Height settlement in the middle of La Plana

Tossal de la Vila site is located in one of the highest hills of Serra d’en Galceran. Opposite it, to the Northwest, there is another range of mountains called Serra Espaneguera. Between both there is a wide valley, the Carbonera’s ravine which is considered the natural means of communication towards the inland. The Coves corridor is demarcated in its versant. It was an important road to the North by the Via Augusta whereas to the South it extends Pla de l’Arc, a place where a lot of archaeological remains are known.
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In the surrounding area of Tossal’s settlement there are documented occupations between the Neolithic and the Bronze Age, above all in the nearby caves, although the remains of Palaeolithic and post Palaeolithic carvings in Abric d’en Melià should be highlighted by their antiquity.

The first news about the Tossal de la Vila’s site were known in 1999 by N. Mesado who made a topographic and chronological approach analysing the surface material found in his surveys. Since 2012 the Provincial Archaeological and Prehistoric Research Service has developed five campaigns, digging an area of about 180 m2 in the South until 2014.

1600 years between the two occupations

As it has just been said the village is located in the high part of an impregnable hill by the Eastern but accessible by the Northern, Southern and Western versants. Just in this side, during the Early Medieval Age, it was decided to build a wall in dry with some bastions in concrete places. This site has two very different chronological occupation periods, so much that, between the first and the second phase, there is a difference of 1600 years. A first settlement is dated between the eighth and the mid of the seventh century BCE, but it was suddenly abandoned due to a fire. In this time some rectangular homes and warehouses were built attached to a wall by the Southern and Western versants of the top. Researchers have differentiated four areas in the dug sectors in the South.

The digging processes until the end of 2014 have shown four differentiated spaces in the first occupation of Tossal. Two of them were used to store food and the other two were connected to the food processing and consumption among other functions.

The sector A is documented as a domestic area to which there have been associated some different well preserved pottery pieces and a scrap of an iron knife. This sector is very altered by the Andalusi phases, what makes difficult having a general view from the area. The signs taken help us to create the hypothesis that it was an area used in grinding or food processing works. A huge number of hand made and well preserved pottery pieces such as, big storage containers and some other smaller and almost intact objects as for example, jars, pots and vases, fauna remains and a carbonized beam are associated to this phase. The sector B had also a domestic function, maybe associated to storage and home. The existence of some vessels standing on the surface and almost intact supports this interpretation. There have been also found some iron rods, copper sheets and fragments of copper bracelets.

An oven and two mills

The living space C is more interesting because it has a 7,50 m2 preserved surface and by the presence of a fireplace attached to an oven. There have been also found two ovaloid mills in situ: one on the pavement and the other one at the stokehole, big storage vessels, elements linked to the food elaboration and finally, some fragmented vases. By the dispersion on the surface of these elements we can say that, in their origin, they were placed on a shelf located at a certain height that at some time fell.

Most of the materials found by archaeologists are hand made pottery objects, such as containers, vessels, jars and vases in an excellent state of maintenance.

The sector D is very damaged by the subsequent alterations produced in the tenth century CE but according to a study of the surface it could have had more than eight square meters. With regard to its functionality and the materials found it has a structure similar to the other rooms. The fire and the crumble of the structures caused, somehow, the closure and preservation of the domestic area as well as of the objects found when the village was abandoned. Thanks to this fact some constructive elements such as walls and ceilings have been preserved. This way they show the techniques employed in its construction. It is mud or dirt in pellets shape and sometimes it is hardened by the effect of heat as well as with imprints of vegetal material or of any other type. But there is some variety in textures and compositions indicating the existence of different constructive resources. This way there is an exclusive study going on that tries to guess the materials used and its modification process in certain conditions through experimental proofs.


Theories about its construction

All this information helped to create the first construction hypothesis: among the different areas there were trench walls consisting of wood vertical posts in the middle incrusted on the stone baseboard and all overlaid with a layer of mud and vegetal from the bottom to the cover.  On the outside surface a layer of thinner mud was applied. The cover was formed by a beam support with rectangular or circular session, overlaid with branches and a final layer of mud. It was all encased with vegetal material and flat stone in an attempt to waterproof the roof. Most of the material recovered during these researching years has been ceramic pieces, almost all of them hand made, and Phoenician imports and a lot of fragments from the Islamic and later period. Although it is still in a study phase, the ceramics ensembles found have been an important source of information to better understand the possible functionality of the different areas analysed. Thus, most of the storage containers are in the areas B and D whereas the areas A and C are linked to the food processing and consuming or other activities. An interesting aspect is to focus on how some of these objects have lost its primitive usage at any time to be reused in another role.

Tossal de la Vila had its first settlement in the eighth century BCE. After its abandonment due to a fire it wasn’t occupied again until the Andalusí time.


Early Iron Age and Late Bronze Age

Regarding manufacture we observe two different traditions. There is a group corresponding to the typical contexts of the Early Iron Age of Castelló between the mid seventh century BCE and the first half of the sixth century BCE. The other group corresponds to productions and influence areas from the North-eastern Late Bronze Age. On the other side, Phoenician ceramics has been recovered from areas with altered stratigraphy or on the surface areas. Since the recovered fragments it has been possible to rebuild an amphora from the Phoenician centres of Strait of Gibraltar, dated between the mid eighth century BCE and the second half of the seventh century BCE. In relation to the second occupation during the Andalusi time in the tenth century CE, we have more architectonical evidences because its settlers fortified the village with a wall and some semi-circular and square bastions. Whereas, in the front of the city walls different departments were distributed, some of them were used as warehouses and others as dwellings.

Carbon 14 dating of the vegetal remains (C-14)1

The analysis of the vegetal remains found in the digging processes allow us to know the main economical activities in the first occupation period of Tossal de la Vila. Its settlers practiced the agriculture focused on the grain crops, such as wheat and barley and the use of the wild vegetal resources from the zone, such as acorns and blackthorns.
Thanks to the archaeological markers found during the digging campaigns it has been possible to clarify the total chronology of the settlement. There are two data sources provided by the C-14 method in remains found in the Late Bronze Age – Early Iron Age context. The first data of information is a sample of carbonized wood, possibly a post from the cover of the sector A. The second one is an also carbonized acorn seed, located in the sector C.  These data just prove the early moment of the building phase and the late settlement’s fire incident.

In the nearby caves materials dated between the Neolithic and the Bronze Age have been found, as well as carvings from the Palaeolithic.

1Carbon 14: dating method used in archaeology developed by Williard Libby in 1949. It allows to know with certain accuracy the origin date of the organic remains.

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