Unique burial area at a crossroads

The necropolis of Sant Joaquim de la Menarella is located in the mountains of Menarella, between the provinces of Castellón and Teruel. Built on a 720 m2 plateau at an altitude of 1,085 metres, its geographical location is of great importance as it is an intersection of paths to Forcall (north-south) and the Mountains of Gúdar (east-west).  

Prior to the construction of a wind park in this area different surveys, excavations, studies and ultimately, valorizations of the sites found, were carried out by a team of heritage professionals. In this area specifically 28 structures and 20 funeral sites were found, containing 90 individuals in total following cremation1 in the 7th and 6th centuries BCE.
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Archaeological documentation

The funeral structures found have been classified into three basic morphological typologies:

  • circular with an eccentric masonry chamber and cist
  • circular with no chamber and with a practically centred cist made of flat stones
  • square with an external plinth
The first group includes 5 structures, but may have also included another 2 greatly eroded ones whose poor conservation makes it difficult to confirm them. The best example of this typology is found in E1, with a circular floor plan with a diameter of 3.44 m and an eccentric rectangular chamber. It was built using earth and local limestone in different sizes. Vertical slabs were placed inside forming a cist where an ash urn was placed with the remains of a cremations and part of the grave goods (two small pottery cups and some bronze objects). The floor of the chamber was paved with small and medium-sized stones and the door is closed off by continuing the construction of the perimeter walls and filling the intermediate space. Finally, it is assumed that this entire structure could have been covered with slabs and several funeral deposits were found beside these mounds. This was a small circular or elliptical construction which in some cases was supported by the outer wall of these deposits.  
The second typology is included in structures E4, E5 and E6. Although variable in form, these are circular with a 6.94 m diameter, double and simple circular with a 3.22 m diameter respectively. In fact, E4 is the largest structure in the necropolis. Its external plinth was built along an outer wall while the inner part is filled with earth and different sizes of stone. Although the construction system resembles that of E1 mentioned earlier there are several loculi adjoining its walls. It differs in the absence of a chamber and the presence of a slightly eccentric cist made up of slabs placed vertically.
Unique necropolis with over 40 structures used in the 7th and 6th centuries BCEThe third typology has been documented with 9 structures, generally characterised by a square floor plan with an external plinth and an internal chamber. Two varieties can be distinguished within this format: one with no plinth and a cist adjoining the outside and a second solid construction with a plinth on a circular base (E28). Based on the remains found in the collapsed chambers and some of the ones still conserved in situ it is assumed that the interior walls were rendered in clay. Finally, it is worth noting that the roof of the chamber must have been made up of flat slabs and structural elements including beams in savin or juniper (according to the results of the anthracological tests2).


Grave goods associated with funeral structures

In general some common characteristics can be identified in these pieces: the same rather refined clay appears to have been used and its origin is local. In addition, following calcination an engobe, which could have been red, ochre or brown, was applied on one of the two surfaces. No cases of pictorial decoration were found, although some were found with applied elements and limited examples of graffiti, incisions and imprints. Researchers decided to group the pottery material found by common aspects when they studied it. Thus, there are handmade vases divided into eight different typologies: covers with 5 variations in shape; 4 types of offering vases and their variations (although there are relatively few they date from the mid-7th century to the first quarter of the 6th century) and finally thrown vases. To these we must add two major groups. The first includes the pieces of Phoenician influence such as pithos3 (dating from the second and third quarter of the 6th century BCE) while the second includes the types which are more similar to the oval jars of the Iberian world of 575-550 BCE.

Burial area built on a plateau at an altitude of 1,085 metres

Alongside the containers, part of the material recovered in the necropolis included numerous objects in bronze (mostly cuffs and bracelets of various types, either plain or decorated with simple or complex geometric inscriptions). There are also closed circular objects such as necklace beads and open ones in various sizes including earrings, pendants and fibulae.

Funeral rite: cremation

All the funeral rites documented in Sant Joaquim de Menarella follow a common process consisting in the cremation of a body at the pyre until it was reduced into small fragments in the ustrinum —identified in this necropolis specifically in structures E4, E16 and E26 through the abundant presence of ash on a bed of stones (proof of a secondary placement). Once this first phase was completed, the remains were placed in pottery containers or directly in the earth (loculi). There appears to be no typological distinction between the vases used to store remains and the accompanying grave goods.

Funeral rite: cremation of the deceased on a pyre at a temperature of 600º

Based on the anthropological analysis we also know that bone remains were cremated at a temperature of 600º and to date 90 individuals have been identified (including an infant under a year old, adolescents aged between 12 and 20, and adults). Given the poor conservation and deterioration it is difficult to ascertain the gender of the remains. It is also complicated to establish the association of containers and the type of mounds with the number of individuals buried, possibly due to later erosion, which could have scattered the material.

However, some comments can be added in this regard. The circular structures with cists contained one individual - or in some instances two. The presence of one or various vessels along with a set of bronze metal objects is associated with this. Adjoining the mounds there are burials in loculi, with numbers varying between 1, 2, 3 and 6, in which bone remains without ash were recovered, having been deposited following the funeral rite. At times metal grave goods were added.

In contrast, the square structures sometimes included larger sets of associated objects, although not always directly connected with the number of deceased. In E12 and E19 an individual burial documented also included 5 vases, one cover and a set of metals with pieces in bronze and iron in the first case and a deceased with 5 cups, 4 covers, fragments of another 15, as well as iron and bronze remains and the spring of a fibula in the case of the latter. In some structures it is worth noting the presence of organic offerings including sheep, goat, cattle and pig remains.

A total of 90 individuals have been documented: An infant, adolescents and adults

Tossal de la Menarella: Remains of a room from the Late Bronze Age

Other archaeological remains were found in the west of Tossal de la Menarella, including the remains of a room from the Late Bronze Age. In fact, advantage was taken of the terrain to construct negative structures in the soil: 7 basins (dating from the 9th-8th centuries BCE) and a grain store (Iberian Era). In terms of interpretation and function, these are believed to be the base of a cabin or structures used as landfill. This theory is based on factors covering aspects including the size of the basins, the presence of constructive elements and imprints of loadbearing elements. The fillings covering the basins revealed numerous pottery fragments associated with the Urnfield culture and animal remains: ovicaprine (Ovis aries and Capra hircus); bovine (Bos Taurus); porcine; few equine remains (horse); dog (Canis familiaris); deer (Cervus elaphus); wildcat (Felis sylvestris) and rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus).

All the information compiled provides an account of the economy of societies of the Late Bronze Age in this area. We observed the presence of the entire livestock and also that some of these animals were working animals. Metallurgical activities were confirmed by the discovery of a mould for manufacturing bronze axes and agricultural tasks were documented by sickle teeth with the patina of cereal and hand mills.


1Cremation: Reducing the body of the deceased to ashes.2Anthracological: Scientific method to analyse charcoal retrieved from archaeological settings.3Pithos: Greek name of a large container for storage and transport.


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