More than an Iberian Vigilance Tower

The Foios Tower was one of the first settlements known in the archaeological historiography from Castelló. The site is located in the area of Foios, in the lands of Mas of Magdalena, in the municipal area of Llucena (Alcalatén). It is on a promontory 898 metres above sea level dominating a natural pass. On the top of this promontory they built a tower 36 kilometres away from the coast in straight line.
In spite of its name it is more than a simple tower. It should be part of a defensive system much more complex formed by a city wall and bastions.
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Archaeological documentation

The owner of the holdings where it is located found it at the beginning of the twentieth century when he was breaking up the land. Milagro Gil-Mascarell directed the first digging campaign in 1969 and it went on in 1973, 1977 and 1978. The aim of these supervisions has been the cleaning of the site and the division of the area in definite parts to facilitate its documentation.

According to the results and the material found the Foios Tower’s is dated between the sixth and fifth century BCE. It is a historical moment that still has a strong relation with the previous cultural time of the Early Iron Age which can be present in some residual fragments of the site. On the other side, some pottery pieces can be related to Roman-Republic productions from which we can think that the site was occupied until the second century BCE.

Digging in specific areas

As it has been said before, the digging processes were developed according to a division of the land in some differentiated areas: zone I located to the North of the tower; zone II to the South of the tower; zone III involves the top of the tower’s walls; zone IV corresponds to the entrance corridor and the inside of the tower and zone V located to the East of the tower. In zone I the digging processes brought to light some structures arranged around the tower. There is a “corridor” that follows part of the tower’s perimeter leaving a free space between 1 and 1,50 metres. From it there are other perpendicular walls to the South creating enclosures that are almost demolished now. In the corridor two complete urns were found but there was only one with burnt bones inside. All the documented enclosures had more or less the same stratigraphy. In all of them there is a predominance of hand made and wheel-thrown Iberian pottery, which take us to the first period of the Iberian Culture in the sixth and fifth century BCE although there are also elements that suggest the presence, in some specific zones, of a previous time belonging to the Early Iron Age.

A later survey to the former archaeological works, dating of 1969, revealed the existence of a large wall 56 metres away from the tower what indicates that there was an inhabited space

In the zone II located to the North of the tower with an area of 42 m2 some very fragmented materials have been found as for example, duck edge Iberian pottery remains, amphorae, wing dishes and mortar bases. Among the imported material we can highlight some medium vessels, similar in paste to those Campanian common pottery. There have also been found metallic objects such as a Hispanic annular fibula dated from the fifth century BCE used at its peak in the Full and Late Iberian Age. Together with this there is a bilateral springs fibula that remembers us the Italian arco serpeggiante ones that are already present in the Iron Age. A fireplace has also been found in this area.
The zone III located on the top of the tower is formed by an inner and an outer wall among which there is a space of 1,70m filled by soil and loose stones. Stones, soil and Modern and Iberian pottery fragments were found on the surface level.
The zone IV belongs to the access and the interior of the tower. In the 1969 campaigns there were found some undetermined fragments of Iberian pottery as well as a fragment of a Greek pottery cup, kylix, with red figures next to the door. The remains of some pavement supported directly on the natural rock, made up of a filling of stones in which there were remains of hand made and wheel-thrown Iberian pottery were found in 1973.

The large amount of hand made pottery pieces and the Bronze material found date the beginning of the settlement between the sixth and fifth century BCE being occupied until the second century BCE

