A valley in La Rioja: The Najerilla Project

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A valley in La Rioja: The Najerilla Project
A valley in La Rioja:
The Najerilla Project
by Barry Cunliffe and Gary Lock
with contributions from
Lisa Brown, Emma Durham, Philip de Jersey, Bari Hooper, David Jordan,
Priscilla Lange, Ruth Pelling, Cynthia Poole, Eduardo Sanchez-Moreno,
Vuk Trifkovic and David Williams
and line illustrations by
Barry Cunliffe, Simon Pressey and Alison Wilkins
and photographs by
Ian Cartwright
Oxford University School of Archaeology
Monograph 73
7 - The late prehistory and early history
of the region: the Najerilla valley within the
context of the Upper Ebro and Iberian Systems
by Eduardo Sanchez-Moreno
To the memory of Maria Cruz Fernandez Castro.
This text should have been written with her, but sadly it was not possible.
Desiderium tuum, amica
north of Najera. This ensured that the Najerilla
served through time as an axis of communication
between the Meseta, the Ebro valley and the VascoCantabrian foothills to the north. Other Riojan
tributaries (the Oja, the Iregua, the Leza, the Cidacos
and the Alhama) perform the same strategic function.
From a wider perspective, the riverine network in
Riojan territory has played an essential role in
communications within the interior of the Iberian
Peninsula. In the north, centre and north-east, it
offers three major transit routes. The first, in a southeast to north-west direction, links the Mediterranean
and the Cantabrian coasts through the Ebro valley
from Catalonia and lower Aragon; the second, in a
north-east to south-west direction, facilitated contact
between Aquitaine and Castille across the passes of
the western Pyrenees, particularly Roncesvalles, and
later through Navarra and La Rioja; and the third,
more internally from north to south, allowed contact
between the Vasco-Cantabrian sphere and the
northern Meseta through the district of Alava and
the Riojan somontano. This strategic geographical
position has long facilitated the arrival and establishment of different cultural currents, as much Atlantic
as Mediterranean and from the interior of the
Meseta, which through the centuries have influenced
the way of life of the people of the Upper Ebro. The
frontier character of our study zone manifests itself
today in the confluence of four Autonomous
Communities: La Rioja (province of Logroiio),
Basque Country (province of Alava), Castilla-Leon
(provinces of Burgos and Soria) and the Autonomous
Community of Navarra, to which we can add some
part of south-eastern Aragon (province of Zaragoza).
Since prehistoric times the Najerilla valley has
been an important area of settlement focus. In
addition to its significant strategic role in interregional communication it is a congenial area for
settlement with a relief of predominantly gentle and
This contribution offers an introduction to the
historical processes evident in the region between the
Sistema Iberico and the Upper Ebro valley in the
millennium from the end of the Bronze Age to the
consolidation of the Roman presence - a period in
which it is possible to study the cultures, landscapes
and societies which characterize the rich pro to history
of the region. This brief review hopes to provide a
context for the results of the investigation of the
Najerilla valley (alta Rioja) conducted between 2000
and 2003 by a team from the University of Oxford,
and in particular for the excavations undertaken on
the sites of Castillo Antiguo (Najera) and Cerro
Molino (Hormilleja), the details of which are dealt
with in different chapters of this monograph. In
emphasizing the documentary sources, these pages
also set out to elucidate the current state of investigations into the different periods and themes addressed.
A bibliography is included specifically designed for a
readership unfamiliar with the Spanish literature.
Finally, I wish to thank Barry Cunliffe for his invitation to participate in this project: I have greatly
enjoyed learning about the archaeology of La Rioja.
Geographical framework
The Najerilla valley constitutes a natural region on
the north-west slope of the Sistema Iberico, in alta
Rioja. The south-north passage of its course, nearly
100 km in length, connects the Sierra de la Demanda
and Urbion with the Ebro depression. Thus, the
Najerilla travels from the mountain tops of its birth
in Neila (1840 m), at the junction of the provinces of
Burgos, Logroiio and Soria, through the Riojan
countryside where it delivers its waters to the Ebro at
Torremontalbo (420 m), a few kilometres to the
open slopes, and possibilities for economic exploitation, in particular the potential of the soil and natural
resources. Within the basin of the Ebro, the valleys of
Rioja occupy Tertiary soils based on clay, gypsum,
limestone and sandstone all of notable agricultural
potential. Nevertheless, in the south, in its upper
reaches, where it approaches the Sistema Iberico at
the watershed of the Ebro-Duero, the Najerilla, like
other valleys, presents reliefs which are progressively
steeper and confined. Here outcrop old, hard rocks
such as quartzites, granites, schists, and slates, which
are also found to the north of the Ebro basin in the
Sierra de Cantabria (Calatayud et al. 1980; Arnaez
and Garcia Vadillo 2007).
Thus, while, in the upper stretches of the river to
the west of the Sierra de Cameros, forests and
pastures have formed the basis of a traditional life
which today is in decline, on the lower terraces of the
Najerilla the exploitation of clays and cultivation
have marked the development of these lands since
antiquity. Today viticulture and timber represent the
principal economic activities of the environment
around Najera.
world of the Bronze Age. This acculturation took
place over several centuries, and resulted in the transformation of local groups into the cultures of the
Late Bronze Age (c.11 00-800 BC) and the Early Iron
Age (c.800-500 BC). These processes developed at
different times in the various regions, occurring first
in Catalonia and the Ebro valley, then on the Meseta
and lands to the north and west some time later. The
different local cultures led to the development of a
number of varying socioeconomic systems (Arteaga
1978; Ruiz Zapatero 1985, 1997, 2005; Arenas and
Palacios 1999). Thus, the Celtiberian World which
emerged around the Sistema Iberico around the sixth
century BC is the result of a largely indigenous
process, in which some elements of the Urnfield
culture re-emerge (Ruiz Zapatero 1995; Burillo
1998, 104-20; Ruiz Zapatero and Lorrio 1999;
Lorrio and Ruiz Zapatero 2005, 197-201).
This cultural horizon, which some authors assume
is the protoceltic substrate of an Atlantic base
(Almagro Gorbea 1992, 1993,2001), is defined by a
series of indicators which are well documented in the
Ebro valley after the beginning of the first millennium BC. One of the most notable features is the
burial rite of cremation in what appear to be family
groups. The remains were placed in a ceramic urn
which was interred in a small pit and sometimes
covered by a tumulus. This rite was previously
unknown in the north and centre of the Peninsula,
where the funeral tradition had been inhumation.
This change in funerary practice no doubt reflected
new forms of spirituality. Another new development
was the appearance of fortified settlements with
rectangular houses arranged around an axis or
central street. These settlements became progressively more complex and were associated with the
cremation cemeteries. New transformations also
expressed themselves in certain crafts and decorative
repertoires on ceramics - such as grooves and
excisions, these last being very important in the
Upper Ebro (Alvarez Clavijo and Perez Arrondo
1987), weapons, ornaments and utensils of symbolic
character, such as the ceramic firedogs associated
with domestic hearths (Maluquer 1963; Ruiz
Zapatero 1981). More difficult to prove, but of great
importance, is the introduction at this time of IndoEuropean languages which mixed with the indigenous tongues whose pre- or non-Indo-European
character continues to be the subject of much debate
(Villar 1996, 2000; Villar and Prosper 2005). This
linguistic convergence led to the development of the
languages recognized at the end of the Iron Age in the
interior of the Iberian Peninsula. The best known,
Celtiberian, is the most representative of the dialects
in the area between the Ebro and Duero and the only
one represented epigraphically (de Hoz 1988; Villar
1995; Jordan 2007).
In short, these cultural indications imply not only
the diffusion of specific customs and styles of foreign
origin between the people of the Ebro valley, the
Sistema Iberico, and the Cantabrian foothills, but
Between Bronze Age and Iron Age: setting
the substratum
It is convenient to begin this study of the communities of the Najerilla valley in the context of the
broader region (the Upper and Middle Ebro valley,
Sorian uplands, and Alavesan plain) at the transition
from second to first millennium BC. At this time
many parts of the Iberian Peninsula supported stable
settlements ruled by chieftains, thus a general situation which one could consider to be the point of
departure for later historical settlement (Almagro
Gorbea and Ruiz Zapatero 1992).
In the north-east, in the area which includes the
Ebro and the foothills to the north and south of its
basin, the underlying substratum was directly related
to that of the Urnfields. In place of the old invasionist
paradigms that saw the Urnfields as a result of the
arrival of central European people of Celtic origin
(Bosch Gimpera 1942), today the issue is seen in
terms of acculturation or divergent assimilation
within an indigenous population identifiable as the
culture known as Cogotas I. This name, Cogotas I, is
understood to be the horizon which characterized the
Middle Bronze Age in the basins of the Duero, Tajo
and Upper Ebro, defined by small agropastoral
communities with a tradition of inhumation and
pottery with overelaborate decoration (Hernandez
Vera 1983; Castro et al. 1995, 1996; Harrison 1995;
Abarquero 2005). This pre-dates the immigration of
small groups of Indo-Europeans who, from the end
of the second millennium BC, successively penetrated
the Pyrenean passes, and the arrival of peoples by an
Atlantic route. Far from developing in isolation,
these groups interacted and mixed with local
communities whose roots were in the megalithic
also the emergence of new networks of communication, social organization and land use, which
underlay the first political communities at the beginning of the first millennium BC.
Although our knowledge of the habitat of the Late
Bronze Age in La Rioja and the Navarro-Alavesan
plain has improved in recent years, it is still deficient.
Nevertheless some trends are known. New settlements have been found in strategic locations, in areas
of modest height and agropastoral occupation.
Internally they are characterized by the presence of
structures built of wooden posts with wattle and
daub walls. Such is well illustrated in the first phases
of occupation (c.850-700 BC) of the emblematic site
of Alto de la Cruz in Cortes (Navarra) (Munilla and
Gracia 1995, 42-5; Munilla et al. 1996). What we
know of the site is paralleled in La Rioja by the
settlements of Pefia del Recuento, near Inestrillas
(Aguilar del rio Alhama), Cerro de Partelapefia (El
Redal) and Majada Londeras (Tobia) and in Navarra
by El Bocal (Fontellas) and El Aguilar (Bardenas) and
the first phase of the settlement of La Hoya,
Laguardia (Alava) (Llanos 1990a). However, more
striking is the presence of habitations in caves and
rock shelters, particularly in the valley of the Iregua.
This is illustrated by the finds in Cueva de San
Bartolome (Nestares), Cueva L6brega (Torrecilla en
Cameros) or Pefiamiel (Pradillo), and in the valley of
the Alhama, at Cueva de Los Lagos (Inestrillas). This
last example was connected to the open air settlement of Pefia del Recuento on the left bank of the
river Alhama (Alvarez Clavijo and Perez Arrondo
1988, 105-8). In some of these locations, such as the
Cueva de los Lagos, pottery of Cogotas I type has
been found developing the typical decoration
patterns of the Meseta (Casado and Hernandez Vera
1979). Excavations in Cueva L6brega show sporadic
occupation from the Neolithic to the beginning of the
Iron Age, but was particularly intensive in the Bronze
Age (Barrios 2004). This site also produced pottery
with the usual Cogotas I decoration (excisions and
boquique - a particular incision style of lines and
dots) and inhumation burials indicating a connection
between these peoples and the groups on the
northern Meseta.
One reason for the preference for habitation in
caves could be related to the deteriorating climate
detected in the eleventh to eighth centuries BC. This
trend can be defined by a progressive increase in
humidity and decrease in temperature, features which
characterize the transition from the sub-boreal stage
to the subatlantic (Ruiz Galvez 1998, 192-5). It has
been suggested that this environmental change led to
an increase in stock rearing and with it a growing
importance of the secondary products associated with
herding among the communities of the Late Bronze
Age (Harrison 1985, 1994). In this sense the people of
the Riojan caves were more similar to those further
south in the Sorian mountains. Here a model of
extensive herding with short-range transhumance of
ovicaprids would explain the seasonal occupation of
caves - with the utilization of the mountain pastures
- and the presence within them of Cogotas I pottery
(Jimeno 2001).
The castros horizon of the Early Iron Age
Although some Late Bronze Age settlements
continued to be occupied in the following centuries,
settlement of the Early Iron Age (c.750-450 BC) is
characterized above all by the new sites. Many of
these continued to be used up to the time of the
Roman contact period suggesting that they may have
been continuously occupied throughout the Iron Age.
This dynamic is not exclusive to the Upper Ebro. It is
seen equally in other areas of the middle and lower
basins as well as the northern Meseta and
Cantabrian foothills. The proliferation of settlements, and with it a growing population and the
socioeconomic intensification, resulted in a series of
changes at the beginning of the eighth century, the
more significant of which we will discuss. First we
must consider the expansion of groups with ties to
the late Urnfields, to which can be attributed the first
cremation cemeteries seen in the region. Second there
was the utilization of new lands for agriculture, and
the development of first bronze, then iron, metallurgy which led to a technological intensification.
