The El Cigarralejo Museum in Mula houses finds from the El Cigarralejo Iberian site which is located 4 kilometres from the centre of Mula town, in a strategic position overlooking important prehistoric communications networks which linked the coast into central Spain.
The El Cigarralejo site is one of the most important Iberian archaeological sites in not only the Region of Murcia, but also Spain, a site comprising town settlement, burial necropolis and religious sanctuary, set on 3 levels and the volume and quantity of artefacts recovered has made it a centre of international study and a reference point for anyone studying the Iberian populations of Spain.
The Museum El Cigarralejo
Palacio del Marqués de Menahermosa
Calle del Márques 1
The nearest easy parking is in the area of the Convento Iglesia san Francisco, and the Glorieta, which contains a charming garden and a café serving exceptional tapas with an outdoor café area. Click for Calle del Márques, Mula.
Telephone: 968 661 422
Standard Opening hours:
Monday to Friday 10am to 2pm, Saturday and Sunday 11am to 2pm.
On Sunday artesan market days, the Museum is open from 11am to 2pm.
If taking a group, please call and confirm opening hours as there are unpublicised changes in all the museums sometimes due to the current national economic situation.
The Museum also runs educational courses for children and adults, hosts temporary workshops and also temporary exhibitions.
A basic introduction to the Iberians and the contents of the Museum.
Iberian culture is broadly dated to between the 7th and 1st centuries BC. It emerged at the end of the Bronze Age, when the indigenous populations of what is now Spain had developed to a point whereby the use of iron for producing tools had lifted farming from a subsistence level activity and had made the laborious agricultural practices of growing food so efficient that surplus crops could be grown, creating the possibility for trade and allowing members of a community to specialise in trades which did not rely on their own food production capacity. This was allied with the abundant natural mineral resources of Spain, providing raw mineral materials which could be smelted and traded.
This co-incided with a time of interaction between eastern Mediterranean populations, seeking trading relationships and products throughout the Mediterranean basin, Phoenicians, Carthaginians and Greeks ranging far in search of trade goods. The abundant raw materials, crops and products produced by the Iberians lead to a trade interchange, which, in turn, influenced the development and customs of the native population, introducing writing, coinage, new crops, new technology ( the Phoenicians brought the potters wheel to Spain), all of which impulsed a creative and cultural revolution, the people emerging from this age known collectively as the Iberians.
Trading settlements established by these trading nations controlled the interchange of goods, some individuals involved in this process naturally becoming wealthier along the way, creating a wealthier elite. This, in turn, fed back into the populations producing the goods, creating a multi-layered society which consumed imported trade goods, a society which is clearly reflected in the burials discovered, Greek and Italian ceramics and luxury goods the prized possessions of those who could afford to buy them.
So of course, this lead to inter-tribal rivalries and competition for land and resources, leading to the necessity for warriors, controlled by the elite and wealthy, a situation which only changed when the Romans invaded what is now Cartagena in 209BC, and a gradual process of romanisation lead to the disappearance of the Iberians as a definable culture.
For more details about the Iberians and their culture, Click Iberians.
The El Cigarralejo site is located 4 kilometres from the modern-day town of Mula, on the right hand bank of the River Mula, on the extreme northern face of a mountainous series of outcrops orientated to the southwest- North-east, dominating the zone. This privileged situation allowed it to dominate a network of communication routes, which utilised the natural layout of the land, linking to other main Iberian settlements at Archena and Jumilla, and other local settlements including those at Cehegín (Begastri) and Caravaca.
The burial Necropolis.
Excavations at the site began in 1947, and continued practically uninterrupted for the next 40 years, revealing 547 individual burials. The site dates from the 4th to 1st century BC.
Little is known about Iberian religious practices or burial rites, but the evidence found in these burial sites shows that the deceased were cremated and buried with grave goods, and there is evidence of subsequent ritual offerings. Burial grounds were carefully defined, and isolated, and were normally near the main communications routes around the town, as is the case at El Cigarralejo.
The exact nature of the burial ritual itself depended on the status of the deceased, and although the burials are anonymous, the status and sex of the individual are generally apparent in the grave goods discovered with each individual.
Prior to burial the body was cremated. It appears that the deceased would be cremated in their finest clothes, some of the burials yielding remains of fine cloths, together with personal jewellery , adornments or treasured possessions. The cremation took place on a pyre or in the tomb itself, which was dug into the ground.
The most valuable personal possessions of the deceased would also be interred with the cremated remains: swords broken in two, lances, armour and shields have been found in the graves of the warriors, agricultural equipment in the graves of farmers, even the tools of ceramicists and a tanner have revealed the trades of the deceased, whilst their wives are accompanied by spinning weights, jewellery and items of personal adornment, as well as domestic ceramics, some of them imported. The burnt remains and grave goods were placed in the grave, sometimes, but not always, in a ceramic urn, and covered with stonework or a monument.
