Los Morrones, a fortified village from the Iron Age in Alt Millars

In the area of Cortes de Arenoso, a town from Alt Millars located 75 kilometres of Castellón, around the farmhouse of Los Morrones, there’s a large archaeological zone that shows the continuity of the occupation in a period spanning two Millennia. Archaeologists have documented three areas: Morrón Royo, Los Morrones and the farmhouse of Los Morrones. It is considered one of the highest constructions of this mountainous region and it shows the importance of the zone in the past. The digging processes have been mainly focused on the village of Los Morrones which structural organization is unmatched until now. From elaborate studies we can assert that its construction starts in the seventh century BCE.
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Archaeological documentation
A settlement, a tower, two stretches of wall and an auxiliary tower compose the village. The digging processes have brought to light great part of the walls and the rooms of different functionality, as well as ovens, fireplaces and small storage depots.  In addition, a great number of ceramic objects have been recovered, such as vessels, glazed earthenware jars and vases of different sizes and functionalities. There have been also found metallic objects (a pickaxe1, knives and pendants, among others) and animal remains that are of great value to go into detail about the importance of the settlement. 

First surveys in the 90s

The archaeological site is known since the 90s in the twentieth century when the first surveys in the area began but from the year 2004 the Provincial Archaeological and Prehistoric Research Service took charge of its documentation. It started a systematic study program of the territory that allowed identifying and distinguishing three different archaeological areas, according to the material collected.
The first is Morrón Royo, located to the South of the farmhouse above one of the last limestone escarpments that give its name. They belong to the Cenomanian Age (approximately 100 million of years ago). Its large chronology starts with an occupation in the Bronze Age, a tower in the Iron Age and finally, its transformation in an Iberian village. Los Morrones, located to the North of the previous one above a small flat surface, has the best-preserved structures at first sight with ceramics of the Iron Age. Finally, we have the farmhouse of Morrones. Here, archaeologists have found pottery from the Iberian, Roman and Islamic periods in the crop fields that remain now unproductive.

A reference and solid construction

After ten digging campaigns in extension2 in the area of Morrones, the research group could conclude the delimitation of the plant of the settlement. It shows their own construction features adapting the structures to the orography of the land. The tower and the two stretches of wall based on the Eastern and Western flanks of the tower, closing the village to the North, are remarkable. Each stretch of wall has a thickness of about five metres and it’s composed of two structures filled with stones. Its solid construction shows us the image of a stunning construction that should highlight in the territory and locate the village as a central place for reference.

In the Iron Age village it is highlighted the presence of a tower with two stretches of wall with five meters of thickness.

The settlement of the Iron Age is completed with the tower of Morrón Royo. It was also built in the seventh century BCE and it would function as a complement to the South of the one located at the entrance of the village on the North. In the walled enclosure there are, totally, ten structures of some rooms and storage places and some spaces used to move inside the village.

Living spaces

We know that the village was fortified by the presence of two stretches of wall whose walls were used to attach the first structures. One of its peculiarities is the using of cut rocks to adapt the walls. The sedimentary rocks marines that form the support on which the settlement is settled are easy to work with. Thus, the parts that project too much are readjusted to take advantage of the inner space.
The living spaces are organized in three main groups. The first one is located on the Eastern area. There are four areas with different sizes and structures. Two of them are rectangular, one quadrangular and the last one is very damaged by the erosive processes of the hillside. Domestic objects indicating a dwelling use have been found in all them. There is a stone bench, a fireplace and post-holes to the basis of the ceilings as well as for other elements of the daily life or to divide the indoor area. We find, in room 3, a small domestic oven that preserves part of its dome, as well as a troja (a kind of saddlebag or sack) with a lot of carbonized seeds inside.

The finding of tools and materials is large and diverse: pottery, bronze and iron pieces and fauna and vegetal remains.

The second group is located in the middle of the village at a higher level than the former structures. There are three quadrangular rooms and one rectangular. This has similar domestic characteristics to the former ones, with a central fireplace and post-hole. The other three don’t have any of these elements so they could be used to storage. Finally, in the Western area there are two more rooms more attached to the wall with domestic elements too but its maintenance is damaged by agricultural labours developed in historical times.
The works around the farmhouse in Los Morrones in Cortes de Arenoso have located three different occupation areas with materials from the Bronze Age to the Romanisation.
The three groups of living spaces are connected between them by narrow corridors, stairs adapted to the rock slopes and an open space where post-holes were also found. From all of them we can get an idea of the complexity of the enclosure. It shows an intentionality referring to the domestic order in spite of not having the urban features as understood in the Iberian period.
Room 1 was where most of the materials were found. The 52 pieces found were located in two different places. Most of them were containers for the storage and glazed earthenware jars of different sizes. Besides, we must emphasize the presence of a well-preserved iron pickaxe and two scraps of an iron knife, a bronze pendant and a shaft made on a deer horn. Most of the material is placed in two well-defined spaces: one on the Western area where there are only containers from different sizes related to the use of storage together with small containers that could be used as measurement elements; the other one on the Eastern area with containers that might belong to the crockery sets.

A lot of wheat seeds

In room 3 a great amount of carbonized seeds were found. After their analysis there were listed as Triticum dicoccum, known as emmer wheat, an old kind of wheat that grows in poor nutritious lands and it is particularly cold resistant. From the seeds found we can think that their inhabitants practiced an agriculture based on grain in the fields around the farmhouse. The fauna shows a domestic exploitation of the cattle with the predominance of sheep, steers, pigs and horses to a lesser extent. Through the analysis of the coal remains it was possible to identify the different types of trees used in the construction of the beams, shelves or stairs using wood from a close area of the site: gall oak, pine and kermes oak.

The settlement from the Iron Age, whose inhabitants practised cereals agriculture and cattle exploitation, was abruptly abandoned.

Anthropological fragments

There are human remains in different rooms: five fragments of an adult skull in room 2; eleven phalanges and four metacarpus of an adult right hand in room 1 and a jaw in room 18.  These amazing findings set as the research team’s working hypothesis the oblige abandonment of the village although, except in one of the rooms in which there was documented a fire before its crumble, none of the other rooms has similar evidences.

1Pickaxe: a large tool consisting of a curved, pointed piece of metal with a long handle joined to the middle. Pickaxes are used for breaking up rocks or the ground..
2Digging in extension: a digging process wider than a survey on a larger surface area.

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