Surprising finds at CabeciñaSomething that looks like a weapon but isn’t, and something that doesn’t but is… these are just some of the things you might find on a Spanish Iron Age hillfort.

From Maiden Castle to Old Oswestry, hillforts are well known to those of us in Britain. But how much do you know about hillforts in Spain?

Xosé Gago is the site director at A Cabeciña, one of the 12 Iron Age hillforts on Costa dos Castros – a 7km stretch of Atlantic coastline in Galicia, north west Spain. As well as the unusual concentration of hillforts or ‘castros’ along these cliffs, Costa dos Castros also has one biggest concentrations of Bronze Age rock art along the Atlantic coast, and important Roman remains like a villa and salinae.

Although this archaeological wealth has been known for a long time, archaeologists have only just started scratching the surface. These are five of his favourite finds so far, and the best thing about them is that if you want to join in and have a go at finding your own, you can! This is the biggest event since rock and roll started in Costa dos Castros—now we realize it’s also full of heavy metal… let’s roll!

1. A bronze axe that’s not really an axe

Bronze Axe (3)

Bronze axe from Costa dos Castros

This bronze axe is a beautiful metal artifact, but also important because of the information it relays. These kinds of axes were used not for fighting or chopping, but for trading, probably with Mediterranean people, functioning as some kind of coin or ingot. Although these bronze axes are generally Bronze Age rather than Iron Age, this one appeared in an Iron Age context. Not only does this shine light on Mediterranean trade in the Atlantic, it also adds to our understanding of the transition between the Bronze Age and the Iron Age in this region.

Decades before the Costa dos Castros project, in 1973 a hunter found a deposit with 18 of this kind of axe buried all together near to the village of Mougás. It´s quite usual for axes like this to appear in these types of deposits. We know we are in an area with metal and trade, so it is probable that we would find more of these impressive axes during further digs.

 2. A toralla jar

Pieces of Toralla Jar

Sherds of a toralla jar, from Costa dos Castros

Iron Age pottery can be very beautiful. The shape and deeply decorated exterior of these toralla jars makes them among the most valued pieces for Iron Age archaeologists. We found a few of these gorgeous jars during the dig at A Cabeciña; broken, of course, but many of them could be fixed in the lab. We expect we will find more of these Toralla jars on future digs… so what would you think about a 3D print of one of them?

3. A spear head

Spear head (2)

Bronze spear, from Costa dos Castros

Made in bronze, this artifact is the sister tool to our bronze axe. Despite the fascination weapons awake in us, it’s also very important to understand the importance of metal in Bronze and Iron Age societies and specifically in this region during those time periods.

4. An archer’s arm-guard made of stone


Archer’s bracer, from Costa dos Castros.

It really doesn’t look like much, but this little stone is another important weapons find. If we’re talking about the importance of metal to Iron Age societies, we musn’t forget about the importance of stone tools. This bracer or arm-guard would be tied to the interior part of the archer’s arm, so that the string won’t hurt him when he shoots.

5. A fibula (no, not  a leg bone)

aucissa fibula

An example of an aucissa fibula, via furnishyourcastle.

Fibulae were artifacts of daily life, used as brooches to fasten items of clothing. They are found in diverse shapes and types, and can be very helpful to date an archeological layer or to confirm Roman influence at an archeology site. At A Cabeciña, we’ve found several types of fibula, but our favourite is this Aucissa type fibula. It is a design that was in widespread usage in the Roman world and can be dated to approximately 100 BC – 100 AD. The name Aucissa comes from a word that was engraved on some of them, supposedly the name of a fibula workshop or artisan.

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