History of the excavations
The first excavations began in the late 1980s under the supervision of Gerardo Clausell, current director of the Museum of Almassora, who published the results of his research in La Murà magazine in 1997. Remains that could be dated back to the Middle and Late Bronze Age were found beside a circular tower to the northwest, including a carinate pot and a charred wood beam, from which samples were taken to date and identify the type of trees used for building. The 1993 and 1994 research campaigns in a necropolis uncovered 25 burials, including tombs, remains of cremations and a series of objects from different eras, Phoenician, Iberian and especially mediaeval. The existing structures were consolidated and their construction phases recorded in 1995.
Finally, during the 2001 excavation a room was documented and dated to the Late Iberian period, with prehistoric phases below, In fact, the most representative phase in Torrelló is the Late Bronze Age, from which apsidal2 structures or rooms with interior rendered walls3, a circular hearth and different pottery fragments are preserved, showing that these were inhabited. Other tools were also found outside this building including a bronze arrow tip and a horn or antler lamp. Various occupation levels were identified throughout the area, but general spatial information was difficult to ascertain given that the rooms were superimposed.
The first settlement created towards the end of the Middle Bronze Age was made up of several huts protected by a two-metre-high wall
The first settlement of Torrelló was probably created in the late Middle Bronze Age and spread over flat ground on the rocky escarpment of the river terrace. It was made up of huts or dwellings with natural protection to the south and protected to the north by an outer wall almost two metres high. The different studies date these remains to c. 1000 BCE.
In the Late Bronze Age, c. 680-670 BCE, a change took place. This was not only structural, given the presence of rectangular or square rooms (5-7 rooms) and indoor rendered walls with the dwellings orientated from north to south, but a new eastern influence was also found with the appearance of the first West Phoenician pieces. These are examples of sack-shaped amphorae4 and many other complete pieces, alongside some handmade ones. One exceptional and unique piece is a polypod cup5 with four feet, made and decorated by hand before being fired. This pottery displays characteristic features of the Bell Beaker culture6, which began in the Late Bronze Age, with some older influences. In this particular case in Torrelló, it dates to the mid-8th century BCE, which shows that it was originally foreign and part of a special set.
The presence of many almost complete vessels on the site has prompted archaeologists to suggest that the settlement may have been abandoned abruptly due to military unrest in the area. This mix of local and Phoenician material suggests a point in history (c. 600 BCE) when local peoples and foreign traders lived together. Some of these traders, arriving gradually probably via the delta of the river Mijares, settled in the village. This does not seem to have been exceptional, but rather suggests that the increase in the number of complete pottery pieces indicates that the settlement grew as time went by.
The most representative phase of Torrelló is the end of the Bronze Age, and the rooms, a circular hearth and pottery fragments conserved there show that it was inhabited at that time
Human activity was well documented in the dwellings of this period. In fact, two different types of circular hearth remains were found: one where the fire was set directly on the ground with coal and ash, and another where there is a more complex arrangement with layers of mud and straw. The metal remains found in the site were also of great interest and included the Palmela arrowhead, a polished stone axe with an elliptical longitudinal section and other amortized bronze fragments, the product of melting and metalwork. This detail is important as it suggests that some of the structures found may have been metal kilns although there are no remains of melting pots or moulds to confirm this hypothesis.
A necropolis was discovered with 25 burial sites, including tombs and cremation remains, as well as a series of Phoenician, Iberian, and most of all, mediaeval objects
A burial area was identified 300 metres from the village on an upper terrace of the river Mijares northwest of the site. The chance discovery of this necropolis was due to partial ploughing of the site, which turned up pottery remains, hidden until then. Once the research team had collected the surface material, further probes were therefore carried out to document the area scientifically. Although no ustrina were7 recorded, numerous tombs were documented with a total of 25 burials - some individual and a single one with three people in the same urn. These vessels were deposited in a hole in the rock. This roughly circular hole was exactly the right size and created expressly for use as a funeral deposit.
Reddish stone scarab in perfect condition
Another curiosity is the find of a small perfectly conserved scarab8 on one plot which had been repeatedly ploughed so that the archaeological objects found were not in their original position. The piece is in stone, probably reddish cornelian, with perforated ends so that it could be set. The outer face shows the different parts of the scarab’s body while the reverse depicts a left-facing naked warrior marching with a round shield and a lance. According to historian Josep Padró this may be of Etruscan manufacture and date from the late 5th century to the early 4th century. Scarabs are usually found in sacred locations, spaces dedicated to death and to honouring ancestors.
From the 7th century BCE the autochthonous population lived together with foreign merchants who gradually arrived via the river delta, which explains the mixture of local and Phoenician remains
The different excavation campaigns of the site have been followed by specific studies on the importance of the material found, including archaeometric9 and palaeocarpologic10 analyses. The archaeometric analyses have shown what raw materials were used to produce the pottery. Researchers selected and analysed samples of the most representative pottery pastes, as well as samples of the natural clays extracted from a site located between Torrelló de Almassora and Torrelló de Onda, subsequently carrying out an archaeometric comparison of the data. It was concluded that some of the vessels were local, while others were from direct commercial exchanges or trade with foreigners, as in the case of the polypod cup mentioned earlier.
In addition, palaeocarpologic analysis determined how the residents of the village ate. Samples of soil sediment were used, which could be dated to a period between the late 8th and the early 6th century from the archaeological material found. The concentration of fruit and seeds showed a diet based mainly on cereals (two types of wheat, oats, barley and millet), as well as lentils, acorns and vine remains.