Geoparque Granada | Tútugi Iberian Necropolis
in Galera Municipality in Granada Province, Andalucia, Spain
By Nick Nutter | 19 Aug 2020
The Iberian people lived in the eastern and southern parts of the Iberian peninsula. Their distinctive culture and way of life developed from the 7th century BC. It was influenced by contact with Greek and Phoenician seaborn traders from the eastern Mediterranean. They spoke their own Iberian language and lived in villages and fortified settlements called oppida. They were the descendants of the people of the Argaric culture that disintegrated about 1550 BC into dispersed rural settlements and incorporated elements of the Motillas culture who were distinguished from others by building hills on which to place their fortified settlements between about 2200 BC and 1200 BC. The Iberians lived in tribes. The tribe that lived in the areas now known as Almeria and much of Granada provinces in Andalucia (and extended east into Murcia) was identified by later Roman writers as the Bastetani tribe. Their neighbours to the southwest after about 600 BC were the Turdetani people, the remnants of the Tartessian civilisation.
Located on the outskirts of Galera, Tútugi necropolis, which dates to the 5th century B.C., represents one of the most extensive and important displays of Iberian Culture.
The Tútugi Iberian Necropolis is made up of a set of tombs, most of which are monumental. These burial sites are of various types, often with an open pit in the ground for holding cinerary urns.
History of the Archaeological Investigations
The existence of the Tútugi Iberian Necropolis has been known since 1920, the date of publication of the report on the excavations carried out in 1918 by Juan Cabré and Federico de Motos.
After continuous plundering, Federico de Motos, with permission from the Higher Board of Excavation and Antiquities, carried out excavations between 1916 and 1917 with the support of the Marquis of Cerralbo. However, as the plundering and sale of objects continued, he decided to offer the excavations of this necropolis to the State, which designated a managing delegate (Juan Cabré), who went to Galera and carried out significant documentation of the existing tombs and the materials collected.
New excavation and cleaning campaigns were carried out in 2001 and 2006, culminating in the restoration of several tombs and the refurbishment of infrastructure which allowed it to open to the public in 2007.
One of the features which characterise Iberian culture is the systematic development of cemeteries. The necropolis was added to the town as an element of the landscape and a place of symbolic and social relevance. The genesis of this type of funeral expression is related to the birth of an aristocracy which expressed its privileged position through the tombs (by their placement and monumentality) and the grave goods (by their composition and wealth). The study of the various components of the funeral world reveals a great deal of information about the characteristics of the society which generated it, as well as the main ideologies upon which the funeral practices are based.
The Iberian Funeral Ritual
The funeral ritual of the Iberians consisted of the cremation of bodies. These were placed on a pyre of firewood with their clothing and, in the case of warriors, with their weapons, which were often rendered useless. This process was carried out by dulling the blades of falcatas, bending swords and denting and crushing metallic leather helmets. Once reduced to ashes the bones that remained would be put into ceramic pots or stone boxes which were placed inside the funeral mounds along with the remains of the weapons, personal adornments and ceramic containers with offerings of food.
The Iberian Burial Ritual
Notable are the artificial tombs which covered a chamber in various ways. In Tútugi there are different variations: cells, quadrangular with passages, circular and semi-circular with passages, and with alcoves. They are usually built from stone or mud, or both.
On the interior, they generally have walls and floor covered in plaster, often with decorations in red, the Iberian funeral colour, and black. In their interior we also find benches and alcoves. The simpler tombs are pits in the ground, sometimes covered with plaster, and stone cists where the urns are placed. These may be ceramic pots, which are place in hollows in the ground or stone boxes.
The Funeral Landscape at Tútugi
The Tútugi necropolis is set out in three sections near the town of Galera (called Tutugi until at least the Roman period). The two first largest areas are at the north of the town on the right bank of the Orce River, and the third in a small glen at the east of the town on the same river bank.
Area I is the largest, and the one that can currently be visited. There were a total of 88 tombs originally catalogued in this area of which 54 have been identified and 3 new ones discovered. Tombs 20, 21, 22, 32 and 50 have been restored and can be visited.
Area II, separated from Area I by the Riego Nuevo road, extends across the hills and terraces of the left bank of the Huéscar River. Of the 38 tombs in this area, 22 have been identified, as well as 2 possible new tombs.
In Area III, Cabré and Motos excavated a significant number of tombs; however, not having a monumental architecture, they did not number them. Currently, some of the alcoves and hollows used for depositing funeral urns can be observed, although here erosion has had a great impact. Two new tombs have been identified.
The Diosa de Galera
The statuette known as the Diosa de Galera, the Goddess of Galera, sometimes the Lady of Galera or Dama de Galera, was found in tomb 20. She is an alabaster female figurine, made in the 7th century BC, probably in Syria. She sits between two sphinxes and holds a bowl for holding the perfumed oil that was poured into the body via the figurine’s head and then into the bowl via holes in her breasts.
Centre of Interpretation
The Tútugi necropolis includes a Centre of Interpretation, opened in 2007, that contains lots more information about the Iberian funerary rituals. and the Iberian culture.
About the Granada Geoparque (Geopark or Geoparc) project
A geoparque (geopark or geoparc) is a well-defined territory, home to a valuable natural geological heritage. The most important parts of a geoparque, due to their scientific, aesthetic, or educational value, are called geosites.
In the north of Granada, surrounded by some of the tallest mountains of the Iberian peninsula, what we know today as the Basin of Guadix or the Guadix - Baza depression or basin was, for 5 million years, a lake with no outlet to the sea. Sediments, brought down by the mountain streams, were deposited in the basin in horizontal sheets. 500,000 years ago the basin drained to the west and new streams carved out the canyons, ravines and badlands that characterise the area, the most southerly desert in Europe, today.
The Iberian necropolis of Tútugi is a geosite due to it being the most extensive and important display of Iberian Culture in Spain.Return to Iberians in Andalucia series of articles
Return to Geoparque Granada travel guide
Find Tútugi Iberian necropolis on the map
We Welcome Your Comments
Submitted by Thomas Tapio on 10 Jan 2020
Dear Nick, Please accept this simple note to thank you for your excellent articles. It is a pleasure to read them and learn more about (the history of) Andalucia. Kind regards, Thomas
Hi Thomas, Thanks for the comment. I enjoy writing the articles and pleased you enjoy reading them.
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About the Author
Nick has lived and worked in Andalucia for over 20 years. He and his partner, Julie Evans, have travelled extensively and dug deep into the history and culture, producing authoritative articles on all aspects of the region. Nick has written four books about Andalucia and writes articles for other websites and blogs.