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Hidden Treasures of Guadalquivir Valley: The Medieval Archaeological Heritage Of Eastern Andalusia

The medieval archaeological heritage of eastern Andalusia boasts a range of highly valuable artistic, historical and touristic movable and immovable goods.

Europeana Foundation

The medieval archaeological heritage of eastern Andalusia boasts a range of highly valuable artistic, historical and touristic movable and immovable goods in the upper Guadalquivir Valley and in the province of Jaén, Spain. This area showcases ten centuries of the history of the Iberian peninsula, from the 4th century to the 15th century, furnished with archaeological and architectural evidence of the late Roman and Visigothic period (4th to 8th century), of the Islamic period (8th to 15th century) and of the Christian period (11th to 15th century).

The late Roman and the Visigothic period

The late Roman period (4th century) witnessed the onset of transformations that became complete during the Visigothic phase. In eastern Andalusia, this showed in the transformation of towns and their gradual abandonment during this period. The local elites moved to the countryside and became part of the church hierarchy more and more often.

Christianity permeated throughout, as evidenced by the sarcophagus of Martos, the glass paten of Cástulo (Linares), the Christogram burning lamp of Jaén, the hermitage of Valdecanales (Rus) and the graves goods of the cemetery of Cerro Salido, in La Guardia.

The Islamic period

The conquest of the Iberian peninsula in 711 by the Muslim armies triggered a political, economic, social and religious transformation. A centralized state based on taxes and on the urban world appeared and grew as the local population adjusted to the Arab and Islamic culture. Material evidence of this process and of its transformations through the centuries span from signs of political power (castles, mosques, coins, etc.) through everyday life items (tableware, pottery toys, jewellery, etc.). Examples of these are the emirate treasure of Marroquíes Bajos (Jaén), the castle of Baños de la Encina, the diadem of Charilla (Alcálá la Real), the baths (hammam) of the palace of Villardompardo (Jaén) and the butcher shop of Martos.

The conquest of the Christian kingdoms

This period incorporated both coexistence and open conflict for the conquest of al-Andalus. Castille’s military campaign intensified from the 13th century onwards: castles, walls and watching towers stand out as the most typical items of this period. Both sides built new fortresses and strengthened existing ones. As the conquest made progress, towns came into the Christian model by way, among others, of new churches, public buildings, squares and palaces with more and more remarkable fronts. Major examples of these are the Torre del Concejo (Jaén), the castle of Lopera, the castle of El Berrueco (Torredelcampo), the palace of (Baeza) or the churches of Santa Cruz (Baeza) and San Bartolomé (Jaén).

by Irene Montilla, Mercedes Navarro, Alberto Sánchez,
Medieval History Area and the University Research Institute for Iberian Archaeology (University of Jaén, Spain)

Featured image: Castle of Baños de la Encina (Jaén, Spain), Instituto de Arqueología Ibérica-Universidad de Jaén, CC BY-NC


Castillo Armenteros, J. C.; Castillo Armenteros, J. L. (2003). La organización militar de la Orden de Calatrava en el Alto Guadalquivir a través de las investigaciones arqueológicas. Arqueología y Territorio Medieval, 10 (2), 181-231.

Guía digital del Patrimonio Cultural de Andalucía.

Ruta de los castillos y las batallas.

Salvatierra Cuenca, V.; Montilla Torres, I.; Navarro Pérez, M.; Sánchez Vizcaíno, A.; Hornos Mata, F.; Alcázar Hernández, A. Mª (2016_): El Museo de Jaén (España) y el Proyecto Europeo CEMEC. The Museum of Jaén (Spain) and the European Project CEMEC_. Gráficas La Paz: Torredonjimeno (Jaén).

Salvatierra Cuenca, V.; Montilla Torres, I. (2017): Al-Andalus in the Early Middle Ages. Crossroads. Travelling throught the Middle Ages, AD 300-1000. WBooks: Zwolle (Holland), pp. 56-63.

This blog post is a part of the Europeana Archaeology project, which digitises Europe’s rich heritage of archaeological monuments, historic buildings, cultural landscapes and artefacts.

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