Monumental complex with a singular funerary architecture

In the municipality of Zucaina, a small town from Alt Millars, there’s a very important barrow1 burial complex called Los Cabañiles. This is a remarkable area for the concentration of activities related to the funerary field. It is located in an area conditioned by the fluvial network hydrographically delimited by Santa Ana’s gorge which, it its upper course is called Carro’s gorge and by the most visible axis of the river Villahermosa.  Great part of the protohistoric settlement documented until now is associated to these fluvial axes.
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Archaeological documentation
A lot of work has been done because the first digging processes started in 1969.  They started with the surveying of two determined areas. The first one was a flat site known as La Escudilla. There were found 22 children’s burials in urns. The second one was in a higher place known as Los Cabañiles where there were found six inhumations2 in urns inside a room.
This children’s ritual’s peculiarity is that it only affects newborn and children under five months old. There is a close connection between both sites not only in the spatial aspect, there are situated at a distance of 500 meters in a straight line, but in a wider aspect that it also involves the knowledge about the culture and the funerary practices of this time. Besides, they are related by the shortage of pottery material almost always associated to contexts of the sixth century B.C. Los Cabañiles has been systematically dug out since the year 2009 and thanks to this it has been possible to delimitate four different areas with some remains of dwelling structures and a necropolis.
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A large room with great archaeological value

In zone 1, already discovered in the 70s, there was found a rectangular floor building with a surface of 32 square meters.  Aligned to the level of the baseboard’s base foundation of the southern wall of the room, there were found four urns directly supported by the rock’s weight. They contained five inhumed children with no grave goods. However, in the northern wall there was only one urn with some scarce grave goods consisting of a vulva from a small mollusc. An adjacent enclosure of 40 square meters with no burials was found next to it. Here the material records were more abundant with lots of pieces of hand made and wheel-thrown pottery, the remains of a decorated bracelet, some tools such as strikers, and sharpeners. The settlement’s typology and characteristics make we consider it a population centre, maybe related with warehouses.

The archaeological site of Cabañiles, in Zucaina, occupied since the end of the seventh century and throughout the sixth century B.C., presents an area of rooms and another one of barrow burials

Six rooms separated among them

During the digging processes in the years 2000 and 2001 in the east part of the first enclosure (building C) it was possible to delimit another ensemble of six rooms separated among them by dividing walls with a longitudinal development. Each space probably had a different functionality, although there haven’t been found materials in all of them to confirm their use. But we know, for example, that there is a room associated with metallurgical activity because of the presence of a smelting mould and some ashes in the archaeological record. Another of the rooms is supposed to be a vestibule that gave access (C6) to the main part of the complex (opening C3) where there were some home remains and another urn with three children inhumations. When investigation researches were restarted in 2007, another building with four parallel rooms with almost the same measures was identified. There was pottery for the food and liquid storage and transport. This construction was associated to the sixth century B.C. However, in the following campaigns, from 2009 to 2012, there is a documentation of an extraordinary tumular set (zone 3). It was formed by 24 structures where there were found 28 funerary deposits with their corresponding grave goods. The structures are placed next to each other and we can differentiate them by the structural design used.



Archaeologists have found newborn inhumed in the rooms area placed in urns instead of being buried under the pavement, as it was usual throughout the Iberian period

Since the most ancient one with a circular plant, there are barrows with an arch shape placed in one or two structures creating an inner vault to place the individual. The most recent structure which semi circular masonry walls, takes advantage of two barrows to be supported. This way, it creates a hollow to keep the funerary remains and cover them with a flagstone.  The research group decided to dig them keeping in mind this structural and chronological design. They recorded the different phases that go from the end of the seventh and sixth centuries B.C. The material found helps to validate this hypothesis because the oldest funerary deposits are characterised by having hand made urns and poor grave goods, which were only made of bronze. Although we have to say that in this phase we can find an example of a Phoenician wheel-thrown urn.

Iron pieces

In a moment of the necropolis growth there is a structural and ritual change characterised by the production of Iberian wheel-thrown urns. In the last phase of the settlement the most complex constructions and the grave goods will have iron pieces, as for example weapons or military objects. The zone 2, defined as an area of transit between the rooms and the tumular set, has not been dug yet. Finally, the zone 4 corresponds to the funerary ensemble access point through the old path recorded, which communicates it with Zucaina’s wide valley and La Escudilla site. The settlement’s study, with its buildings and necropolis, has caused an approach with lots of questions about the social and cultural development and the religious practices of its inhabitants.
Funerary deposit, urn. Ceramic vessel./  SIAP / Memòria final, Los Cabañiles -2013
Based on the researches results it is possible to distinguish clearly a difference by age groups in the funerary rituals. Actually, the newborn, foetuses and breastfed were buried in urns in a particular space whereas the graves of young people were placed in the tumular area. According to all the analysis made until now, there have been recorded three different forms of burial in Los Cabañiles: newborn inhumations in urns, adults and children cremations3 in barrows and the inhumation in chamber of a single feminine individual.

Analysis of the sepulchral deposits

As it has already been said, in the site have been found 24 barrows of which only 12 have been analysed. From this analysis it has been possible to identify 21 individuals who underwent cremation processes and an inhumed adult. The results show that most of them were adults who were 40 years old on average, although there is also a breastfed, a child and an adolescent.

Bronze objects from personal clothing, such as brooches, are the personal set’s objects found in the excavations that started in 1969

1With a tumulus shape.: A circular or long stone complex placed on the graves so that the body is overlaid and protected.

2Inhumation: Burial with the corpse unaltered. It was placed in a hole on the ground and then it was overlaid.3Cremation: Reduce the corpse to ashes


Una creación de AD&D 4D Creative Commons
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