with a funerary meaning. “It emphasises the image of the horseman, something that we know through many other mediums such as Iberian coins. The horse is an element closely linked with aristocracy”.

Source: SINC
Copyright: Creative Commons

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