Finally, there was the opening of active routes of
exchange with the Mediterranean coast where the
installation of Phoenician and Greek ports led to
commercial development with the communities of
the Middle and Upper Ebro and the Sistema Iberico
(Arenas 1999a).
From the beginning of the Iron Age the typical
settlement of the interior of the Iberian Peninsula was
the castro - a fortified site located in a high, strategic
position. One can speak of various castro horizons in
the regional settlement of the first millennium BC,
especially in the region known as Celtic Spain, of
which the Upper Ebro is part (Almagro Gorbea
1994, 1995a; G6mez Fraile 2001, 123-65). Among
the best known of the castro groups are those of the
North-west, Soria and the western Meseta.
In the Rioja-Navarra fringe, the settlements tend
to appearpn easily defended hills located close to the
fertile terraces of the Ebro and its tributaries. Many
sites conform to this pattern including Cerro del
Piquillo-Libia (Herramelluri) on the River Tir6n;
Castillo Antiguo (Najera), Aldzar del Cerro de la
Mota (Najera), Cerro Molino (Hormilleja) and
Tricio in the Najerilla valley; Castejoncillo
(Montemediano), Santa Ana (Entrena), La Coronilla
(Lardero), Pico del Corvo (Logrofio) and Monte
Cantabria (Logrofio) on the Iregua-Ebro artery;
Cerro del Castillo (Jubera) on a tributary of the Leza;
Corrales de Senova (Garranzo), El Castillo
(Navalsanz), El Castillejo (Navalsanz), Valvaera
(Bergasa), Cerro de San Miguel (Arnedo),
Valdepineda (Arnedo) and the numerous settlements
around Calahorra (Cerro de Sorban, La Torrecilla,
the alcazar of Cerro de la Mota in Najera (Cenicero
2004). As we can see, these sites make use of the
meandering course of the Najerilla and its tributaries
(Calatayud et al. 1980,26). Thus the potential of the
alluvial soils for agriculture and livestock rearing was
enhanced by the natural protection provided by the
hillsides on which these sites were placed.
Palaeobotanical analysis indicates that, in even
greater proportions than today, the banks of these
rivers were populated by oak groves, while the most
fertile lands were kept for cereal cultivation (wheat,
barley and millet) and pastureland.
An alternative to riverside settlement is represented by those in higher positions, strategically
located for the defence of natural passes. The most
obvious case is Inestrillas (Aguilar del do Alhama),
which at that time was a partially walled settlement
set on a steep double hill with two faces. The western
face, where Early Iron Age occupation has been
found, falls abruptly to the Alhama river while the
eastern face is protected to the rear by spectacular
defences lately constructed (Hernandez Vera 1982,
62-5, 2005, 129). In addition, its location in the
Middle Alhama valley allows control of some of the
principal natural routes of communication between
the Ebro valley and the Meseta. Also the site of
Castillo de Jubera carried out more than a strategic
settlement function, with a position of control over
the Jubera valley and access to the Sierra de la Hez
(Espinosa et al. 1983,86,88).
This model of defensive forts reached its
maximum expression in the northern foothills of the
Sistema Iberico in the network of small fortified
settlements which characterize the Sorian mountains
of Tabanera, Montes Claros, Oncala, San Crist6bal,
Alba, Alcarama and Las Cabezas. They are located at
high altitude (between 900 and 1500 m) on hilltops,
mountainsides, escarpments or spurs, and were
composed of houses of oval, triangular or trapezoidal form (Romero 1984, 1991, 1999, 2005;
Alfaro 2005). These castros share many ceramic and
architectural traits with the Riojan-Navarran settlements, to such a degree that they are seen as variants
of the same cultural horizon. Nevertheless, the
occupation of the Sorian settlements, between the
end of the seventh century and the beginning of the
fourth century BC, when the majority were
abandoned, is shorter than those of the Upper Ebro.
Equally the rugged terrain and markedly pastoral
environment of the Sorian hillforts/castros contrast
with the gentler topography of the settlements of our
study area, which benefited from greater agricultural
The lack of systematic excavation means that we
know little of the internal structure of settlements in
the Early Iron Age. The structural defences, where
sufficiently studied (such as El Alto de la Cruz, La
Hoya, Inestrillas, Sorban, Partelapeiia, El Viso), do
not completely enclose the site but utilize the natural
topography. They consist of dry-built walls,
occasionally utilizing adobe and wooden palisades,
Perdiguero, La Marcu, Pradej6n, San Pedro Martir,
El Valladar) in the Cidacos valley; El Castillejo (Igea)
in the Linares basin; Inestrillas (Aguilar del Rio
Alhama), Peiia del Saco (Cervera del Rio Alhama),
Peiiahitero (Fitero) and Eras de San Martin (Alfaro)
on the banks of the Alhama. To these can be added
the settlements located on the Ebro or its environs,
such as the Navarran sites of La Custodia (Viana), El
Castillar (Mendavia), El Viso (Lodosa), El Castillo
(Castej6n), El Castej6n (Arguedas) and El Alto de la
Cruz (Cortes). On the low-lying lands of Alava we
have the enclaves of La Hoya (Laguardia), Castro
Burad6n (Salinillas de Burad6n), Castillo de Portilla
(Portilla), Carasta (Caicedo Sopeiia), Castro Berbeia
(Barrio), Pico de San Pedro (Villaneuva de
Valdegobia), Castros de Lastra (Caranca), and
further north-east El Castillo de Henayo (Alegia),
Kutzemendi (Mendiola), Arkiz-Iruiia (VillodasTrespuentes) and Peiias de Oro (Vitoriano). All of
these sites are known to have been occupied in the
Early Iron Age, although many were first settled in
the Middle or Late Bronze Age (Castiella 1977,
395-6, 1995; Espinosa 1981, 76-85; Perez Arrondo
and Galve 1983, 82-92; Gonzalez Blanco 1983;
Pascual and Pascual 1984; Alvarez Clavijo and Perez
Arrondo 1988, 112-18; Espinosa et al. 1983; Llanos
1990a, 1992-1993, 2002a, 29-64; Santos Velasco
1994, 10-11).
The majority of excavated sites in La Rioja are
known only by surface finds, thus apart from
topographic considerations, there is little concrete
that can be said about their stratigraphy, architecture
and material culture. One exception is the hillfort of
Partelapeiia (El Redal) which has been the subject of
a number of archaeological excavations. In the Early
Iron Age phases, the rectangular dwellings were
rebuilt on numerous occasions and the domestic
assemblage was dominated by excised pottery (Perez
Arrondo 1983; Perez Arrondo and Alvarez Clavijo
1986; Alvarez Clavijo and Perez Arrondo 1988,
112-13) (Fig. 137). Other settlements with structures
and assemblages of Early Iron Age date which have
been subjected to archaeological investigation are
Inestrillas (Hernandez Vera et al. 2007, 20-3), Cerro
de Sorban (Gonzalez Blanco 1983) and Cerro del
Piquillo-Libia (Castiella 1977, 101; Alvarez Clavijo
2006a, 152).
As far as the Najerilla valley is concerned, indications are that settlement stabilized during the Early
Iron Age. Thus on the lower course of the river we
see the beginnings of fortified urban settlements such
as Castillo Antiguo and Cerro Molino (Espinosa et
al. 1983, 86-8; Cunliffe et al. 2001), the sites which
are the subject of this study. The first, Castillo
Antiguo, is located 4 km to the south of Najera on a
hill at the confluence of the Cardenas and Najerilla
rivers; while the second, Cerro Molino, some 3 km to
the north of Najera, is on a hill bordering the Tuerto
river just before it joins the Najerilla at Hormilleja
(Figs. 138 and 139). To these sites can be added the
Early Iron Age occupation recently discovered under
-~ ' '': .
. ..
10 ems
Fig. 137 Early Iron Age excised pottery from Partelapena (El Redal, La Rioja) (after Castiella 1977, 131, fig. 105).
Fig. 138 Cerro Molino (Hormille;a, La Rio;a). Seen from the north. Photograph by Eduardo Sanchez-Moreno.
Fig. 139 Castillo Antiguo (Na;era, La Rio;a). Seen from the south. Photograph by Eduardo Sanchez-Moreno.
placed at the most vulnerable locations. In addition
to their defensive role, these structures delimit the
settlement and associated land borders. It is likely
that at that time simple ditches were also dug into the
earth or rock, as at Cerro de Sorban (Gonzalez
Blanco 1983, 18); ditches as defensive reinforcement
which centuries later acquired great prominence at
sites such as Inestrillas. The Sorian castros, as we
have already said, intensified the defensive systems
more properly than the settlement of the Ebro basin.
Adapting to the rocky outcrops of the terrain, they
often have complete stone perimeters, sometimes
with several walls, towers and external ditches. In
addition, some castros (El Pico in Cabreras del Pinar,
El Castillejo in Castilfrfo de la Sierra, Los Castillejos
in Gallinero, El Castillejo in Hinojosa de la Sierra, El
Alto del Arenal in San Leonardo de Yagiie, El
Castillejo in Taniiie and El Castillo de las Espinillas
in Vadeavellano de Tera) also have spectacular
barriers or friezes of buried stones (piedras
hincadas). This device consisted of a spread of stones
placed without any apparent order and with their
sharpest extremity facing upwards. The stones
protruded from the ground for around a half metre
and impeded any attempt at direct attack (Romero
2003, 2005, 92-4). These barriers were used
together with the walls at entrances to the settlement
and other unprotected or vulnerable locations. They
also functioned as symbols of power, the buried
stones constituting an identifying feature in the
construction of the castros of the Iron Age (Alonso et
al. 2003).
Turning now to the construction of houses, in the
Upper and Middle Ebro these were closely spaced
along one or more axes or central streets. The walls
were built with stone bases and upper sections in mud
or adobe with wooden frameworks covered also with
mud. The floors were of trampled earth or clay
covered with branches, reeds, or straw and mud. The
houses were often rectangular or, particularly in the
oldest phases, circular or apsidal as is shown at El
Castillo de Henayo, La Hoya, Cerro de Sorban, Cerro
de San Miguel and Cerro de Piquillo-Libia, and also
in the Sorian castros of Zarranzano (Cubo de la
Sierra) and Castillo de las Espinillas (Valdeavellano de
Tera). The houses were usually divided into rooms,
usually a large central space with a hearth and
benches along the sides and a pantry which was
generally at the rear of the house. The rooms might be
on different levels, which could be a result of topography or the construction of lofts or elevated floors,
as we see at Cerro Molino. The walls were plastered
on the interior with mud and stucco, and sometimes,
as at Alto de la Cruz or Cerro de Sorban, were
decorated with geometric paintings in red and black,
possibly a response to Mediterranean influence which
is also attested in the motifs painted on some
ceramics. Many houses were constructed directly on
the ground with almost no foundations. Nevertheless
there is also evidence for the terracing of hillsides
(Cerro Molino, Inestrillas), the lowering of stone
floors on which to build structures (La Hoya, Cerro
del Piquillo-Libia) or the use of natural hollows to
create semi-subterranean rooms in the rock
(Inestrillas). This style of architecture utilizing rocks
or caves was used for many years in the study area.
The finds assemblage from the settlements of the
Upper Ebro is constituted for the most part by handbuilt pottery of dark fired clay which was burnished
or smoothed. The vessels were of various sizes, with
vertical necks, carinated or rounded profiles, convex
bases and footrings. Decoration included incisions,
grooves, finger, nail or spring impressions, excisions,
cordons which could be smooth, finger-impressed or
ungulate, and sometimes motifs painted with
pigments or graphite. Among the metal objects are
bronze ornaments (brooches, belt buckles, bracelets,
pins, buttons, springs) and the first iron implements
(knives, nails, needles, torcs), these last from the
beginning of the sixth century BC, indicating the
progressive development of a metallurgy with both
Atlantic and Continental influences (Llanos
1992-1993). Moulds, crucibles and slag indicate the
existence of local workshops in El Alto de la Cruz,
Castillar de Mendavia, La Hoya, Peiias de Oro,
Castillo de Henayo and Inestrillas.
In places such as Cerro de Santa Ana (Entrena)
oval pits containing varying deposits including
abundant animal bone have been found. The
function of these deposits is not clear (whether
rubbish, votive deposits, or burnt offerings), but they
nevertheless provide a large ceramic assemblage to
use as a reference collection reflecting decorative
techniques (Espinosa and Gonzalez Blanco 1977;
Morales et al. 1985). Among the fauna recovered
from these deposits, the most common remains were
from sheep/goat or cattle, followed by pig (De
Miguel and Morales 1986), which compares with
faunal assemblages from other excavations in the
Ebro and Duero valleys (Liesau 1998). It is also seen
in the Early Iron Age phases at Cerro Molino where
deposits with animal bone, ash and other material
were found, again with pig being the third most
common species recovered, following sheep/goat and
cow. On the site of Castillo Antiguo, however, cattle
are the most common species. Other faunal data of
note include the presence of chicken (Gal/us gal/us)
at Cerro de Santa Ana. Chicken are thought to have
been introduced to the Iberian Peninsula at the beginning of the Iron Age through Mediterranean trade.