Finally, zone V, dug during the campaigns of 1977 and 1978, has an area of 54m2. Among the pottery remains found, there is a lot of wheel-thrown Iberian pottery, some of them from the South of the Peninsula, hand made undetermined fragments and modern pottery, as well as a bone burin and a defense of wild boar. At this level we found two ensembles with very interesting pieces. The first is made up of two vessels, one hand made with incised decoration and another of a grey ampuritana type usually assigned since the fourth century BCE. The second ensemble is made up of two hand made vases with a flat base together with a bichrome vessel dated in the fifth century BCE, and the remains of an urn with two handles. In the dug areas we can also see contemporary pottery, different types of iron and a Valencian coin with fleur de lis, as well as a lot of remains of animal bones.
The material seems to be very homogeneous although the most frequent is wheel-thrown Iberian pottery. We can find large earthern jars and storage vessels whose shape comes from the Phoenician pithoi and are considered as the first attempt of wheel-thrown pottery production from the Iberian period, dated from the sixth century BCE to the following one. There is also a large production of hand made pottery, one of them is very popular for its typology regarding the coetaneous known ones and because it is considered as an indigenous luxury piece.
With regard to import pottery there are Attic black varnish fragments of kylix1, remains of grey ampuritana pottery and a pottery bottle that can be associated with the Italic Campanian productions from the second century BCE by the composition of its paste.
Finally, among the stony material found it is remarkable the existence of three cylindrical grindstones with central drilling, one of them with lateral ailettes. There is also a calcareous block with obvious signals of having been used as a whetstone.

Surface and characteristics of the tower

The tower has a complete surface of 177 m.2 from which 18,50 m.2 correspond to the usable space of the inner living space and 6,50 m.2 to the entrance so 85 per cent of the surface belongs to the structure. The inner part has a rectangular floor with rounded corners and the entrance is through a corridor located to the West of the tower. This entrance corresponds to a corridor in a shape of four, in front of a space of 2,50 m. length that turns 90 degrees to the South where it starts a corridor of 5 m. to then make an inflexion of 90 degrees to the West and create another space of 2,50 m. If we look at the tower since a constructive point of view we notice its unevenness but we don’t know if it is due to a specific technique or to the result of its different constructive phases. Researchers seem to prefer the first option because they consider there is a defensive purpose but due to the agricultural works some of the archaeological levels have been destroyed so they can’t prove this hypothesis. At first sight there is a substantial difference among the outer walls of the tower, built with carefully carving ashlars and with a polygonal shape with relation to the inner walls, with less worked ashlars and in a rectangular shape. During the digging processes the structural remains of a storage building were also brought to light. It was a room high from the ground with small parallel walls.

The site, located in lands of Mas of Magdalena in Llucena, was one of the first sites discovered in the province of Castelló

Two hectares of dwelled zones

Foios Tower’s site has always been considered only as an isolated tower with a military function until Gil-Mascarell made a survey to a certain distance of the tower that revealed the existence of living floors in this outer zone. The presence of a large wall 56 m. away from the tower, almost surrounding it, says that there was a dwelled space inside it. The Iberian settlements may be located in mountainous places with a difficult access taking advantage of the natural defense that topography offers. We notice the same characteristics in Foios Tower, where it is demarcated by a gorge in the North versant, by a little steep slope in the South and East and by a valley in the West. On the top of this promontory they built the defense and vigilance tower, not only of the settlement itself but also of the surroundings. Between the tower and the wall would be the habitat with an area of two hectares whereas the tower has only an area of 0,17 hectares. The rest of the area, which hasn’t been dug, would hold the different dwellings. It is a very similar settlement to some of those found in the province of Castelló, such as Els Pasquals de Torreblanca, El Cormulló del Moros de Albocácer, El Racó de Rata de Vilafamés, Mas del Senyor de Santa Magdalena etc.

The findings of two urns with the remains of a male adult in a corridor of the tower mean the first known case of incineration burial in a habitat, not in the necropolis

The mystery of a new sort of burial

In the Iberian Culture there are two sortswe of burials. The most common one is the incineration process and it’s practised in the necropolis. On the other hand, we have the inhumation ritual used with newborn that were laid under the dwellings ground. As we have already seen, in the corridor of zone I there were found two complete vases next to the outer wall of the tower. In one of them there were some burnt bones remains belonging to an adult whereas the other one was totally empty. We can assert it is an adult by the size of the bones fragments, the consistency of the bone tissue and the existence of three molar roots fully formed. The degree of incineration is not uniform, but its placement makes us think that it was intense in all the fragments exposed to a temperature of at least 600 degrees. This is the first documented case of an incineration burial inside a habitat and next to a fortification in an Iberian site. This way it creates the mystery whether it is an exception or we are in front of a new sort of burial.

2Kylix: typical Classical Greek pottery cup similar to a chalice used to drink wine. It has a body with little depth and width with two opposite handles with an upright base of little height.


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