07-THE DECORATED STELAE OF CABAÑAS DEL CASTILLO AND SOLANA DE CABAÑAS

Geoparque Villuercas > CULTURAL SITES > 07-THE DECORATED STELAE OF CABAÑAS DEL CASTILLO AND SOLANA DE CABAÑAS

If there is a genuine Bronze Age element in the southwest of the Iberian Peninsula, it is the so-called «decorated stelae». Fashioned in blocks of stone of up to 2.30 metres, they are engraved on one side with schematic figures of men (and the accoutrements of war) and women (diademed and with their trousseaus). They have been discovered in various parts of El Alentejo and Extremadura, with those of the Geopark being among the most representative. Their purpose continues to be a great mystery; hypotheses include a funeral function or control of the territory.

Throughout the final stage of the Bronze Age in the southwest of the Iberian Peninsula engravings were frequently executed to represent warriors surrounded by their arms and various personal objects such as mirrors and combs, and women wearing diadems and other adornments. They are what is known as ‘warrior stelae’ and ‘diademed stelae’. Traditionally they were interpreted as being exclusively funeral elements, although nowadays this hypothesis is being questioned. After a succession of new discoveries they are now explained as signals in the landscape as evidence of the need of the society which created them to mark the control of the territory they occupied, albeit in a symbolic manner. Therefore, although their funeral connection is not ruled out, current research points to their being elements to ‘mark’ the landscape, either as border notices between territories or as milestones on roads of commercial exchange or drovers’ roads.

Two types of these artefacts are generally distinguished: on the one hand slabs, flat stones which must have been used as lids for cists (small individual megalithic funeral monuments) and on the other hand those known as proper stelae which were intended to be driven into the ground as milestones. The objects represented schematically together with the human representations (brooches, mirrors, swords, helmets, combs, carts…) indicate the existence of the first oriental influences.

Nevertheless, the custom of engraving on stones was already established in what is today El Alentejo, which reflects the melting pot which was the southwest of the Iberian Peninsula almost three thousand years, mixing local tradition, Atlantic influences, and the mark of the Oriental world.

Of the ‘decorated stelae’ located in the Villuercas-Ibores-Jara Global Geopark of the UNESCO, the most emblematic is that known as the stela of Solana de Cabañas. It was discovered in 1898 while tilling and sent to the National Archaeological Museum by the lawyer and writer Mario Roso de Luna from Logrosán.

It is an approximately rectangular slab of sandstone (greywacke). One of its sides has been levelled and prepared by pecking to be decorated by engraving. The engraving represents a circular shield with an escotadura (an incision or notch on the edge to place a lance) and the marks of the rivets. In the centre of the shield its bracket is represented. To the right there is a human figure with bent legs. On the upper part there is a sword and a lance and on the lower part what is interpreted as a four-wheel cart drawn by a pair of animals in a highly schematic representation.

A fact which demonstrates the importance of this piece is that it was the first to be described by the National Archaeological Museum, where it is currently held, of the series of the so-called decorated or warrior stelae of the southwest. To it have been added others found in the Geopark such as that of Logrosán. Both the latter and that of Solana de Cabañas can be enjoyed by visitors in the form of two engraved reproductions in the Archaeology Interpretation Centre of Berzocana.