Because of its exotic character, it was an important
animal in funerary or propitiatory rituals as is
evident at the necropolis of Las Ruedas (Padilla de
Duero, Valladolid) (Bellver 1995, 516). Chicken have
also been found at the settlement of La Hoya and in
Sorian castros such as Zarranzano (Cubo de Sierra)
and El Castillejo (Fuensauco) at the end of the Early
Iron Age (Hernandez Carrasquilla 1992). This
confirms the opening of the castro horizon of the
Sistema Iberico to the Mediterranean cultural
currents, leading to a growing complexity in their
consumption and ritual activities.
tory between the headwaters of the Rivers Duero,
Tajo and Jal6n, the Celtiberian culture was being
forged and would have a prominent role in the
following centuries (Arenas and Palacios 1999;
Arenas 1999b; Ruiz Zapatero 1999; Lorrio 2005a,
257-92, 2005b, 2008; Jimeno 2005a). The
Celtiberian culture functioned also as a dynamic
focus, as a vehicle of expression of new socioeconomic systems in settlements which experienced an
opening up to external influences. The innovations to
which we refer radiated progressively from the
Mediterranean littoral towards the interior, arriving
at the Celtiberian region and from there spreading
out through the neighbouring areas (the Upper Ebro
and the Cantabrian foothills, the central basin of the
Duero, the mountains of Cuenca and lower Arag6n)
following the natural routes of communication and
the routes of exchange (Cerdefio et at. 1996, 1999;
Sanchez-Moreno 1998, 739-60; Arenas 2005;
Blanco 2005). This is the scenario which surrounded
the phenomenon conventionally called Celtiberization. Due to its importance in the interior of
the Iberian Peninsula, we should take the opportunity to pause for a moment to consider it.
For much of the twentieth century it was believed
that Celtiberization was achieved by the hegemonic
expansion of the Arevaci tribe as a result of its
strength and resistance in the face of Roman incursions (Alonso 1969; Salinas 1991). But today
Celtiberization is understood to be a process of
cultural contact and revival of production (Martin
Valls and Esparza 1992; Burillo 1998, 105-10,
146-7; Fernandez-Posse 1998, 165-73; G6mez
Fraile 2001, 435-44). It includes, in essence, the
diffusion of a series of technologies, styles and
favoured crafts in the context of urban and commercial intensification among the communities of the
Meseta and the Ebro valley in the middle of the first
millennium BC. Iberization and Celtiberization are in
reality two faces of the same coin, two regional styles
which camouflage the same essential process. This is
none other than the instigation in the interior of the
Peninsula, of urban patterns and of a market
economy in the Mediterranean tradition. The
adoption of these tendencies in various locales was a
result of successive interactions.
From the beginning of the fifth century BC
onwards, around the valleys of the Upper Ebro, as
well as those of the Guadalquivir, Guadiana and
Tajo, to the northern Meseta, there extended a series
of products and cultural forms which reflected such
changes. Among them the most significant was
probably the adoption of urban approaches/lifestyles
in response to a pressure on space and progressively
more complex socioeconomic relations. In
technology, the use of the pottery wheel stands out
and larger kilns allowed the development of new
ceramic forms at the beginning of the fourth century
BC (Cerdefio and Garcia 1995; Garcia Heras 1999,
2005). Also important were advances in iron metallurgy and the working of bronze and silver (Ruiz
Finally, the funerary panorama of our study zone
is somewhat incomplete but is defined by a certain
heterogeneity. On one hand it is evident that cremation associated with the Urnfields expanded gradually through the Ebro valley and Alavesan La Rioja
(Royo 1990, 1992-1993; Llanos 1990b; Castiella
and Tajadura 2001). However, at the same time,
other rites were also in use such as infant burial in
habitation contexts, a practice well attested in the
settlement of La Hoya (Galilea and Garcia 2003), or
the continued use of inhumation practices, as for
example in the cave burials in San Bartolome, Cueva
L6brega, Cueva de Los Lagos or Sima de la Muela
(Brieva), which had origins in the Cogotas I period.
In the Early Iron Age one of the few cremation
necropoli investigated in La Rioja is that of Las
Huertas (Montemediano), which is associated with
the settlement of Castejoncillo. Its structure is similar
to the pattern that defines the better studied
Navarran necropolis of La Torraza (Valtierra), El
Castej6n (Arguedas), El Castillo (Castej6n) and La
Atalaya (Cortes), the last being associated with the
settlement of El Alto de la Cruz. Like other
cemeteries of the Ebro valley, these necropoli
contained assemblages which include smoothed jars
with excised decoration, for offerings, as well as
brooches, belt buckles and metal ornaments such as
bracelets and torcs, deposited in pits and small
mounds (Castiella 1977, 196-206, 2004b, 2005;
Castiella and Bienes 2002). These observations
reflect family groups in which some members are
represented with objects of adornment and prestige
goods which break the symmetry of grave goods. It is
an expression of the latent hierarchization III
communities of the Iron Age of the region.
The Middle Iron Age: beyond Iberization
and Celtiberization
In the middle of the first millennium BC, the period
known as the Hierro Pleno or initial phase of the
Second Iron Age (fifth to third centuries BC) there is
thought to be a consolidation of cultural and socioeconomic dynamics among the populations of the
interior of the Iberian Peninsula. In the lands of the
Upper Ebro and the fringes of the Sistema Iberico,
most significant is the arrival, through the great
riverine corridor, of stimuli of Mediterranean origin
which defined the process of Iberization. Among
these innovations, as we shall see, the adoption of the
pottery wheel and with it the spread of wheel-thrown
pottery, the expansion of iron-working, commercial
expansion and urban development come to be seen
as the most symptomatic of the changes.
Nevertheless, this stimulation of interregional
contacts, which instigates important cultural transformations, cannot be understood simply as a
phenomenon emanating exclusively from the
Mediterranean coast. From the beginning of the sixth
century BC in the interior of the Meseta, in the terri-
sphere, the consumption of wine among the elite, the
love of weapons or particular clothes and objects of
personal adornment such as brooches and belt
buckles, are some of the most characteristic features
(Quesada 1995; Ruiz Zapatero and Lorrio 2000;
Almagro Gorbea and Lorrio 2004; Lorrio 2005a,
156-90, 203-30, 314-15, 2005c; Barril 2005;
Burillo and Alzola 2005). Finally, the adoption of
writing and coinage in the Celtiberian world in
parallel with the consolidation of political and urban
forms of living (Burillo 1995; de Hoz 2005a;
Dominguez Arranz 2005; Jordan 2007) are matters
to which we shall return.
On the Meseta and surrounding areas this
commercial convergence, a benefit of the first
globalization of the interior, explains a common
language in the material culture which has been
called Celtiberian. The most recognizable element of
this culture is the pottery assemblage - wheelthrown, in a light, fine paste, and decorated with
linear geometric motifs painted in red tones; it is
Zapatero 1992; Lorrio et al. 1999; Rovira 2005;
Sanz 2005). In the economic sphere the marked
increase in cereal production is reflected in the
archaeobotanical remains from Celtiberian excavations, as much as in the abundance of stone rotary
querns and large storage containers found in settlements (Cubero 1999, 2005; Torres 2003b, 201-43,
2005,42-4). This intensification of farming is closely
related to the use of iron tools, in particular the
ploughshare, and was responsible for the increase of
productivity in the Celtiberian region (Barril 1999a,
1999b; Berzosa 2005). We must not forget other
small but significant innovations such as the introduction of the vine and olive for the production of
wine and oil (Juan 2000a, 2000b). In commerce, one
of the most qualitative contributions was the
accepted use of measuring systems with standardized
weights and measures to facilitate transactions
(Garcia-Bellido 1999a, 2005; Curchin 2002; Galilea
2004; Calvo 2006). This was a revolution in the
means of exchange. Meanwhile in the sociological
_______ \
Fig. 140 Wheel-thrown Celtiberian pottery from sites in La Rioja and Navarra (after Castiella 1977, fig. 181).
Thus, apart from regional nomenclatures Iberization, Celtiberization - whose deceptive duality
can lead to misunderstandings (in cultural terms
Celtiberian is not but the Mesetan expression of Iberian
elements), the Middle Iron Age represents a period of
great vitality and complexity in our study area. Let us
review some of its principal characteristics.
Beginning with settlement, we can say that, at the
beginning of the fifth century BC, the settlements of
the Early Iron Age experienced a generalized growth
developing in four directions: the expansion of the
habitat area; the redefinition or consolidation of the
urban environment; the strengthening of defences;
and finally the introduction of wheel-thrown pottery
(Castiella 1977, 399--402, 405, 1995, 198-212;
Llanos 1995, 316-17). The few available dates are
only provisional (Espinosa 1981, 109-12; Llanos
1995,292), but it would appear that the occupation
of a few Early Iron Age settlements came to an end
or was interrupted (among them Cerro de Sorban
and others surrounding Calahorra, La Coronilla and
perhaps Castillo Antiguo), while the majority
continued to be occupied. In the area of the Upper
Ebro only some 10 per cent of settlements of Iron
Age 11 date are in newly settled areas (Llanos 1995,
294). However, as in other regions of the interior,
especially riverine areas, there appears to be an
underlying process of concentration of people in
larger settlements. This precedes the formation of
nuclear territories controlled by oppida, as we shall
later see. At present the best known settlement of the
Middle Iron Age is La Hoya (Laguardia), in Alavesan
La Rioja. Excavated steadily by Llanos between
1973 and 1989, and presented as a type-site for the
study of urbanism and architecture of the Iron Age,
La Hoya synthesizes the transformations experienced
by the settlements of the Ebro valley in the middle of
the first millennium BC (Llanos 1982, 1983, 1995,
302-8, 2002a, 2002b, 2005, 2007; Galilea 2003). In
other words, it characterizes the transition to the
Celtiberian phase in which some villages began to
develop into emerging cities.
La Hoya is located on a flat plateau 8 km from the
interior margin of the left back of the Ebro river,
protected by the adjacent Sierra de Cantabria. The
excavated area showed a modification of the Early
Iron Age settlement in phases III and 11, between the
end of the fifth and beginning of the third centuries
BC, which Llanos related to an intense process of
Celtiberization (Llanos 1995, 304-8, 2002b). The
urban area was extended and improved, with the
entire internal area of the settlement, some 4 ha,
being occupied, except for a zone next to the wall
which was free from the perimeter ring of houses
present in the preceding phase. The design now
confined a network of blocks composed of several
houses, which were built with dividing walls and
whose facades gave onto paved streets with
pavements covered with porticos more than a metre
wide; these streets are perpendicular to each other,
with non-symmetrical corners, and were aligned
treated as a Mesetan replication of eastern Iberian
ceramics, transformed into a guide to the Celtiberian
culture. The catalogue of forms is very broad
(Castiella 1977, 310-71), from table and kitchen
wares (jars, plates, bowls, jugs, cups with high feet)
to large storage jars and other unusual forms such as
canteens, funnels, graters, balls and little boxes,
these last being very characteristic of the Middle
Duero and Upper Ebro (Fig. 140). A number of
Celtiberian workshops have been found in recent
years in various parts of the interior (Escudero and
Sanz 1993; Blanco 1998). The size and characteristics of the kilns show that at times in the Late Iron
Age some of these centres reached industrial levels of
production with a specialized workforce (Sacristan
1993; Garcia Heras 2005). These products supplied
a regional market which explains the diffusion of
certain ceramic forms and decorations through
specific areas. The dedication to pottery was not
limited to ceramic vessels; it also covered the
production of adobes as was demonstrated by the
standardization of bricks which were used in the
construction of houses in the Celtiberian period, for
example at Cerro Molino. In our study area preRoman kilns have been found in the settlements of
Bergasa, El Redal, Tricio, Bobadilla and La Custodia
(Pascual and Moreno 1978; Espinosa 1981, 136-7),
but not enough is known about them to establish
their stature and function.
The phase of Celtiberization, dated to the fourth
and third centuries BC, is mainly characterized by the
adoption of Celtiberian ceramics even in regions
outside Celtiberia. Given its proximity to the Sistema
Iberico, one of the first of the Celtiberianized regions
is the Upper Ebro. Urban development and the diffusion of Celtiberian crafts in particular painted
ceramics but also certain types of weapons and
brooches appear on Navarran, Alavesan and Riojan
sites from the fourth century BC (Llanos 2002b;
Garcia and Galilea 2004). This Celtiberization has a
particular echo in the written sources. As we shall see
later, Strabo (3.4.12) pointed out the affinity between
the Celtiberians and their neighbours the Berones,
who occupied the present region of La Rioja, identifiying them as participants in a Celtic migration. It
would seem that such an hypothesis was a founding
myth propounded by Graeco-Roman writers,
enamoured with ideas of mobile barbarians (Beltran
2006a, 47-8). There is no archaeological evidence
for a large-scale influx of people from Gaul. Among
the Berones have been found mints, tokens of hospitality and onomastic traits which suggest a close
cultural relation with the Celtiberian world, if not
the inclusion of the territory of the Berones in the
Celtiberian linguistic area (Jordan 2006). These close
ties with the Meseta do not, however, reduce the
importance of the contacts which the peoples of the
Upper Ebro maintained with the Atlantic and
Mediterranean spheres, for which there is ample
evidence in the archaeological and epigraphiclinguistic record.
along the cardinal points; a plan which is very
similar to that of the Celtiberian city of Numancia.
