When the Romans arrived in northeast Spain, they found a well-organised group of tribes living in what is now Catalonia, Valencia, Castilla-La Mancha, Murcia and Andalucia. They were the Iberians, so named by the Greeks with whom they traded, and they lived in fortified settlements that the Romans called ‘oppidum’. We still use that name today.
Whether the Iberians, like the Tartessians, existed as an identifiable people is open to dispute. Both became part of the post-Franco dictatorship (ended 1975) search for regional identity which led to demands that artefacts displayed in national museums be returned to their region of origin; for example, both Elche (Valencia) and Baza (Granada) respectively reclaim their Iberian damas presently displayed at the Museo Arqueológico Nacional in Madrid. It is a fascinating story of how we attempt to make the past fit ideas of nationhood at particular times.
For the following set of articles, ‘Iberians in Andalucia’ we will be taking the view that the Iberians were the indigenous people of Andalucia who had lived here since Neolithic times. They were influenced by traders from the eastern Mediterranean, particularly the Greeks. Their ancestors were the people of the El Argar culture that had regressed to a scattered agricultural society around 1550 BC.