A walk through the El Cigarralejo museum.
Room 1, Emeterio Cuadrado
This first room sets the background of the site and the man who excavated it for 40 years, Emeterio Cuadrado. An engineer by profession, he also had a keen interest in archaeology and undertook the task of excavating this entire site. This first room shows the basic layout of the site, the tombs excavated and documentation and photographs relating to the excavations.
Room 2 . "Princely tombs."
The second room shows the remains of 7 burials, dating from the earliest remains found, those of the early 4th century BC.
Amongst these are 2 outstanding burials, numbers 200 and 277, which were obviously the burials of 2 very important members of the elite Iberian society, and contained imported luxury items including black Greek ceramics and lacquered ceramics, as well as a set of bronze weights. As trade links with other cultures developed, the wealthier individuals were able to surround themselves with luxury goods, jewellery and imported status symbols, such as Greek pottery, testifying to their prestige and power, these being the items they took with them to their graves.
Room 3 Agriculture.
This room focuses on the key activity around which Iberian society revolved by necessity - agriculture, containing items recovered from individuals who were clearly obviously linked to agricultural activity, one in particular being tomb number 209.
This contained iron agricultural implements, including a curved sickle, which would have been used for harvesting the essential grain crops which formed the base of the Iberian diet, such as wheat and barley. Remains of seeds and nuts have been found in the tombs, possibly given as offerings with the burials, showing that walnuts, almonds, pine nuts and acorns all formed part of the staple diet of the Iberians. The burial also contained other curved implements which would have been used to harvest crops . In the same room are the remains of tomb 161 which contained the scissors used to shear sheep and other agricultural implements.
Room 4 Livestock farming
Livestock were the second pillar of Iberian agriculture, producing meat and milk-related foodstuffs, as well as wool for clothing and skins, used in a wide variety of applications.
Tomb 333 yielded the tools of a man known as the "hidemaker. " This man clearly tanned hides, and the implements found relate to his work skinning animals, scrapers to remove meat and skin residue from the hides, and preparing the hides to make leather.
The products generated had a multitude of uses, used for footwear, belts, binding, skins and furs for clothing, for lining helmets and shields, for animal harnesses and as part of many other items of daily life.
The remains of 9 other tombs are also in this room, including small iron knives, iron awls, a bronze brazier and sword and sheath.
An interesting display board in this room also shows the trading rates for livestock, so gives an indication of how much a sheep was worth compared to a horse, for example.
Room 5, Ceramics.
In general terms, Iberian ceramic products were of high technical quality, and were produced by specialized craftsmen using pottery wheels. Within the ceramics produced various categories can be allocated according to the functions they performed.
Firstly, there were fired ceramics used for cooking. These were made with a thicker mix of clay, and were sometimes fashioned by hand rather than on the wheel.
Next there are “fine ceramics”, which imitate the decorative elements and shapes of the Greek and Carthaginian cultures and assumed an element of status and display. These include table crockery, and containers for storing food. The decorations used were normally geometric or based on human and animal figures, and often they were sequenced to narrate a story.
The last group consists of the large containers which were used for the storage and transportation of food in bulk: these imitated the Carthaginian amphorae, as well as those designed for burials, containing ashes and grave goods.
The difference between ceramics of native origin and imported luxury goods can be clearly seen, the imported goods distinctive with their black and intense varnishes, and elegant forms.
This room also contains implements from the tomb of a ceramicist, showing the items used for grinding and preparing pigments for decoration, together with the tools for creating designs and incisions on the ceramics being turned, and even the small container which would have held the pigments.
Room 6 : Textiles.
Of the textile plants grown there is no doubt that the most important was esparto grass, which was a natural feature of all arid zones, especially the south-east of the peninsula. This grass was used to make ropes, footwear, mats and baskets, and the chronicler Pliny the Elder noted that the peasants also used it to make their beds and clothes, as well as for lighting fires and torches. Strabo, the Greek geographer, also mentions esparto grass, saying that it was used to make ropes and was exported to other lands, especially Italy. In terms of textiles he highlights the use of flax for the making of clothes, and says that the cloth was decorated with different colours. Iberian dyes became famous for their variety and quality.
Our information regarding how the Iberians dressed and the ornaments they wore comes from the depictions of humans both in sculptures and the designs used to decorate ceramics. There is a wide variety, but the attire most often seen on women is two long tunics (although on special occasions a more sumptuous third one was added), a veil and a cloak. The men's tunics could be long or short, and were held in at the waist by a belt. Sometimes they wore a cloak, or even two.
As for ornaments and accessories, some of which have been found not only in pictorial and sculptural representation but among the grave goods discovered, they were made mainly out of gold, silver and bronze, and were sometimes inset with precious stones or coloured glass. Among feminine ornaments found are tiaras and headbands with pendants for the forehead, earrings, necklaces, bracelets and rings, while men wore small earrings, neck-rings, rings, bracelets and belt buckles or brooches. Fibulae (the Iberian precursor of the safety pin) were used to support the different items of clothing.