The principal streets are in a radial layout, from a
point of origin at the second entrance to the city,
since the first gave access to an open space which
perhaps was used as a cattle corral. At intervals the
streets widen to form small squares and at some
points one can see the wheel tracks of carts worn
into the rock (Fig. 141). The houses are of rectangular or trapezoidal plan and were divided into
various rooms which included a vestibule, kitchen
and pantry or cellar. In general the construction was
improved from earlier phases, with the use of
external masonry walls, interior walls of adobe
which were plastered on the internal face, wooden
postslfences and stone hearths lined with clay. The
floors were of trampled earth, and the roofs, with
one or two slopes, were of vegetation over wooden
frames (L1anos 2002a, 69-70, 2005, 20-5). Apart
from the houses, public spaces for collective gatherings were identified, as well as porticoed structures
which have been interpreted as shops, by the
Fig. 141 Reconstruction of the excavated central area of the settlement of La Hoya (Laguardia, Alava)
(after L1anos 2005, 10, fig. 9).
Fig. 142 Celtiberian wheel-thrown pottery and excised boxes from La Hoya (Laguardia, Alava) (after Llanos
2005, 23, fig. 38).
presence of assemblages of materials, commercial
ceramic containers and instruments for the transfer
of foods (Llanos 1999). Of particular interest was
the discovery of collections of bronze weights, as
well as stone or clay balls in a succession of standard
weights, confirming the existence of an accepted
series of measurement (Llanos and Galilea 2002;
Galilea 2004; Garcla-Bellido 2005, 383-4). Thus
these people made use of systems of exchange
regulated in places which, like La Hoya, became
commercial foci of regional character (Fig. 142).
This phase of maximum development ended with
a widespread fire in the settlement at the beginning of
the third century BC, perhaps caused by an external
attack (Llanos 2005, 25-6, 38). This is suggested by
the sudden destruction of the houses and the
discovery of human bodies lying on the floors, with
amputated limbs and other signs of violence. This
destruction horizon at La Hoya recalls the collapse
which the settlement of Cerro Molino seems to have
suffered a century later. Here, building 3 excavated in
2003 was destroyed in a horrific fire which has
produced a radiocarbon date centred on the early
second century. Associated with the destruction layer
was an individual of some 10 years of age whose
remains had been disarticulated and dispersed.
Although the excavation was of limited scope, these
data show the frequency of fires and violent episodes
in various settlements some of which were reconstructed before finally being abandoned. In the case
of La Hoya, the end of occupation took place a short
time after the previously mentioned destruction, and
the settlement was never Romanized (Llanos 2002a,
59,2005,26, 38).
With regard to the funerary practice, La Hoya had
a necropolis, Pii1uelas, which has been excavated but
not published apart from a few dates mentioned in
the settlement excavation report (Llanos 1990b,
142-7, 2002c, 97-9,2005,35-7). It is located to the
north of the settlement, beside an old road which uses
the natural passes of the Sierra de Cantabria. The
burial rites consisted of cremation and the deposition
of the human remains and grave goods in stone cists
which were marked by vertical stelae: some 70 burials
have been excavated. In one area of the necropolis it
was possible to show how the cists were placed back
to back in a polygonal network, in such a manner that
the tombstone of one grave served as a partition to
the next. The grave goods contained a range of
objects including offering jars, jewellery and
weapons. The recurrence of armaments which include
daggers of Monte Bernorio type and horse gear
suggests that these could be the tombs of an equestrian elite from the settlement (Llanos 2002d).
The necropolis of La Hoya and others which have
been partially excavated along the Navarran borders
(Llanos 1990b; Castiella and Bienes 2002; Castiella
2004b) throw some light on the little known funerary
practices of the Riojan Iron Age. Apart from the
funerary deposits in Cerro de Santa Ana (Entrena), Las
Huertas-Castejoncillo (Montemediano) or Cerro del
Piquillo-Libia (this last necropolis unfortunately
destroyed: Espinosa and Rodriguez 1986; Alvarez
Clavijo 2006b, 176-7, 183-4) or the Celtiberian
stelae with depictions of horsemen and geometric
motifs reutilized in the medieval cemetery of
Hormilleja (Martin Bueno 1975; Castiella 1977,
376-81; Espinosa 1981, 142-3), of which a new
fragment was found during the excavations at Cerro
Molino, little can be concluded other than that each
important settlement had in its immediate surroundings a collective funerary space. The intensity of
agricultural activity on such insubstantial remains as
cremations, together with the lack of systematic investigation, means that the world of death continues to
be ill defined in the protohistory of La Rioja.
In our field of analysis, the lack of archaeological
investigation, particularly in La Rioja, makes it difficult to establish population models for the end of the
Iron Age. In only a few regions with high population
density and where intensive investigations have been
undertaken in recent years, as is the case in the
Cicados basin, has it been possible to define territories with governing centres. Around them subsidiary
habitats were established which maintained their
right to control the natural passes and areas of
economic value, particularly pastures for livestock
(Pascual and Pascual 1984, 112-16; Garda Heras
and Lopez 1995, 333-5; Alfaro 2005). The model
has conveniently been applied to the Sorian area of
the Sistema Iberico, around the headwaters of the
Cidacos and Linares rivers. Here, during the late
stages of the Iron Age, a territorial hierarchy based
on economic and demographic factors develops.
Three levels of settlement can be defined: 1) the
consolidation of oppida (specifically those in El
Castillejo de La Laguna in the Cidacos valley and Los
Casares de San Pedro Manrique in the Linares
valley); 2) secondary nucleated settlements or
castillejos, although at the end of Iron Age 11 only
those better situated within the territory and with
good communication routes to the outside world
prospered; 3) simple farms, established on level and
open terrain; in contrast to previous settlements these
were not walled and became agricultural operations
during the Roman period (Alfaro 2005, 301-11).
The settlement of the Riojan area is less well
known due to the relative lack of excavations and the
record is uneven (Espinosa 1981, 109-38; Castillo
1994, 16-20; Tejado 2001). The best that we can do
is to distinguish three categories of settlement among
the sites that were occupied at the end of the first
millennium BC: oppida, smaller settlements and
defended sites or castella (Castiella 1976, 12-15,
1977, 10-195; Espinosa 1981, 112-30; Llanos 1995,
300-17, 320-8, 2002a, 29-66). Except for the last
category, which were abandoned during the territorial reorganization which followed Roman pacification, the majority of sites were Romanized and
occupied during the Roman Imperial period.
We will begin with oppida, although we know more
about most of these sites during the Roman period
(when the civitates were ascribed by literary sources to
the Berones, their neighbours the Celtiberians or the
Vascones) than in earlier periods. The best examples in
the territory of the Celtiberians and Berones are represented by the sites of Inestrillas in the Alhama valley the ancient site of Contrebia Leucade, Calahorra at
the confluence of the Cidacos with the Ebro - the
ancient Caiagurris, La Custodia to the south-west of
Viana, on the left bank of the Ebro - which for some
years has been identified with ancient Vareia, and
Cerro del Piquillo in Herramelluri, above the Tiron
valley - the ancient Libia of the Berones. To this group
we must add the ancient site of Tritium Magallum in
the Najerilla basin, another settlement of the Berones
cited in literary sources. The site of the pre-Roman
Late Iron Age: from oppida to civitates
The Ebro basin, as in other areas of Europe, at the
end of the Iron Age saw the organization of the
population into urban political units. The oppida
best represent this phenomenon, since these settlements became central places or territorial capitals.
From the end of the third century BC, the archaeology and also the written sources which contain the
first references to indigenous population nuclei in the
context of Punic and Roman expansion reveal the
essential function of these enclaves in the ancient
landscape of Hispania. As we have seen, in the Ebro
valley and on the Meseta the oppida were the result
of a process of concentration begun several centuries
earlier. This was reinforced by the continued growth
of selected settlements which benefited by virtue of
their better strategic positions, defences or economic
potential. These were able to absorb communities
from other castros which were being abandoned or
incorporated by force (Almagro Gorbea 1994,
1995a; Asensio 1995; Burillo 1998,210-24; Alvarez
Sanchis 2005a, 2005b; Lorrio 2005a, 103-10). A
surface area upwards of 10 ha, the building of
complex systems of defence and an urban organization with distinct residential and economic zones
(workshops, stores, livestock pens) and public buildings are some of the traits which define the oppida.
Yet these nuclei, the seed of the civitates seen later in
literary texts, are not the only type of settlement in
use at the end of the Iron Age. Although often subordinate to the oppida, other settlements of inferior
type and varied function were also found reflecting
various levels of hierarchy. The variety in structure
and exploitation of the different territories is the best
indicator of the dynamism of these communities on
the threshold of contact with Rome.
settlement has yet to be located, although it is generally thought to be in the area around the modern town
of Tricio, famous during the Roman period for its
workshops producing terra sigillata hispanica (TIR K30 1993, 226). According to Espinosa (1994, 107),
the native oppidum could have been located at El
Villar de Bobadilla, some 8 km to the south of Tricio.
The site is an elongated hill on the left bank of the
Najerilla, from which various surface finds have been
recovered (Vallespi1973, 68; Castiella 1977,214-16;
Espinosa 1994, 107).
Without doubt the best known of the previously
mentioned sites is Inestrillas-Contrebia Leucade. It
had been examined by Taracena, who undertook
various campaigns of excavation during the 1930s,
and lately by Hernandez Vera who has been working
there since 1977. Under his direction more recent
archaeological excavations have been undertaken
from 1989 to 1993 and then from 2000 until the
present. The site stands out due to its location,
urbanism and spectacular defensive system which
make it a strategic military enclave of the first order
(Hernandez Vera 1982; Hernandez Vera and Ntinez
1988; Hernandez Vera et al. 2007) (Fig. 143). On top
of the Early Iron Age settlement was built a walled
city which, in the third century BC, covered over 12
ha. It extends over an irregular topography defined
by two hills of different height, separated by a stream
bed which descends at a gentle gradient towards the
valley. The western half of the perimeter uses an
Fig. 143 Aerial photograph of the site of Contrebia Leucade (Inestrillas, La Rioja) (after Hernandez Vera 2005,
130, fig. 1).
of the rocky surface. The city had a complex system
for the supply and drainage of water, composed of a
network of open drainage canals cut in the natural
rock. In addition wells or subterranean tunnels were
built, which were accessed across staggered shafts
and led from the interior of the city to the level of the
river. All of this indicates a technological development, organizational capacity and administration of
resources only possible in a community with considerable human resources. If one adds the enviable
strategic position controlling one of the principal
routes of communication between the Ebro valley
and Meseta to its defensive role, it is easy to understand the prominence gained by Contrebia Leucade
before and during the Roman expansion through
Celtiberian lands.
Other oppida are much less well known. We know
little of the original settlement of Calagurris, which
like Gracchurris (Alfaro) played an important role in
the Roman control of the Ebro valley, other than that
it was located on the acropolis on which the modern
city of Calahorra now sits. Celtiberian pottery and
slingshots have recently been found on the site of
Torres, to the north of Cerro de San Francisco. It was
eclipsed by its Roman past (Espinosa 1984a; Pascual
and Pascual 1984, 42-4; TIR K-30 1993, 75-6;
Tirado 2000; Cinca et al. 2003).
exceptional natural feature for defence - a vertical
escarpment above the Alhama river. This escarpment
reaches a great height, especially on the southern
side, where there is a drop of 50 m, making it unnecessary to build an artificial defence. The eastern half
is protected by a wall built of coursed blocks of
considerable size which is reinforced with towers at
the entrances, and a magnificent ditch (700 m long,
between 7 and 9 m wide, and up to 8 m deep) cut
into the rock: this combination is unique in the
Celtiberian world (Fig. 144). Two peripheral spaces
were added to the walled area, one to the south and
the other to the east, which reinforce the defences
and in addition provide enclosures for livestock. The
configuration and distribution of interior space has
an urban character and is designed to fit the conditions of the terrain. The houses were grouped in
quarters open to streets laid out along successive
level terraces. The houses are rectangular or trapezoidal, divided longitudinally and, when not cut out
of the rock, lie directly on the rock surface. This
provided an internal, subterranean space in the rock
which was used as a store or larder, while outer
rooms, of masonry, mud walls and adobe between
wooden beams, were built up to two or three floors
in height. Stairs, tanks lined with plaster and bases
for large storage containers or cisterns were cut out
Fig. 144 Southern wall and ditch of Contrebia Leucade (lnestrillas, La Rio;a). Photograph by Eduardo SanchezMoreno.
