Fortified iberian village

The Iberian site Els Estrets is located in the municipality of Vilafamés and it has an area of approximately 3000 m2. It is at the top of a hill of 283 m of altitude, in the ravine of Els Estrets from where it dominates all Pla de Vilafamés.
It is one of the best preserved sites of the region of Castelló thanks to the good state of preservation of the architectural structures.
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The archaeological works done since 1990 have focused on two different areas of the site: the defensive system and the domestic spaces. The study of the site allows us to locate this village in one of the last periods of the Iberian Culture between the third and mid first century BCE; moment in which the inclusion of this territory under the Roman administration caused its reorganization. Because of this, the Iberian villages would become Roman agricultural settlements and they will be placed at the foot of the hills where they were located.

Defensive system: Wall and Tower

The site’s security was one of the basic preoccupations of its settlers. That’s the reason for which the site is located in height, it has a walled perimeter, rectangular bastions, a trench dug in the rock and an incredible circular tower. The tower is built on the most accessible area so it would reinforce the defence of the village at this point.
The tower is a hollow circular structure of 7,40m of diameter. It is built in stone in all its height and its masonry walls are 1,75 m width on average. Nowadays it is 4 meters tall. It would originally have two heights: a lower room that would function as a warehouse or as Guard Corps, and an upper room used as an observation and defensive point.

Domestic and working area

The houses and the enclosures dedicated to work that have been dug until now, were built taking advantage of the wall that closes the village. Among them we can highlight two spaces: the houses and the mill.



The documented houses until now were built along the lines of the wall and they open to a paved street with flagstones. The architectural structures are in an exceptional state of preservation. We can observe this in the height of the walls reaching the two metres. The walls were built with masonry and adobe and the roof was made up of wattle and daub. We have found remains of these structural elements during the excavation works.
The access to one of the houses was by a ramp made up of stones that gave access to a space that would work as a working and storage room. We can say this thanks to the documented materials of the place: fragments of amphorae and big pottery vessels, as well as stone mills and pieces of loom. Remains of a fireplace were found in a room attached to the former one. The house would have a second floor built with adobe. Some of its bricks have been recovered with the dug processes. The dwelling was restructured and the access to one of its compartments was mortared at the same time that an independent access from the street was provided.
Six trenches were dug under the ground of two rooms, four of them with children inhumations and the other two with animal remains, in particular a wild boar jaw and a limb of an ovicaprid. In the Iberian Culture, the sacrifice of animals and its burial under the ground of the houses was part of a founding ritual as a propitiatory act in the moment of the construction of the building.


The Mill

An opening in the wall that closes the village gives access to a triangular enclosure that was used as a mill.
Inside it we can see a stone bench attached to one of the walls and in the middle of the room there’s still preserved the rotary mill whose millstones were found against one of the walls. The pavement around the mill, made up of sediment compacted with stones, was especially well preserved.
Three trenches were dug in this area in which four children burials were documented.

The inhumations

In the mill enclosure, at the base of one of its walls, three trenches with four children inhumations were found. Another four perinatal burials and a burial of one of their foetus were also documented in one of the houses.
These inhumations are done in trenches dug under the room’s ground and attached to the walls. The trenches were dug at the same time that the house was being built. We know this because the sediment filling is not different from the one that forms the strata levelling of the soil. One of them was done later than the previous ones because the pavement of the room was altered to dig the trench.
The anthropological study of the human remains has allowed us determine the age they died. It was, in the cases studied, between one and three months old. It should be noted that the foetus bones, died at the age of four months of gestation, point it as the smallest one found until now in settlements from the Iron Age in the Western Mediterranean.
In the Iberian period children were buried inhumed, and not incinerated as adults were, in the domestic area. When so small children died, they weren’t treated the same way as adults: they didn’t have the same ritual and they were buried with no personal objects.

Archaeological material

Among the material found in the site there’s a predominance of the Iberian wheel-thrown pottery with no ornamentation and the kitchen pottery coarser than the previous one and with darker pastes. The ornamented fragments with geometrical decorations are scarce. The most common pieces are those of amphorae and large vessels but there are also Kalathos1, dishes and bowls.
Among the import pottery, it stands out that coming from the Punic and Greek-Italic trade represented by fragments of Roman and Punic amphorae, grey ampuritana pottery and black varnish pottery. The fragments belonging to this group are scarce but significant because they help us to specify the trade relations that the inhabitants of the village would carry out and they also allow us to specify the site’s chronological profile.
The craft activities are represented by the presence of stone mills and objects, such as spindle whorls and loom-weight (pondus)2, destined to textile activities.

Economical activity

The analysis of the vegetal remains has allowed us to know the main economical activities of the inhabitants of the village. It stands out the agriculture; the main crops were wheat and barley. They could be used as flour, bread or cooked. There are also vine remains used as fresh or dried fruit. Grapes and barley could also be used as alcoholic drinks.
The cattle industry is reflected by the presence of domestic species such as the goat, the sheep and the pig.
They took advantage of the wild resources of the surroundings to obtain wood for the construction, the tool production, combustible, etc. Carbon analyses have allowed us to determine the arboreal species that surrounded the village. We can highlight the Aleppo pine (pinus halepensis), cluster pine (pinus pinaster), red pine (pinus sylvestris), holm oak (quercus perennifolio) and arbutus (arbustus unedo).  
The hunting would be another form of taking advantage of the resources due to the confirmed presence of deer and wild goats.
Els Estrets-Racó de Rata is an Iberian site located in Vilafamés. It is surrounded by a reinforced wall with bastions and a circular tower. In the village different areas have been dug. The spectacular nature of this site lies in its architecture; the walls of the houses preserve more than two metres height in some points, especially in the tower with four metres height preserved.

1 Kalathos:  Iberian pottery in the shape of a cylindrical basket2 Pondus: Roman loom-weight.

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