With Iberian, Hittite, and Syrian Elements, Who Built the Magnificent Mausoleum of Pozo Moro?
Spain is a country with a multicultural history, where even the best-qualified archaeologists may discover sites, artifacts, and stories that change all previous knowledge about a given topic. When researchers unearthed the mausoleum of Pozo Moro, they couldn't believe the incredible connection of styles characteristic of Iberian, Hittite, and Syrian art.
Via Augusta is a famous ancient Roman road that passed through the cities of Gades (Cádiz), Carthago Nova (Cartagena), Valentia (Valencia), Saguntum (Sagunto), Tarraco (Tarragona), Barcino (Barcelona). Gerunda (Girona), Hispalis (Seville), Corduba (Córdoba), Emerita Augusta (Mérida), Brigantinum (A Coruña), etc. Researchers unearthed hundreds of priceless archaeological sites around this ancient route with outspokenly beautiful and priceless artifacts that shed light on the life of people who settled these lands millennia ago. The sophisticated puzzle made of pieces from the past is never-ending work, like in the Augean Stables. The sites are full of precious findings buried in such incredible numbers, that it seems to be impossible to dig all of them up from the soil.
Map of Iberian Peninsula in 125 including important roads, legionnaire locations and gold/silver mines. ( Public Domain ) Note the Via Augusta is called the ‘Via Herculea’ on this map.
The Discovery of a Forgotten Story
Excavations in Spain are often like a mixed box of chocolates - filled with surprising cultural flavors. In the case of the site of Pozo Moro, it is a remarkable cemetery, a huge ancient necropolis. It is located about 125 km (77.67 miles) from the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and 840 meters (2755.91 ft.) above sea level. The location seems to have been meaningful for the people who created it about 2,500 years ago. It must be related to their beliefs.
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The Pozo Moro Monument in the Museo Arqueológico Nacional, Madrid, Spain. ( Museo Arqueológico Nacional )
During excavations in 1970, researchers unearthed a surprising burial place known as the Mausoleum of Pozo Moro. Research about pre-Roman cultures of Iberia were quite advanced at the time, but still contained many questionable elements and gaps. The first shocking fact was that the Mausoleum had been dated back to a period full of mysteries. But as the researchers continued their work, specialists discovered an overwhelming amount of information that changed the knowledge about the history of Albacete Province, where the site is located.
Excavations at the site. ( senderosesotericos)
Exploring the Mausoleum
The marvelous mausoleum is known as the oldest Iberian burial monument. It is dated back to circa 500 BC and belonged to a forgotten ruler. The mausoleum’s elements had been scattered across a site 12 x 12 meters (39 x 39 ft). When the researchers carefully collected all the remaining pieces, they took it to the Museo Arqueológico Nacional de España in Madrid, where they reconstructed it. The process was long and very complicated, but due to their impressive knowledge, it was possible to recover the mausoleum after centuries.
View of the site during excavations. ( iberosalbacetemurcia.es)
It is known that it was erected by an Iberian king, but a great deal of other information has been lost. The mausoleum had been made with rectangular blocks. Altogether the construction measured about 10 meters (32 ft.) in height and its walls had been beautifully decorated with depictions of deities. It had a three-level pedestal shaped in a square that was almost 4 meters (13 ft.) wide. Moreover, four lions were located around the mausoleum. All of this created an image of a mausoleum with traditions from Middle Eastern countries. Research suggests visible influences of Syrian and Hittite art.
Detail of one of the lions. (Luis García/ CC BY SA 3.0 )
“The cremation of the grave-goods together with the body leaves us with little to study but their remains are enough to provide a few guidelines. There are remains of objects made of different raw materials (at least pottery, gold, silver, bronze, iron and bone; see Almagro-Gorbea 1983: 184 ff.). However, there are no iron fragments which can be identified as weapons, although the remains are in very poor condition. One still finds the same sort of ritual-set described above for the Orientalizing Period, but with a different emphasis: the bronze jug is now of Greek and not of Oriental type and manufacture, and the bronze brazier has been replaced by an Attic kylix of the Pithos Painter group. Finally, this philohellenic prince was buried with an Attic lekythos instead of alabaster perfume pots. In all, it seems that Greek influence was beginning to supersede the earlier, Orientalizing (Semitic) tradition. Finally, the burial I have described was placed under a turrifonn funerary monument of imposing size and decoration of which more will be said later.'' (s.17)
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Some of the Greek artifacts discovered at the Pozo Moro site. Sources from left: (Miguel Hermoso Cuesta/ CC BY SA 4.0 ), (Miguel Hermoso Cuesta/ CC BY SA 4.0 ), and (Miguel Hermoso Cuesta/ CC BY SA 4.0 )
The burial is probably related to a new concept of power supported by distant travels and war campaigns. It is still unclear how many different aspects of cultures from the entire Mediterranean area mixed in Iberian land, and it mirrors a meaningful mosaic of influences. The incredible monument remains an unsolved mystery for followers of ancient dynasties – it’s from a time before people created chronicles to explain more about those who had built it.
The Footsteps of Ancient Artists
One of the most challenging aspects of the monument was the reconstruction of lost pieces and renovation of ones that had survived. However, there are still many questions left to be answered. One of the most intriguing is related to the real purpose of the tomb. Some researchers believe that it didn't belong to any living ruler, but it could have had a symbolic meaning instead. Maybe it was a religious monument or a burial place created for a deity? However, this seems unlikely. Traditionally, researchers think the Mausoleum of Pozo Moro was a real burial place for a king who belonged to a lost dynasty of Iberians.
Another of the reliefs on the monument. (Jorge/ CC BY NC SA 2.0 )
Top Image: ‘Animal Banquet’ (an Iberian relief) on the Pozo Moro monument. Source: Luis García/ CC BY SA 3.0
The Hellenistic West: Rethinking the Ancient Mediterranean , edited by Jonathan R. W. Prag, Josephine Crawley Quinn, 2013.
Pozo Moro Monument, available at: www.man.es/man/en/coleccion/ultimas-restauraciones/pozo-moro.html
Iconografía del monumento turriforme de Pozo Moro y arte mueble: objetos de bronce etruscos by Roberto Matesanz, available at: https://www.academia.edu/30348637/Iconografía_del_monumento_turriforme_de_Pozo_Moro_y_arte_mueble_objetos_de_bronce_etruscos
From quality to quantity: wealth, status and prestige in the Iberian Iron Age by Fernando Quesada, available at: https://www.uam.es/proyectosinv/equus/warmas/online/Quesada%201998%20Quality%20to%20Quantity.pdf