The site of La Custodia (Viana), which has been
subject to limited exploration, was a fortified settlement of 11 ha on a slight hill in the fork of the Rivers
Perizuelas and Presas, which flow into the Ebro 3 km
to the south. It began as a small settlement of the
Late Bronze or Early Iron Age, and grew in size
progressively towards the north until it became a site
of high importance which was then abandoned
during the Astur-Cantabrian wars (Castiella 1977,
62-84; Armendariz 1997-1998; Labeaga 19992000, 211-16). Apart from quantities of pottery
both handmade and wheel-turned, other finds of
note from the site include bronze jewellery, hospitality tokens and evidence for the minting of native
coins. The presence of coins with the legend Uarakos
has been one of the arguments put forward in
defence of this being the site of the Beronian city of
Vareia (Espinosa 1990, 6-9; Labeaga 1990). Thus it
must have constituted the political and economic
head of a territory in which other dependent settlements were located throughout the Viana region
(Labeaga 1976).
Turning to Cerro del Piquillo de Herramelluri, also
known as Colina de las Sernas, we once again see a
settlement on top of a plateau with apparent continuity and progressive growth from the Early Iron
Age to the late Roman period. However, we know
little of the Celtiberian settlement which was called
Libia. The excavations carried out by Marcos Po us
between 1966 and 1971 on top of the hill (the area
known as La Llana) uncovered Iron Age levels, with
rectangular houses - some with floors on the natural
clay - built using masonry and adobe walls, and
abundant pottery which was dominated by wheelthrown vessels (Castiella 1977, 84-105; Marcos
Pous 1979, 88-115; Alvarez Clavijo 2006a, 152,
2006c). Its location in the western confines of the
territory of the Berones emphasizes the importance of
this oppidum, bordering the frontier with the
Autrigones who were based around the River Tiron.
Towards the north, other settlements belonging to
Alavesan foothills also attained the status of oppida.
One of these is Carastra (Caicedo Sopeiia). It began
as a hillfort in the Late Bronze-Early Iron Age, sited
upon a triangular spur, and developed into a terraced
settlement of great magnitude, later Romanized,
covering an area of 27 ha within its defences (Llanos
1995, 302, 2002a, 42-5). A further site to be
mentioned is Castros de Lastra (Caranca), situated
upon a rocky outcrop on the side of a mountain,
protected by strong walls and spread over an area of
more than 15 ha. The abundance of slag and metal
objects, including partially finished jewellery,
suggests the presence of an important metalworking
workshop (Llanos 1995, 300-2, 2002a, 37-40).
The emergence of oppida and civitates in the
Celtiberian region was at its height from the beginnings of the third century BC onwards. This
extended to the central Ebro valley (Celtiberia
Citerior) and, somewhat later, to the eastern edge of
the Meseta (Celtiberia Ulterior) (Asensio 1995;
Burillo 1995, 1998,216-54, 2006a; Jimeno 2005b).
It is enough to cite the ancient cities of Contrebia
Belaisca (Cabezo de las Minas, Botorrita, Zaragoza),
Segeda (El Poyo, Mara, Zaragoza), Bllbilis
(Valdeherrera, Calatayud, Zaragoza), Uxama
Argaela (Alto del Castro, Burgo de Osma, Soria),
Termes (Montejo de Tiermes, Soria), Segontia Lanka
(Las Quintanas-La Cuesta del Moro, Langa de
Duero, Soria) or Numancia (Cerro de Garray, Soria),
besides Contrebia Leucade in Inestrillas which we
have already mentioned. The archaeology of these
sites shows an organized urban fabric reflecting the
basic elements for life in the city. Numancia, capital
of the Arevaci and famous for the siege by Scipio
Aemilianus in 133 BC can serve as an example for
the territory of Soria, a region well connected with
the Upper Ebro via the passes of the Sistema Iberico.
Covering 8 ha, the city was built around two long,
parallel streets running north-south which were
crossed by 11 others, also parallel to each other but
running east-west. It thus formed a uniform grid of
approximately 20 blocks, leaving no open spaces or
squares between them, made up of houses, variously
rectilinear, divided into a number of rooms. The
houses were constructed in a similar manner to those
already mentioned at sites such as La Hoya. The city
had a strong wall reinforced with towers and entered
through four well defined gates. This Celtiberian
layout was maintained when the city was reconstructed in the first century BC (Jimeno et al. 2002;
Revilla et al. 2005; Jimeno 2006, 262-6).
The Celtiberian cities occupied privileged positions,
at the entrance to valleys, controlling agricultural
lands, with access to mineral resources and on routes
of communication. This horizon of urbanization is
supported by the literary sources which mention the
numerous cities implicated in the wars against Rome
(154-133 BC), the inhabitants of which were known
by their affinity to particular cities (Segedians,
Contrebians, Numantians). The importance of the
city as the organizational, administrative and political
centre of the territory is reflected in the fact that it
was they, through their representatives, who dealt
directly with the Romans, and signed treaties. They
thus approached the role of a city-state. Sources also
confirm the existence of political structures and institutions in these cities, such as popular assemblies,
councils of aristocrats or senators and magistrates
(Dominguez 2005; Jimeno 2005b; Beltran 2005;
Lorrio 2005a, 318-22). In addition, many centres of
Celtiberia Citerior minted coins at the beginning of
the second century BC, and those which used silver
(for example Turiaso, Segeda/Sekaisa or Arekoratas),
because of the greater prestige associated with silver
rather than bronze, were seen to establish control
over the larger areas through which their coins were
circulated (Burillo 1995, 1998, 237-45, 292-304).
Some of these urban centres were situated at regular
intervals of between 40 and 50 km apart, with rural
settlements dependent on the political capitals,
located around them within their territories.
residual element in the Ebro valley. Other materials
frequently found are rotary querns, loomweights,
objects of iron and bronze, particularly brooches,
casting moulds and bone tools. Coins were generally
from local mints in the Ebro valley.
The economy of these settlements had a mixed
agropastoral base, varying according to the location
and resources available in each territory. Thus while
settlements located on the lower slopes below
mountains (Cerro de San Miguel, Bergasa,
Castejoncillo) practised extensive cattle raising and
exploitation of mineral seams, those by rivers (Cerro
de Santa Ana, El Ca stellar de Mendivia, San Justo,
Cerro Molino) had a more agricultural focus. In this
second case it is obvious that, as they progressed
through the Iron Age, the alluvial soils in the areas
around the settlements were progressively worked
and intensively exploited.
The faunal and archaeobotanical data recovered
from Cerro Molino are an assemblage typical of a
riverine settlement, in this case in the Najerilla valley.
It was a farming habitat, integrated into the political
territory of Tritium, located some 10 km to the south
on the upper waters of the Najerilla. As we have
seen, Cerro Molino was occupied from the Early Iron
Age until at least the Roman Republican period, as
shown by the construction of a large masonry
building on the central part of the hill, covering
several late Celtiberian structures which had fallen
into disuse. The complex stratigraphy of Cerro
Molino shows, however, episodes of destruction and
perhaps abandonment, represented by extensive
deposits of ash and charcoal. One particularly
important fire took place at the beginning of the
second century BC, perhaps related to the instability
caused by the campaigns of Cato in the Ebro valley.
Cerro Molino has provided evidence for the cultivation of wheat (in several varieties: Triticum aestivum,
Triticum durum and Triticum dicoccum) , barley
(Hordeum vulgare) and millet (Panicum miliaceum).
Millet is the most common of these species, being
used in the human diet as well as feeding domestic
livestock. There were also small quantities of oats
and flax. This last plant, although it could be
improved for food use, was primarily used in textile
production. The size of the cereal harvest would have
been important if we take into account that, in the
excavated area alone, over 25 rotary querns have
been recovered. The recovery of grape seeds (Vitis
vinifera) at Cerro Molino is also important.
Although the evidence is slight (only one seed in the
destruction level of building 3), it could indicate the
local production of wine in the Celtiberian period,
something for which evidence is beginning to appear
in the Ebro valley and the Meseta. The most notable
is that supplied by the Celtiberian city of Segeda (El
Poyo de Mara, Zaragoza). During recent excavations
a plastered structure with a drain was found inside a
domestic room. It has been interpreted as a press
with a capacity of 2000 litres: around it pips of Vitis
vinifera were found. Large Celtiberian jars also
Next to the oppida, the second category of settlement was of smaller size. Although secondary with
respect to the oppida, some of them operated as
central places in small territories which were
integrated within the political sphere ruled by an
oppidum. This category is a heterogeneous group of
sites including hillforts, fortified villages and farms
covering areas between 0.5 and 8 ha but with a
median size of 1.5 to 3 ha. Many are located in the
Upper Ebro, generally occupying sites which were
first settled in the Early Iron Age. Some of the sites in
the region of La Rioja include Peiia del Saco
(Cervera) and Peiiahitero (Fitero) on the course of
the Alhama, Cerro de San Miguel (Arnedo) in the
Cidacos valley, Cerro del Cortijo (Bergasa) in the
Majeco valley, Partelapeiia (El Redal) in the CidacosLeza watershed, Castejoncillo (Montemediano), Las
Pasadas (Alberite) and Cerro de Santa Ana (Entrena)
in the Iregua valley, El Castillar (Mendavia), Monte
Cantabria (Logroiio) and San Justo (Cenicero) on the
Ebro, and Cerro Molino (Hormilleja) on the course
of the Najerilla (Castiella 1977, 105-83; Pascual and
Pascual 1984, 26-8, 33-8; Garcia Ecija et al. 1986;
Llanos 1995, 312-15; Cunliffe et al. 2001; Medrano
and Diaz 2003, 396-7). At the end of the Iron Age
these settlements experienced an increase in size,
extending the original site across the surrounding
hillsides. This represents a process of demographic
concentration, as we have said, in which some settlements grow while others are abandoned.
A second feature is the development of defences,
progressively more complex with the extension of the
walled area and the increase in the number of
bastions or towers. These were of dry-wall construction covered with adobe, and their approaches were
sometimes protected by ditches. Peiiahitero, El Cerro
del Cortijo and Monte Cantabria are all good
examples of this. As an expression of collective
power, this strengthening of the defences indicates
the political definition of some of these communities,
a process accompanied by increased pressure on and
importance of space. The interior organization of the
settlements was governed by the topography, particularly the varying relief across which the distribution
of streets and houses, grouped in flat areas or aligned
on terraces, was fairly irregular. The domestic architecture maintained the earlier traditions but with
some improvements, and was not substantially
different from houses in the oppida. Thus the houses
were of polygonal plan, predominantly rectangular,
and generally divided into three consecutive rooms
reflecting a hall, living area and pantry, as is seen,
for example, at Cerro Molino. The construction
materials commonly used were stone, adobe, clay,
wood and wattle. Among the cultural material, the
most indicative is the profusion of wheel-thrown,
often painted, pottery found on the surface of these
sites. Wheel-thrown vessels dominate those made by
hand, with excavated assemblages exhibiting proportions which vary between 65 and 90 per cent. At the
end of the Iron Age handmade pottery represents a
It seems logical to suppose that the castella distributed along the course of the Najerilla (Cerro Cividad,
La Teja, Picolaicia, El Patin) delimit the southern
border of the area controlled by the oppidum of
Tritium (may be Los Villares in Bobadilla?), while
those located in the middle basin of the Cidacos
(various sites around Navalsaz, El Castejon de
Prejano and Corrales de Senoba) formed the ager
calagurritanus, in this case at the extreme southwest, defending the passes leading to the mountains
via Arnedillo and Enciso. For their part, the sites
around Navajun (Los Casales) and Igea (El
Castillejo) respectively delimited the north and west
of the political territory of Contrebia Leucade, the
first of them from its position above the Linares and
the second on the edge of the Sierra de las Cabezas.
An interesting case is that of Monte Cantabria, a
site which combined the defensive and occupational
roles, and as such bridge between castellum and
town. It was located on the northern edge of the city
of Logrofio, on the left bank of the Ebro, on a long
and narrow summit with a maximum elevation of
120 m above the river. The strategic position is
undeniable, controlling access to the Ebro at the
point where the province limits of Logrofio and
Alava meet those of Navarra. This explains its
occupation from at least the Early Iron Age, as
indicated by the large quantity of finds recovered,
and its later strong defences of wall and towers,
which today are being destroyed by the erosion of the
hillside (Pascual 1977; Perez Arrondo 1977, 1990;
Castiella 1977, 105-7). Although it has been identified with the Beronian city of Vareia (Pascual and
Gajate 1986), recent suggestions consider it to be a
defensive nucleus which is complementary to this
oppidum, whose urban centre corresponds today to
the site of La Custodia (Viana), 4.5 km to the northeast of Monte Cantabria (Espinosa 1990, 6-8;
Pascual et al. 1998, 15-16, 105-6; Labeaga
We will end by emphasizing the frequency of this
type of defensive site in the Celtiberian-Beronian
landscape. This can be inferred from the evidence
provided by Strabo (3.4.13). According to Posidonius,
the 300 fortified towns which Sempronius Graco,
founder of Graccurris, had taken from the Celtiberians
during his governorship of Hispania (180-178 BC)
were not so much poleis as pyrgoi, that is towers or
watchtowers rather than cities.
found in the vlclmty, coated internally with resin,
may have been used in the preservation of wine, the
vessels being used for fermentation and storage
(Burillo and Alzola 2005; Burillo 2006b, 228). It has
already been shown that the consumption of wine
was an aristocratic habit associated with the Iberian
and Celtiberian elites. Thus it is not surprising that
residue analysis has demonstrated the presence of
wine in cups and other receptacles placed in the
tombs of warrior chiefs, for instance at the Vaccean
necropolis of Las Ruedas (Padilla de Duero,
Valladolid) (Sanz et al. 2003).
