Costa dos Castros

10th - 17th October 2016

Discovering 3,000 years of land, sea and life on Galicia's Atlantic coast.

114.7% Funded
/
£8,600 Pledged

About the Project

Have you ever wondered how the huge stone hillforts of the Iron Age emerged? Do you want to experience Spanish heritage and culture in a completely new way? If your answer is yes, then THIS is your chance.

Ler en Galego / Lea en Español

We are the people of Costa dos Castros and we’re crowdfunding an excavation with DigVentures in an attempt to find out more about the huge stone hillforts that dominate our landscape.

You can support our project from a distance and choose some amazing archaeological benefits in return, or you can go one step further and become an Archaeology Ambassador…

What is an Archaeology Ambassador?

Jump on a plane to Spain this October and we’ll wine you, dine you and show you the very best of the archaeology in our area. By becoming an Archaeology Ambassador, you’ll be helping us get Costa dos Castros the international archaeological attention it deserves.

You can see more about the programme here. If you really love archaeology, and are interested in European rock art and hillforts, then this will make a huge difference to the project. Come and see the Bronze Age rock art, the Iron Age hillforts, and help us put Costa dos Castros on the archaeological map!

Background

Costa dos Castros is a small, but stunning strip of coastline in Galicia, on the Atlantic coast of Spain. Our home is a hidden gem, a place that isn’t a ‘destination’, and hasn’t yet been ‘discovered’, but definitely deserves to be.

We, the people who live here, own and manage the land collectively. We make decisions about the land together, manage the woods together, farm and do agriculture together. But there’s more to our land than that.

A string of huge stone hillforts line these rocky shores; they’re the remains of an ancient Iron Age culture and you can help us uncover the story of the people who built them over 2,000 years ago

It’s these hillforts which give our land (Coast of the Hillforts) its name, and among them there’s evidence that the people who built them were already in contact with Mediterranean traders over 2,000 miles away, long before the Romans ever arrived in the area.

Why did they build so many hillforts in one small area? What did they want from the Mediterranean traders who came here? And what did they give them in return? We recently joined together to form the Costa dos Castros Association and we’re inviting YOU to help us find the answers, and explore the ancient links between Atlantic and Mediterranean cultures that go back over 3,000 years.

Tell me about the archaeology

The Atlantic Bronze Age was a period in which both ideas and commodities were traded up and down the Atlantic coast of Europe, from Scotland and Ireland all the way down into Spain and Portugal. These exchanges gave rise to many of the cultural symbols we now think of as Celtic, including domestic roundhouses, bronze axes, rock carvings, spiral motifs and (of course)… hillforts!

Costa dos Castros is one of the most western points of Atlantic Europe, but it was once at the very heart of this trade route and today we still have the evidence… A string of impressive Iron Age hillforts lining the rocky shores, and undergrowth filled with hidden rock carvings.

Tell me what you’re looking for

What’s really unusual about Costa dos Castros is that so many hillforts were built in such a small space; twelve have so far been identified within a 7km stretch, but why?

We know the hillsides are rich in tin (a crucial ingredient for making bronze) and over the last few years, small excavations have unearthed bronze axes, Punic pottery, tools, weapons, domestic roundhouses and defensive buildings. There’s even a rock carving depicting a Mediterranean ship.

The influence that Atlantic and Mediterranean cultures had on eachother is a relatively unexplored archaeological story, and yet Costa dos Castros is clearly a place where Atlantic and Mediterranean cultures collided thousands of years ago, and are still interacting to this day.

Having so many hillforts in one location also makes it the perfect place to study how hillfort culture evolved, not just in Galicia, but throughout Atlantic Europe. It’s time to carry out more in-depth excavations, so that Costa dos Castros can add to the body of evidence about hillfort culture, find out more about the people who built them, and their long-standing connections with the people of the Mediterranean over 2,000 miles away.

Tell me which hillfort you’ll be excavating

The crowdfunded excavation will focus on one particular hillfort called A Cabeciña. This is where the bronze axe, pottery and some of the evidence of Mediterranean trade was found during a small excavation last year. The hillfort also has three clear phases of occupation and construction, which means we can look at how the site grew and evolved over time.

Hillforts weren’t just defensive, they were also domestic and A Cabeciña has already shown signs that it was a relatively large and densely-packed community with many roundhouses built inside its outer walls. We plan to excavate one of the roundhouses that we already identified and hope that as we dig, we’ll find more evidence of daily life, as well as international trade.

FAQs

What happens when I join as a Digital Digger?

We’ve teamed up with DigVentures, who will give you the most immersive online experience of archaeology possible! Think of it like getting an episode of Time Team made just for you, and having behind-the-scenes clips sent straight to your inbox. You’ll get to watch all of the action unfold, and even communicate with the team directly. Go on… give it a go!

What happens when I join the dig team in the field?

Sorry, this benefit is no longer available, but don’t let that stop you from becoming an Atlantic Ambassador! You’ll still get to learn everything there is to know about archaeology in the region, all while experiencing our modern day culture too! It really will be an off-the-beaten track experience, and you’ll be part of the Costa dos Castros community while you’re here.

What happens when I become an Atlantic Ambassador?

You’ll get to have a VIP tour of the archaeology of Costa dos Castros, lead by the archaeologists themselves. It will include:

  • Rock Art Safari – Bronze Age rock art is really stunning, and has many stories to tell us about art in this period, as well as long-distance connections. We’ll take some lovely walks to capture as many of the rock panel carvings as we can, all with our experts on hand to explain what we can learn from them
  • Food Pilgrimage – Galicia is a real destination for Spanish gourmet lovers. Our cuisine includes some of the finest seafood, and fuses traditional products with modern styles. We’re famous for the Camino de Santiago passing our way, where many people come for the religious pilgrimage. But just as many come for the food! We’ll cook for you, and you’ll even get to eat in a Medieval building…
  • Hillfort Hunt – We’ll head off on a trail to see some of the most impressive hillforts in the area, including the one we’re excavating, one that’s just been discovered, and one that is completely changing our understanding of how urbanisation developed in the region.
And what about meeting the Costa dos Castros community?

Coming to stay with us isn’t just about being immersed in an ancient culture, it’s about being part of a modern day one too. You’ll stay in a lovely B&B in one of our coastal villages, where you’ll be invited right into the heart of rural Galician life:

  • We will explore other hidden sites together, like the Bronze Age rock art
  • Your meals will be provided by an outstanding local restaurant, using fresh locally produced ingredients
  • You’ll get to enjoy life in an untouched part of the world that not many people get to see
  • You will be welcome to join in with our evening past times… learning to play traditional music (bagpipes are one of our typical instruments), dancing, playing community bingo and roasting chestnuts at our annual chestnut festival are just some of our favourites!
Who benefits from the project?

Everyone, including you! We’re a rural community and we’re using the past to create a future for ourselves. We recently formed the Costa dos Castros Association to help us do this, and our aim is to preserve and promote our heritage together. As well as doing archaeological research, we plan to create a walking trail for visitors to see these ancient sites, and to conserve and share our culture and heritage with the world! If you come and visit, you will be able to say that you were one of the first to walk the trail, and help spread the word about the ancient treasures you found along the way.

We also plan to publish everything we find on the excavation online (you can already see some of what we’ve done so far here) so anyone in the world can share the discoveries we make here, and make sure the archaeology of Costa dos Castros contributes to academic and public understanding of how.

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