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Pre Roman Iberian Sculpture

Pre Roman Iberian Sculptures

Iberian sculptures refers to those from the Bronze Age through to the time of the Roman conquest and thus is often also referred to as Pre-Roman's.

The term “Iberian sculptures” refers to those from the Bronze Age through to the time of the Roman conquest and therefore is often also referred to as “Pre-Roman” Iberian sculptures. The term “Iberian” in an ethnic sense, was used by the Greeks and Romans to describe the people who lived in the eastern and southern coasts of the Iberian Peninsula during pre-Roman times. 23 different Iberian groups have been identified that occupied these regions who, although they shared common features, were by no means a homogenous society.

Iberian sculptures undoubtedly reflect Greek, Phoenician, Assyrian and Egyptian influences. These stylistic influences varied greatly by region based on the amount of exposure that it had with these cultures. Since the style of Iberian sculptures is directly correlated to the region of origin, they are classified on that basis.

The Levantine group comes from the eastern coast of the Iberian Peninsula and encompasses the Iberian sculptures made from the 5th century BC through the Roman period. This group is well represented in the museums and overtime the stylistic changes provide testimony to the successive influences of different conquering peoples. The most famous in this group, The Lady of Elche, exemplifies Greek influence. Egyptian and Assyrian influences are also evident in the various sphinx and animal stone sculptures found in the Valencia, Alicante and Albacete areas including The Biche of Balazote, The Sphinx of Agost, The Dama del Cerro de los Santos, The Lady of Guardamar, The Lady of Caudete, The Haches Sphinx and many others such as the El Salobral Sphinx, the Lioness of Bocairente, The Lion of Coy, The Lions of Baena and The Deer of Caudete. Other figures belonging to the Levantine style have been found in Ibiza, La Palma, Formentera and Majorca.

The southern group of Iberian sculptures belongs to the present day region of Andalusia and largely consists of funeral monuments of Phoenician influence. Some of these sculptures include The Lady of Baza and the Bull of Osuna.

The central group refers to sculptures found between the Douro and Tagus Rivers. They are granite sculptures that usually depict bulls or animals. The most famous central group Iberian monument is known as the Bulls of Guisando.

The western group also consists mainly of granite slabs carved with foot soldiers armed with shields. They were used for funerals in Portugal and Galicia.

The largest collection of pre-Roman Iberian sculptures can be found at the National Museum of Archaeology in Madrid.

Pre Roman Iberian Sculptures

Lady of Elche (Lady of Elx)

The Lady of Elche is a polychrome (multicolored) stone sculpture featuring the head and neck of a person. The sculpture was found in 1907 by farm workers at the L’Alcúdia archaeological site just south of the town of Elche in the Autonomous Region of Valencia in Spain. The Lady of Elche is thought to be an Iberian sculpture dating back to the 4th century B.C., although some controversy exists as to her exact origin. The sculpture is of a woman wearing a detailed headdress featuring large coils on each side of her face. A small opening located in the back of the sculpture has led archeologists to believe that The Lady of Elche was intended to be an urn.

 Some controversy surrounds the authenticity of the Iberian sculpture, however, most experts believe the Lady of Elche to be genuine. In 1948, she was featured on the Spanish one-peseta bank note.

The Lady of Elche sculpture can be found on display at the National Archaeological Museum. However, in Elche you can view a state of the art replica of the famous bust.

Biche of Balazote

The Biche of Balazote, known as the Bicha of Balazote in Spainish, is a 6th century BC Iberian sculpture that was found in Balazote of the Albacete province in Castile-La Mancha, Spain. The name “biche” comes from the French archaeologists who first studied it and identified it as a deer. The word was later Castilianized into “bicha”, which is roughly translated as a sort of fantasy creature. The figure features a horned human head with the ears and body of a bull.

Some experts believe that the Biche of Balazote represents the god of fertility because similar Greek river god statues where used to make fields fertile. The Biche of Balazote can be viewed, along with other Iberian sculptures, in the National Archaeological Museum in Madrid.