Faunal analysis at Cerro Molino shows that in the
Celtiberian period the most common species was
sheep/goat (70 per cent), followed by cattle (10 per
cent) and pig (10 per cent). As in other parts of the
Ebro valley, the Meseta and Extremadura, this
proportion shows the growing importance of extensive flocks of sheep and goats and the exploitation of
secondary products such as wool. However, one
must take into account that the faunal remains from
the Iron Age 11 at Cerro Molino are scarce (in
comparison with those from the Early Iron Age
which show that sheep/goat, pig and cow occur in
generally equal proportions), and come for the most
part from the destruction level of building 3. It is
therefore not possible to make general statements
about livestock rearing over the whole site. The
identification, in the interior of the settlement, of
grasses associated with plants used for forage
suggests the stabling of at least some of the domestic
livestock. Otherwise, in terms of animal rearing and
food use, the remains from Cerro Molino are similar
to those generally found in the Celtiberian world
(Liesau and Blanco 1999; Blasco 1999; Liesau 2005).
The third and final category of settlement is represented by the defended locations or castella. They are
different to the towns in three principal ways: first the
limited size of the interior space, resembling more a
small fortified farmhouse; second their strong walls;
and third strategic significance. Many are found on
foothills and their prominent positions and difficult
access accentuate their territorial function. These sites
are likely to have played a role in the control of entry
to the valleys and in the oversight of staple resources
such as summer pastures and mineral outcrops. In the
region of La Rioja sites of this type have been identified at Cerro Cividad (Canales de la Sierra), La Teja
(Mansilla), Picolaicia (Viniegra de Abajo), El Patin
(Estollo), El Castillo and El Castillejo (Navalsaz), El
Castejon (Prejano), Corrales de Senoba (Garranzo),
Los Casales (Navajun) and El Castillejo (Igea)
(Pascual and Pascual 1984, 67-9, 77-82; Espinosa
2003). The topography and morphology of these
places suggest that, rather than being stable settlement nuclei, they could be points of defence, possibly
along frontiers, integrated into the territorial systems
of larger settlements such as oppida or other central
places. Their positions on well protected hills as well
as their wide visibility allowed them to control passes
and territories at great distance.
On the ethnicity of the Upper Ebro valley:
the Berones and their neighbours
The study of the ethnicity in the ancient world has
become an area of renewed interest in recent years. In
the case of the pre-Roman people of the Iberian
Peninsula, the most recent investigations highlight
important advances which affect as much the perspective of the analysis (how did they perceive identity in
the ancient world?, under which mechanisms?, with
which expressions? and, finally, how were they
constructed?) as the implications for historical collective units (what types of ethnic and political identity
existed in the pre-Roman Spanish world?, how were
they transformed in the process of Romanization?)
(Cruz and Mora 2004; Collado 2006; Sastre 2009).
Before we consider the peoples of the Upper Ebro and
the foothills of the Sistema Iberico at the end of the
first millennium BC, it would be opportune to
examine the image of the pre-Roman peoples
provided by the Classical sources, since it is through
them that much of our knowledge of these peoples,
their names and their territories comes.
In the first place, we must note that the ancient
authors maintained a particular view of the
barbarian world based on the ideology and politics
of Roman imperialism. Graeco-Roman knowledge of
the interior of the Peninsula was late and biased. The
first real historical information dates to the end of
the third century BC, and is related to the incursions
of Hannibal on the Meseta and the recruitment of the
Celtiberians in the Carthaginian army during the
Second Punic War. At the beginning of the second
century BC, the advance of the Roman legions is the
common thread in the development of the indigenous
communities of the terra incognita which extended
to the west of the Iber river (Ebro) and the Idubeda
(Sistema Iberico) and to the north of the Ana river
(Guadiana) and the Orospeda (Sierra Morena) - that
is, Celtiberia or Celtic Spain, the region which the
erudite Greeks linked geographically and ethnographically with the Keltike. In the minds of ancient
geographers such as Polybius or Strabo, the Pyrenees
were aligned north-south and were linked with the
Sistema Iberico and Sierra Morena in such a way that
they formed a great mountainous arc which
separated Iberia from Celtic lands. Over time, in
their military progression, the Romans took the Tajo
and Duero valleys, discovering a great many tribes in
successive territories which stretched to the ocean.
From then on, throughout the second century BC the
term Celtiberian had a restricted geohistorical connotation: the region around the Sistema Iberico that
was inhabited by a number of peoples (Arevaci,
Titos, Belos, Lusones), strictly speaking the
Celtiberians, related in their political and cultural
systems with the Iberians of the Levantine shore.
Meanwhile the interior, north and west of Celtic
Spain, was seen to be occupied by many other ethnic
groups, such as the Berones, Turmogos, Vacceos,
Vetones and Carpetanos, which, from this point of
view, could not be considered Celtiberian, although
they did have contact with the Celtiberians. One
must also take into account that the Classical historians had no interest in the ethnology or history of
the peoples with whom they came in contact, but
only wished to praise the Roman triumph or justify
their annexations. There was no investigation of. the
origin and evolution of these peoples, or of the
characteristics of their identity or governmental
structures. The ethnic panorama which the Classical
writers reflect is that of the interests of conquerors,
not the reality of the conquered. Thus the facts they
give are scarce, subjective and imprecise. The
conquest over, the geographical description given by
Strabo, Pliny or Ptolemy in the period of the high
empire is not much more than a list of towns and
cities and their approximate locations in relation to
the large rivers and mountain chains, within the new
territorial scheme which Rome imposed. The description of the native way of life, considered under
various ethnographic headings, was based on only a
few populi because Strabo believed the rest to be too
small size or obscure to deserve consideration
(Strabo 3.3.3). There was a disinterest in what was
considered to be primitive or barbarian among the
peoples of the Celtic world. This included the
Berones, and in particular the inhabitants of the
Cantabrian coast, which the Classical authors
thought of as the antipodes of civilization.
The ethnic mosaic which the Classical writers
present simplifies the later stages in the historical
process which, in the Upper Ebro, took place in the
first millennium BC. The centuries at the end of the
Iron Age are an important time in the birth of ethnicities and political communities, but the Classical
texts, far from reflecting these dynamics, show the
ethnic groups as entities fixed in time: without a past,
a history or prominence. For a correct assessment of
the pre-Roman societies one must consider the
archaeological record and the various environments
to which those peoples adapted their ways of life.
One must also point out that, in the majority of
cases, the pre-Roman tribal territories did not correspond with compact territories in a structured
unitary state, but were the result of the aggregation
of different political units - hillforts, oppida, civitates
or city-states. Because of this their boundaries were
diffuse and discontinuous. On the other hand, we
know little of the level of cohesion and ethnicity of
the indigenous peoples; the ancient historians seldom
discuss it and their view, when expressed, is subjective and that of the outsider, even to some degree
fictitious. Only through archaeology can we discern
some traits of their cultural identity, and so for now
we must be cautious in using the term people.
Ethnogenesis is in no sense absolute, but a dynamic
process that occurs over time, and the elements
which define and unite an ethnic group (territory,
language, environment, beliefs, socio-political organization) are more changeable and shared than
constant and exclusive. This is in contrast to the way
the process was viewed in the nineteenth century.
Therefore we do not believe in a closed catalogue of
ethnicities as unchanging realities but a global
process of ethnogenesis and interaction which took
place throughout protohistory and whose final
expression is documented, in a biased fashion,
through the eyes and interests of Rome (SanchezMoreno 2008a, 133-6). Another thing is that these
constructions of identity can be used in certain political or historical situations.
According to the literary sources, the peoples who
inhabited the Middle and Upper Ebro basin in the
Iron Age were the Sedetanos, Celtiberians, Vascones,
Berones, Autrigones and Cantabrians. It is significant
that the territorial extent of these peoples, along the
Ebro, embrace three principal prehistoric linguistic
areas: Iberian, Celtiberian or Indo-European and
Basque-Aquitaine (Fatas 1992, 1998). There are
enough reasons to believe that, of these peoples, the
Berones occupied the region of the Upper Rioja and
the south of the province of Alava, the area now
called La Rioja Alavesa (Taracena 1941; Villacampa
1976, 1980, 1983; Galve and Villacampa 1983;
L1anos 1992, 445; Marco 1994; Santos Yanguas
2002; Ortiz de Urbina 2005). The approximate
limits of their territory were situated between the
mountain ranges of the Sierra de la Demanda,
Cameros, Hayedo de Santiago and the watershed of
the Rivers Leza and Cidacos to the south. An imprecise border to the east lay between the modern towns
of Calahorra and Logroiio; meanwhile the sonsierra
of lower Navarra and the Sierra de Cantabria-Toloiio
are the northern boundary. Finally the limit to the
west lay by the River Tir6n as far as Haro, closely
following the provincial division between Logroiio
and Burgos to the west (Villacampa 1980, 34-42,
1983, 112-13; Burillo 1998, 185-6; Labeaga
1999-2000,209-10; G6mez Fraile 2001, 96-8). It is
thought to be a territory linked by the River Ebro
and its southern tributaries the Leza, Iregua,
Najerilla and Oja-Glera, whose valleys formed the
main settlement area for the Berones. It is a territory
delimited at its ends by mountainous barriers, the
Sierra de Cantabria to the north and the RiojanSorian foothills of the Sistema Iberico to the south.
Within this region, the space enclosed by the triangle
drawn between the sites of Viana, Herramelluri and
Anguiano could be considered to be the nucleus of
the land of the Berones. Thanks to the information
provided by Strabo (3.4.12) and Ptolemy (2.6.54) we
know that the Berones shared a frontier with the
Vardulos and Caristios to the north, the Vascones to
the east, the Arevaci and Pelendones to the south and
south-east, and the Autrigones to the west (Fig. 145).
The frontiers between the Berones, Vascones and
Celtiberians have in particular been the subject of
debate. The association of Calagurris (Calahorra)
with the Celtiberians in ancient sources from the first
century BC means that it has been thought that lower
Rioja remained outside the area belonging to the
Berones, although this territory was later integrated
into the ager vasconum, as Ptolemy included
Calagurris and Graccuris (Alfaro) among the cities of
the Vascones in the second century AD (Pto\. 2.6.66).
Burillo believes that this region in the CidacosAlhama watershed was an area of contact and mixing
between the Iberians, Celtiberians and Vascones, and
he suggests that this led to an ethnicity which is not
attested in the ancient sources and which could relate
to the mint of Arekoratas (Burillo 1998, 181-2,
2006a, 52). On the other hand, although the hillforts
of the mountain ranges of Soria are traditionally
associated with the Pelendones, which makes them
the southern neighbours of the Berones (Taracena
1933; Santos Yanguas 1991; Romero 1991, 41-53;
Bachiller and Ramfrez 1993; Hernandez Guerra
1993; G6mez Fraile 2001, 99-106), this idea is not
unanimously accepted and some believe that the
Pelendones were located further north-west, in the
current province of Burgos (Ocejo 1995). The
geographical relation between the Pelendones and
Arevaci, as we have seen, is not clear. It is difficult to
attribute settlements such as Contrebia Leucade to
one or the other of these Celtiberian groups (Burillo
1998, 178-82; G6mez Fraile 1998, 37-40, 2001,
104). Rather it seems that the edge of the Sistema
.. _........., ..,
..- .. - .. - .. - .. - .. !...~- .. - .. - ..
_ ...-............. \
" omM"", i/),
. Fig. 145 Pre-Roman towns in La Rio;a and tribes of neighbouring territories (after Herndndez Vera et at. 2007,28).
Iberico bordering La Rioja and Soria, the lands
around the upper basins of the Rivers Linares,
Cidacos and Alhama was an area of diffuse and
compartmentalized ethnicity. This would explain
how, in the period of the high empire, communities
with a particular onomastic and iconographic
identity, displayed in funerary stelae combining both
Roman and indigenous traditions, survived (Espinosa
1986, 87-92, 153-4, 1992, 901-10; Espinosa and
Usero 1988; G6mez-Pantoja and Alfaro 2001).