The room contains fragments of different fabrics which have been found in the burials, together with the weights used in the manufacture of fabrics and needles. High levels of skill were employed to make fine fabrics , and there is documentary evidence of competitions between the women of a community to create the finest textiles, with great prestige attached to those who produced the highest quality work.
Room 7, Commerce and Transport
This room shows the extent of commercial trade in this era, and how goods were distributed across the Mediterranean basin. It's quite extraordinary to think of these small merchant boats hopping along the coastline, transporting raw materials and finished products throughout the Mediterranean, and to consider the voyages undertaken by some trade goods which turn up in burial sites throughout Europe.
This room emphasises the importance of controlling trade routes, and why the location of these settlements was of such vital importance, as good trade connections created trading opportunities. Strategic control of geographical features such as valleys, or rivers, used to transport goods, dictated the importance and prestige of individual settlements, creating wealth and the ability to buy in the protective services of warriors.
One of the most empathetic pieces in this room is a relief showing an Iberian trade wagon, retrieved from tomb 107, the wagon being pulled by two mules, and the room also contains important trade goods, such as Greek ceramics, highly prized by the elite.
Weights and balances, as well as some coinage, are also on display, although the Iberians generally bartered, lacking a coinage of their own.
Room 8 Iberian Women and writing.
This room holds several pieces of sculptural works representing women and their role in Iberian society.
With no written records to portray Iberian society and the ròle of women, the only evidence available is funerary, which shows a strong domestic role, most of the grave goods found portraying the domestic activities of women, with weaving, sewing, cooking and personal adornment very much encompassing the items discovered.
Women in Iberian society are often represented in a carved format hinting towards a róle of divinity, and fecundity, the job of ensuring the continuance of the human race giving them an almost divine status, the sculptural works leaning towards the religious significance to the role of the woman in propagation of the species.
The items displayed in this room show the items of personal adornment found in uniquely feminine burials, the jewellery, combs, and finery of their inhabitants, as well as the vessels used in the preparation of perfumes and ungents, or perhaps cosmetics.
This room also explores the subject of written text, one of the tombs found ( number 21) containing a small scored tablet of lead which carried Iberian text, interpreted as being some form of letter for the afterlife. Unfortunately the text has still not been deciphered as there are so few examples of Iberian text found.
There are also examples of inscriptions on Greek ceramics which are believed to represent trading marks for the ceramics.
Room 9, The warrior and his horse.
Although there was a distinct warrior class, there was no such thing as an Iberian "army."
In the world of the Iberians there were frequent conflicts between communities which were aspiring to assert themselves politically, often in order to enhance the power of the aristocracy. The warriors were a select group which depended on a local chief or prince, although many of the burials which show weaponry also show evidence of their inhabitants having another trade as well, so it doesn´t appear that being a warrior was a full time "job". Attacks were likely to have been surprise attacks, rather than sustained campaigns of war, and no one community seems to have held enough power to have had an "army" as such, although those with warrior weaponry were obviously of a higher status than those without weaponry.
Their armoury was one of the most complete and best-known of ancient times. On the attack the warrior used a falcata (curved sword), a lance and a “soliferreum”, a heavy javelin. In defence each man had at his disposal a helmet, leg protection, armour made from iron or bronze and a large oval-shaped shield (“scutum”) as well as smaller rounded ones (“caetra”).
From the 3rd century BC onwards, the Iberians trained as auxiliary warriors and cavalrymen at the service of the Carthaginian and Roman armies
Also shown in this room are items of tack used for working with horses, items which are usually associated with the warriors and the elite burials, horses being an expensive commodity, highly prized and available only to the elite few.
Room 10, the Funerary world.
The final room in the series shows the structures of the different types of tombs found and items which had a ritual or funerary use. One of the most important of these is a sophisticated fretwork vase, probably used to burn perfumes.
Another major element of the site excavated at El Cigarralejo is the sanctuary, which was about 300 metres up the hill from the necropolis, and held a religious worship function. Inside this, a large number of offerings were discovered buried beneath the floor, many taking the form of figures of horses known as exvotos. These are characteristic of other Iberian religious sites or sanctuaries. To read a little more about the El Cigarralejo site and the sanctuary, Click El Cigarralejo.
The intention is to extend the museum to incorporate the ex-votos and more information about the sanctuary itself, and the settlement of El Cigarralejo remains to be excavated in the future.
For more information about places to visit in Mula, and general information about the town, go to the dedicated Mula section, accessed via the map box at the bottom of every page. Mula falls within the North-west of the region. Once in the section, select from a number of headings.
|North & North West..||Mula||Places to visit..|
All Text and Images are Subject to Copyright