The Sphinx of Agost

In 1893 the badly damaged Sphinx of Agost was discovered in the Agost reservoir in Alicante, Spain. The Iberian limestone sculpture with Greek influences dates back to the late sixth century BC. The Sphinx of Agost is an 82 centimeter high figure featuring the head of a woman, the body of a lion, the tail of a snake and wings. The Spinx of Agost may have been used in an Iberian tomb. This magnificent Iberian sculpture is on display at the National Archaeological Museum in Madrid.

Dama del Cerro de los Santos (Gran Dama Oferente)

The Dama del Cerro de los Santos is a 2nd century BC 1.3 meter tall sculpture made of limestone that depicts a standing woman. She was discovered in 1870 in the Cerro de los Santos sanctuary in Montealegre del Castillo in Albacete, Spain.

The figure holds an offering container in her hands and is dressed in overlapping robes fastened by a brooch on her neck. The Dama del Cerro do los Santos displays long braided hair, three necklaces and shoes. Consistent with other female Iberian sculptures, her clothes fall in a zig-zag pattern.

The Dama del Cerro de los Santos Iberian sculpture is on display at the National Archaeological Museum of Spain in Madrid.

The Lady of Guardamar (Lady of Cabezo Lucero)

The Lady of Guardamar is a 50 centimeter Iberian sculpture that dates back to 400 BC that was found in 1987 in fragments at an archaeological site in Guadamar del Segura in Alicante, Spain.

The limestone female figure was carefully restored by Vincent Bernabeu. The Lady of Guadarmar is a bust sculpture, featuring a head the head and shoulders. She is wearing a round neck tunic, two necklaces and on each side of her head she wears rodetes, or wheels, that were probably made of metal. Her style is more pre-historic than other Iberian sculptures.

The Lady of Guardamar is on display at the Archaeological Museum of Alicante and a replica can be found at the Archaeological Museum of Guardamar.

The Lady of Caudete

The Lady of Caudete is a 4th century Iberian bust sculpture of a noble woman that was discovered in a deteriorated state in 1945 in municipality of Caudete of in the province of Albacete, Spain. As with other similar Iberian sculptures, an opening in the back suggests that the statue was used as an urn. The Lady of Caudete can be viewed at the The Archaeology Museum of Villena (Alicante).

The Haches Sphinx

The Haches Sphinx was found by chance in the Bogarra municipality of the Albacete province in Spain. The Iberian sculpture represents a winged mythological creature with a female head and the body of the four legged animal. Aesthetically it is very similar to the Biche of Balazote. The sphinx is on display at the Albacete Provincial Musuem.

Lady of Baza

Discovered in 1971 by Francisco Presedo Velo in Baza in the province of Granada, Spain, the 4th century Lady of Baza is a very famous example of an Iberian sculpture. The area was the site of the city of Basti, an Ibero-Roman city, and the Lady of Baza was found in the Cerro del Santuario, one of the its two cemeteries.

The Lady of Baza is a massive limestone sculpture of a seated female, exquisitely dressed and decorated with accessories. She also features an opening in her side and is thought to have been used as an urn. 

This impressive Iberian sculpture can be viewed at the National Archaeological Museum in Madrid.

The Bull of Osuna

Dating back to the 5th century BC, the Bull of Osuna was found at the archeological site of an ancient Iberian city known as Urso, or Osuna in what is today Seville, Spain. The 82 cm. tall bull figure was probably used as a funeral monument with protective purposes and was built from a large block of building stone.  The Bull of Osuna can be viewed at the National Archaeological Museum in Madrid.

The Bulls of Guisando

The Bulls of Guisando are Celtiberian sculptures located in El Tiemblo, of the province of Ávila in Spain. There are hundreds of examples of these ancient animal sculptures that date back to the 2nd century BC.

The four sculptures are side to side in a line facing west on the top of Guisando Hill. Some theories suggest that the Vettones people placed these sculptures to protect their livestock.