The cities attributed to the Berones by the ancient
sources are Vareia, Libia and Tritium Magallum
(Strabo 3.4.12; Ptolemy 2.6.54). The first, which Livy
(Per. 91) described as a strong centre or capital of
the Berones, is thought to be located at the important
site of La Custodia (Viana) (Labeaga 19992000). More precisely, it was the pre-Roman site (the
Beronian Vareia) that was located within La
Custodia, but at the end of the first century BC the
town was moved to a new location, the Roman
Vareia, some 4 km to the south in an area of modern
Logrono with the same name (Varea). Here, on the
right-hand bank of the Ebro there developed
throughout the Imperial period a port city with an
enviable position on the road and commercial
network established along the Ebro. We must
remember that this river was navigable from Vareia to
its mouth at Dertosa (Tortosa, Tarragona) (Pliny
N.H. 3.3.21). The Roman remains recovered from
Varea-Logrono show this flourishing past (Pascual
1983; Espinosa 1986,39-41, 1990; TIR K-30 1993,
236). For its part, the correspondence of the Beronian
city of Libia with the protohistoric and Roman site of
Cerro del Piquillo in Herramelluri is not in doubt, and
has been recorded as such since the eighteenth century
(Villacampa 2006; Alvarez Clavijo 2006a).
The location of Tritium Magallum presents more
of a problem, not so much the Roman centre, which
was famous for its workshops producing terra
sigillata hispanica in the settlement of Tricio, which
is very close to Najera and where the place-name has
been preserved (Garabito 1978b, 237-43; Espinosa
and Perez 1982; Saenz 1998; TIR K-30 1993, 226),
but that of the native oppidum. The scarcity of Iron
Age evidence on the site of Tricio has led to the
suggestion that the pre-Roman settlement must
correspond to one of the other hillfort settlements
found within a radius of several kilometres to the
south of Tricio, on the upper reaches of the Najerilla,
places such as El Villar de Bobadilla (Vallespi 1973,
68; Espinosa 1994, 107). Confirmation of the
hypothesis that Tritium is El Villar de Bobadilla
must, however, be subject to excavation which has
yet to take place: so far the site has been subject only
to superficial examination. While the epigraphic and
numismatic evidence may tend to support the
hypothesis other possibilities cannot be ruled out.
One possible alternative site for the pre-Roman
Tritium is the settlement of Castillo Antiguo
(Najera), given its location close to Tricio and its
strategic location at the confluence of the Cardenas
and Najerilla rivers, controlling both valleys. The site
occupies the top and sides of a hill of some 5 ha in
size, and with a maximum height of 593 m it is well
defended by steep sides. Nevertheless, the small
archaeological investigation undertaken in 2000
suggests for the moment that the occupation of the
site did not continue beyond the Early Iron Age.
Another possibility is that Tritium (the IndoEuropean root trt, 'third' or 'triple') indicates a
settlement dispersed between three centres instead of
one concentrated nucleus of population. Only
continued archaeological investigation in the
Najerilla region will resolve this question (Arino and
Novoa 2007).
Another subject which has long been controversial
is the relation between the Berones and Celtiberians
(Burillo 1998, 182-5; Beltran 2006a, 39-47). A
reference in Strabo (3.4.12) to the ethnic relationship
between the two peoples - that they arrived in the
Peninsula during the same Celtic migration - added
to their territorial proximity and the similarities in
their material culture, has led to the idea that the
Berones formed part of the Celtiberian conglomeration as a subgroup. Nevertheless, as has been
indicated, the theory of waves of Celtic peoples
coming into the Peninsula and forming the preRoman population is no longer favoured. Thus the
'Celtic migration' to which Strabo refers is best
viewed as an aetiological resource used by the
Classical authors. Far from being historical reality it
is a foundation myth created around the stereotype
of the mobile warrior barbarian (Burillo 1998, 182;
Beltran 2004, 115, 133, 2006a, 47-8). There is no
doubt that the Berones had close cultural ties to the
Celtiberians of the Ebro valley and eastern Meseta.
This would explain the widespread use of certain
elements of Celtiberian culture such as the hospitality
tokens, the minting of coins, and, as reflected in these
objects, Celtiberian script.
A number of tesserae (hospitality tokens or
tablets) containing paleohispanic inscriptions have
been found in the territory of the Berones. The
tesserae are small pieces of bronze, in the shape of
animals, hands or geometric shapes, which were used
to signify an agreement between communities or
between a group and an individual, whose names
were engraved on the back (Beltran 2001, 2005, 264;
Sanchez-Moreno 2001; Abascal 2002). Although
characteristic of the Celtiberians, they have also been
found in territories belonging to the Berones,
Turmogos, Cantabros, Vacceos and Carpetanos
(Sim6n 2008). The site of La Custodia (Viana), the
pre-Roman Varia, is fast becoming an urban focus of
great interest in the study of these documents. At
least four tokens inscribed with writing and other
symbols have been recovered (Labeaga 1987; Velaza
1989; Labeaga and Untermann 1993-1994; Burillo
1998, 184-5). Two of the inscribed tokens are in the
form of a pig or boar. One is complete (the other is a
fragment from the hind quarter of an animal) and
bears the inscription berkuakum sakas on the rear,
which has been translated as '(friendship) with Sakas
(a family group) from the Beruacos' (Untermann
1997, K.18.1; Jordan 2006, 61-2). The other two
published tokens are of the geometric type called
'four fingers'; one is particularly interesting as it
includes the two jointed symmetrical parts signed by
both parties undertaking the friendship pact
(Untermann 1997, K.18.3, K.18A; Jordan 2006,
63-5). In addition, two other zoomorphic tokens
probably recovered from the province of Cuenca
have been attributed to the Beronian city of Libia.
One of them, in the shape of a bear or cow hide, is
inscribed with libiaka, the name for the people of
Libia, in reference to the people who issued the
hospitality treaty (Fig. 147). The second token, in the
form of a bull, contains the text libiaka kortika kar,
which has been translated as 'public friendship with
the people of Libia' (Untermann 1997, K.OA, K.0.5;
Jordan 2006, 59-61) (Fig. 148). Recently two new
zoomorphic tokens have been found in the town of
Fitero (Navarra), at the eastern edge of the territory
of the Berones. One shows a horse cut in half with
the legend namato, and the second, which appears to
be a protome of a horse in an odd triangular form, is
inscribed with the text tertabiizum kar, which the
authors have translated as 'friendship from the
Tertobrigenses' (Diaz and Jordan 2006).
Within the central territory of the Berones, there are
at least two native mints which began to produce
bronze coins at the beginning of the second century
BC. Like the coins of the Celtiberians and Vascones,
they show a masculine head on the obverse and a
horseman on the reverse, who may carry a lance, palm
or standard. These images, interpreted as representations of a hero founder or divine patron, served as
propaganda for the urban elite who were presenting
themselves on the coins as emblems or guarantors of
the political community (Almagro Gorbea 1995b;
Dominguez Arranz 2005). The legends on the reverse,
written in Celtiberian, reveal the names of the communities who minted the coins. Among the Berones, one
of the names is Uaracos, which has been associated
with the city of Vareia in La Custodia. Another is
Titiakos or Teitiakos, which is probably the
Celtiberian-Beronian name for Tritium (Fig. 148).
Another mint in the region is at Kalakorikos
(Calagurris/Calahorra). Others, while not securely
located but likely on the margins or outside the territory of the Berones, are Metuainum (Villamediana de
Iregua?), Segisanos (Canales de la Sierra?), Letaisama
(Ledesma de la Cogolla?), Uargas, Aratikos,
Arkailikos, Ekaulakos, Kueliokos, Loutiskos and
Fig. 146 Front and back of a hospitality token from the Beronian city of Libia found in Villasviejas (Cuenca)
(Real Academia de la Historia) (after Beltran Lloris 2006a, 38, photo 6)
Fig. 147 Front and back of a hospitality token from the Beronian city of Libia probably from the vicinity of
Segobriga (Cuenca) (Real Academia de la Historia) (after Beltran Lloris 2006a, 38, photo 7).
using Celtiberian dialects or because they spoke the
same language (Untermann 1994; Jordan 2006, 50). It
is not, however, proper to accept that they were the
same people since language is not an exclusive ethnic
marker. This is particularly true in the case of
Celtiberian language and writing, which like Levantine
Iberian could have resulted from its use as a tool for
communication and exchange (de Hoz 2001, 2005b).
The identity of the Berones can be traced, although
not without difficulty, in various ways, in the first
place using the name itself. Independent of its origin,
sense and range, the generic tribal name is an element
Oilaunikos (Labeaga 1990; Untermann 1994, 82-3;
Burillo 1998, 184, 2002; Garda-Bellido 1999b;
Garda-Bellido and Blazquez 2002, 365-7, 383;
Beltran 2006a, 45-7; Jordan 2006, 52-8, for the
linguistic study of the legends) (Fig. 149).
The use of Celtiberian script on tokens and coins
was an adaptation borrowed by the Celtiberians of the
Ebro valley from the Levantine Iberians (de Hoz
2005a; Jordan 2007). This is proof that the cities of the
Berones, which minted money and established treaties
with other communities, knew the language and
writing of the Celtiberians, either because they were
Fig. 148 Bronze coin (as) minted at Titiakos (Tritium) (after http://moneda-hispanica.com).
Fig. 149 Location of mints of the Berones showing the displacement of the cities of Vareia and Tritium
(after Burillo 1998, 185, fig. 53).
which implies identity, though it is possible that this
perception could be extrinsic (thanks to the Greek and
Roman observers who passed on the name although
with some cultural or linguistic contamination) or
intrinsic (recognition of the name by the community
itself). The etymology of the name Berones seems to be
Indo-European, perhaps Celtiberian, derived from the
root bher (carry, hold), which would give it a meaning
along the lines of 'the people who carry or hold'
(Garcia Alonso 2006, 96-7). The name could also be
derived from the Indo-European root ber (lance,
throwing weapon) and thus would signify 'the armed
men' or more properly 'the people who carry javelins'
or 'lancers' (Villacampa 1980, 28, 1983, 113; Fatas
1992, 229; Marco 1994; Garcia-Bellido 1999b, 205;
Jordan 2006, 66). The lance seems to function specifically as a heraldic image, an emblem signifying the
Berones. This can be seen, for example, on the reverse
of coins minted by the Berones, well defined by the
suffix -kos on the legend, in which the horsemen are
always depicted carrying a lance, small spear or some
type of sickle or boomerang (Fig. 148). Garcia-Bellido
(1999b) believes that these throwing weapons are
ethnic attributes chosen by the elite of the Berones to
be communicated through the coins, thus gaining
value as an institutional emblem of the city-state. The
news that in 48 BC Cassius Longinus, the governor of
Hispania Ulterior and Caesar's deputy, had a personal
guard of Berones armed with te/is, a type of small
spear or javelin (Bell. Hisp. 53.1), reinforces the idea
that this weapon continued to be a sign of power and
identity among the Hispanic clients of the Upper Ebro
valley. The lack of knowledge regarding the necropoli
of the Berones limits the study of the array of weapons
that might be recovered from the graves. It is to be
hoped that the development of funerary archaeology
will allow us one day to gauge the functionality and
symbolism of these weapons and in particular lances.
Finally, material and iconographic evidence from
the end of the Iron Age in territory attributable to the
Berones could reflect a cultural identity hidden in the
widespread Celtiberian language. This includes some
of the ceramic objects which are well represented in
the sites of La Rioja and Alava, such as the boxes with
excised decoration, plaques and bricks with the same
decoration or the clay balls (Castiella 1976, 297;
1977, 373-5; Espinosa and Gonzalez 1976; Llanos
1979; Vegas 1983; Alvarez Clavijo 2006c, 216-7).
The same can be applied to cartain decorations,
including composite patterns, on Celtiberian painted
pottery from Cerro del Piquillo-Libia (Marcos Pous,
1979,95,97-8; Alvarez Clavijo, 2006c, 213). Unlike
other regions with archaeological material which
conforms well with ethnic groups (such as is the case
in the region of the Vetones on the south-west of the
Meseta or the Vacceos in the central Duero basin) on
the Upper Ebro we are still far from defining an
'archaeology of the Berones' within the Celtiberian
material culture. On this note I issue a challenge for
future investigation.
Roman expansion and integration of the
According to the information given in the Classical
sources, the lands between the Sistema Iberico and the
Ebro valley did not enter in the orbit of Roman
interest until the arrival in Hispania of the consul
Cato (195 BC). Nervertheless, given that from 226
BC the Ebro was the frontier which delimited the area
of Roman (to the north of the river) and Carthaginian
(to the south of the river) influence (Polybius 2.13.7;
Livy 21.2.7), it seems logical to believe that before the
Second Punic War the Carthaginians had wanted to
lead an incursion into the country of the Berones,
whether as an expedition to enforce some punishment
or as an exploration of the territory. This is given
support by the fact that in 220 BC Hannibal and his
elephants had crossed the Meseta and arrived at the
central basin of the Duero where, after laying siege to
several cities of the Vacceos, the Carthaginian general
ensured the supply of grain and mercenaries to aid his
imminent conflict with Rome (Sanchez-Moreno
2000, 2008b). One might think that the Duero-Ebro
axis represents the rearguard of the Carthaginian
domain in the first years of the war against Rome (c.
218-209 BC), for which the communities of the
Vacceos, Celtiberians and perhaps the Berones could
have contributed soldiers and other resources for the
Carthaginian cause. Punic influence can be recognized
in the defensive reinforcement of the city of Contrebia
Leucade in the third century BC, when along the
southern face of the wall they built a complex system
of towers with internal divisions (box type or cajones)
which were clearly of Mediterranean inspiration
(Hernandez Vera 2003, 69-71; Hernandez Vera et al.
2007, 39-43).
After the definitive defeat of the Carthaginians, the
first Roman invasion into the interior of the
Peninsula took place under the consul Ca to in 195
BC. That same year he became governor of Hispania,
with orders from the Senate to stop the Hispanic
revolt which had broken out two years previously in
both Hispania Citerior and Ulterior. According to
Livy, in a demonstration of force over lands scarcely
yet under the influence of Rome, Cato advanced
from the Guadalquivir valley towards Celtiberia,
where he intended to attack the cities of Segontia and
Numancia (Pina 2006a, 73-4; Garcia Riaza 2006,
82-6). The impact of Cato's campaigns was harshly
felt by the local communities, many of whom were
made to take down their walls. The movements of
Sextus Digitius, praetor of Citerior province, also
wreaked havoc in 194 BC. He faced a powerful coalition of Celtiberians from the Ebro valley to which he
lost half of his army (Livy 34.43). In our study area,
this time of instability is precisely reflected at sites
such as Cerro Molino. We know, from radiocarbon
dating, that in the early second century a violent fire
destroyed at least the western side of the settlement,
as is demonstrated by the destruction of building 3.
This could correlate with the campaigns of 194 BC.
In the years following Ca to, various praetors
penetrated the upper waters of the Ebro (Fatas
1975). One of them, Manlius Acidinus, conquered
the Celtiberians as far as Calagurris in 188 BC, a
strategic enclave which controlled passage from the
Ebro to the Meseta via the Cidacos valley (Pina
2006b, 118-22). Then in 181 BC, Fulvius Flacus
launched a new expedition against the Celtiberians
and occupied the site of Contrebia (perhaps Leucade,
although there were other cities with this name: one
belonging to the Belos and the other the Carpetanos).
The consolidation of the Roman presence in the Ebro
valley came at the hands of Sempronius Gracus,
governor of Hispania Citerior between 180 and 178
BC. Gracus also campaigned in the Guadalquivir and
on the Meseta where he took more than 130 cities.
The most important act was the founding of
Graccurris in 179 BC (Hernandez Vera 2002), a
military post on the confluence of the Alhama and
Ebro rivers, located in Las Eras de San MartIn de
Alfaro, a relatively short distance from Contrebia
Leucade and a zone of contact between the Vascones,
Celtiberians and Berones. The founding of
Graccurris, which according to some sources was
built upon the earlier settlement of Iiurcis, gave rise
to a prosperous oppidum in which various native
peoples from the vicinity mixed. Assured of territorial control over the east of Celtiberia, Gracus signed
a series of treaties with local communities, which
gave them a certain amount of autonomy, subject to
conditions such as a prohibition on the construction
of new walls or the reinforcing of existing ones
(Garda Riaza 2005, 2006, 87-92). In addition, the
regulation of taxes, right to mint coins, urban development or the distribution of agricultural land were
other measures that, enforced by Gracus, led to the
beginnings of Romanization on the lands of the Ebro
(Fig. 150).
After a long peaceful interlude negotiated by
Gracus, the explosion of the Celtiberian war in 154
BC, started by Segeda, the city of the Belos (which,
according to Roman propaganda, broke the peace by
allowing the extension of their city wall) meant that
the military stage was moved to the territory of the
Arevaci from whom the Belos had received protection (Salinas 1986, 2005). From then on the city of
Numancia became a stronghold of Celtiberian resistance, with alternating periods of war and peace until
its defeat in 133 BC (Jimeno 2006). The fact that the
cities of the Berones did not participate directly in the
Numantian war, or at least are left out of the
accounts of the conquest, suggests a neutral or
supportive attitude towards Rome, which still
maintained control over that area of the Ebro. Like
their neighbours the Vascones, the Berones appeared
to be perfectly peaceful when Scipio Emilianus
crossed their territory from the country of the
Vacceos, whose lands were destroyed to prevent
supplies reaching Numantia in 134 BC. Nevertheless,
in spite of the silence of the Classical writers, who
could doubt that the valleys of La Rioja and the
natural passes of the Sistema Iberico played an essential role in providing access to the land of the
The period from the fall of Numancia until the
Sertorian war, from 133 to 77 BC, was thought to be
a time of urban and agricultural development in the
civitates of the Ebro valley. They increasingly adapted
their way of life to the new legal and economic framework promoted by Rome (Beltran 2003). An interesting document on this subject is the Latin bronze
from Ascoli dated to 89 BC. It records the granting of
Roman citizenship by Pompey Strabo to a group of
30 Hispanic horsemen from the Ebro region, the
turma Sal/uitana, by the city from which they were
recruited, Salduie, now Zaragoza. This was in recog-
Semprorno Grac.
~. J
OUInto Fulv'..J FIac"..1
'881 B.G.
Marco PorcnJ CBron
Mons Caunus
Tjberi(J SempfOntO
Fig. 150 First Roman incursions around the city of Contrebia Leucade (195-178 BC) (after Hernandez Vera et al.
and Vareia. This last city, described as the most
powerful urbs of the Berones, was laid siege to in 76
BC by Sertorius, but we do not know what happened
after this as at this point Livy's account is interrupted
(Per. 91). It is likely that the city of Vareia, identified
as the site of La Custodia, recovered and continued to
be populated until it was abandoned and relocated to
the site of Varea-Logrono (Espinosa 1990, 7-13,
1994, 117-21; Labeaga 1999-2000, 215-23).
Following the founding of Pompaelo, now Pamplona,
by Pompey in 74 BC and the assassination of Sertorius
in 73 BC, the Pompeian troops advanced their position
up the Ebro, reaching the last pockets of Sertorian
resistance. It is then that Calagurris, in punishment for
its loyalty to Sertorius, was put under siege by the
Pompeians until its final defeat in 72 BC (Espinosa
1984b; Pina 2006b, 122-4).
The Sertorian episode was a time of great unrest in
the communities of the Meseta and the Ebro valley,
many of which, apart from contributing levies of
men and crops, minted coins to cover the expenses of
war. The instability provoked by the conflict was also
reflected in the reinforcement of defences at sites
such as Contrebia Leucade, or in the temporary or
final abandonment of a great number of settlements.
The Sertorian presence in the region of the Ebro is
demonstrated by the recent identification of a
Roman camp on the site of Orminen-Penahitero
(Fitero, Navarra), in the Alhama valley. Apart from
coins from various different mints, slingshots with
the inscription Q SERT have also been found
(Medrano and Sanz 2003, 397-8; Medrano 2004).
Equidistant between the settlements of Graccurris
and Contrebia Leucade, this could perhaps be the
camp raised by Sertorius during his siege of
Contrebia (Livy, Per. 91) (Garcia Mora 1995).
nition of their participation in the war in which Rome
faced their Italic allies (Amela 2000; Pina 2003). Two
of the horsemen mentioned on the bronze were given
the attribute libiense which suggests that they originated in the Beronan city of Libia, although not
everyone accepts this (Villacampa 1980, 56-8, 125-6;
Beltnin 2006b, 74-5). Another epigraphic testimony,
almost contemporary with the previous example, is
the tabula Contrebiensis of 87 BC which gives details
of the level of organization reached by the city-states
of the Ebro valley, and the progressive impact upon
them of Roman jurisdiction. It was found in Botorrita
(Zaragoza), the ancient town of Contrebia Belaisca,
from which other bronzes of public character written
in Celtiberian have also been recovered. The tabula in
question describes a lawsuit between three riverine
cities (Ala un, Sosinesta and Salduie) over the use of
irrigated lands. This litigation was arbitrated by
magistrates from a fourth city, Contrebia Belaisca,
and ratified by Valerius Flacus, the governor of
Hispania Citerior, in a sentence following Latin
formulation (Fatas 1980).
According to Livy (Per. 91) between 77 and 76 BC
Quintus Sertorius carried out important military
operations in the Ebro valley, in the context of the civil
war waged within the Roman Senate (Garcia Mora
1991, 139-236; Pina 1998) (Fig. 151). The Berones,
their western neighbours the Autrigones, and some
groups belonging to the Vascones and Celtiberians
supported the senatorial band led by Metelus and later
Pompey. Meanwhile the cities of Calagurris, Osca and
a large part of Celtiberia took the side of Sertorius.
This explains the campaign that was directed by
Sertorius against the Berones and Autrigones up the
River Ebro. The military progression was conducted
across the enclaves of Contrebia Leucade, Calagurris
Mons Caunus
Fig. 151
The Sertorian war in the Middle Ebro valley (77-72 BC) (after Hernandez Vera et at. 2007, 81).
The lands of the Berones do not appear to have
played a great part in the fight between Pompey and
Caesar, although the people could have been
involved in episodes such as the march of Caesar on
Ilerda in 49 BC. There are indications that the urban
elite of the Ebro valley were sufficiently Romanized
to integrate into the circles of Pompeian and
Caesarian clients. Equally some years later they also
entered the orbit of Augustus, which is reflected in
the fact that he sent a personal guard composed of
men from Calagurris to the battle of Actium
(Suetonius, Hist. Aug. 2.49). In his campaign against
the Cantabrians in 26 BC, Augustus crossed the territory of the Berones on the road to Segisamo
(Sasamon, Burgos), where he established his base of
operations. Once more the Ebro had served as a
route for the movement of armies between the
Mediterranean and the Atlantic. Under Augustus,
Beronia became the rearguard of the last line of
Roman advance on the lands of the north. This
would explain some years later the temporary
stationing of legionary troops in the cities of Vareia
(soldiers of the Legio IIII Macedonia) and Tritium
(soldiers of the Legio VII Gemina) (Espinosa 1986,
40-8; Navarro 1990). The warlike Cantabros were
finally defeated in 19 BC, and Augustus carried out a
thorough reorganization of the Peninsula. Apart
from a new disposition of the provinces, his tasks
included the extension of Roman culture with the
promotion of cities and the construction of a road
network to coordinate the economy and administration of the Hispanic territories.
The principal route through the territory of the
Berones, listed in the itineraries as De Italia in
Hispanias road, follows, as one would expect, the
course of the River Ebro, and in our area of interest
Caesaraugusta was linked with Segisamo. Its course
coincided in great part with the road that ran from
Asturica Augusta (Astorga) to Tarraco (Tarragona)
(Magallon 1983; Arifi.o et al. 1991; de Miguel
1991-1992). The principal roadside stations of these
routes are the cities of Graccurris, Calagurris, Vareia,
Tritium and Libia. Other mansiones of secondary
importance are Barbariana and Atiliana, which were
located in Agoncillo and Ventas de Valpierre de
Ollauri respectively (TIR K-30 1993,57,61). Besides
the routes which followed the course of the Ebro, in
the Roman period the old natural roads which
crossed the valleys of the Najerilla, Iregua, Leza,
Cidacos and Alhama were still used, connecting the
Ebro basin with the Meseta.
In the administrative reform imposed by Augustus,
which lasted without change until Diocletian, the
territory of the Berones was integrated within the
juridical district of Caesaraugusta, with its seat at
Caesaraugusta (Zaragoza), within the province of
Citerior Tarraconensis (Pliny, N.H. 3.3.24) (Sancho
1981). The lands of the Arevaci and Pelendones lay
within the juridical district of Clunia, with its seat at
Clunia (Corufi.a del Conde, Burgos) in the same
province (Espinosa 1984c). Under either the governance of the Julio-Claudian emperors or the Flavians
(particularly with Vespasian, who in AD 74 granted
Latin rights to many Hispanic communities), the
cities of the Ebro valley were legally promoted as a
sign of their important urban and economic transformation. Thus Graccurris, Tritium Magallum, and
with less certainty Vareia and Libia, became Latin
municipalities (Espinosa and Perez 1982; Andreu
2003; Diaz Arifi.o 2006, 79-80).
Finally, Tritium reached its peak with the activities
of its pottery workshops, which specialized in the
production of terra sigillata hispanica (Garabito
1978b; Solovera 1988; Saenz 1998, 2005; Novoa
2005). In reality Tricio united a complex network of
workshops spread throughout the middle valley of
the Najerilla, into which the people of the ancient
hillforts of the Berones were integrated. The success
and expansion of this production was such that for
two centuries pottery from the Najerilla valley would
be present on the most famous tables of Roman
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