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Treasures of "La Vila Joiosa"

From September 26th to February 1, 2015

Tresors para Sapiens no data-petita

Opening September 25th at 19 pm, Museum of Archaeology of Catalonia, Barcelona.

Villajoyosa (“la Vila”) is the capital of a district that is isolated by mountains, and was the first port in Hispania for ships coming from the east. In the 15th century it housed the Royal Shipyards and in the 19th century it was the second most important shipbuilding port in Spain. Its large sailboats and pilot ships took the products of the industries of Alcoy to America and the Philippines and brought back the cocoa which gave rise to its chocolate industry. Villajoyosa is the birthplace of the Spanish fishing net industry and its many elements and systems (such as the twin fishing boat system) and tuna trap-net captains. 

Exhibition developed by the Generalitat of Catalonia, Vilamuseu, the municipality of Villajoyosa and Alicante Archaeological Museum, and will take place in the Museum of Archaeology of Catalonia from September 25 to February 1, 2015.


La Vila Joiosa is one of the principal monumental historic cities on the Region of Valencia coast. This exhibition will enable you to enjoy some of the spectacular archaeological findings of recent years and one of the greatest surprises of Spanish archaeology. 

The Vilamuseu project (Network of Museums and Monuments of Villajoyosa) is an inclusive example of museums, monuments and cultural tourism for people with all manner of physical and mental capacities, from all cultures, of all ages and cultural levels which interprets heritage in a way that is surprising, original and easy to understand. The Vilamuseu site is scheduled to open in 2015.

The indigenous population and its environment


Evidence points shows that at the end of the Bronze Age some three thousand years ago, the area near the hill where the old town of Villajoyosa stands today was once inhabited by indigenous peoples.  These settlers were connected with the Tartesians, the wealthy civilisation that dominated the Guadalquivir valley. 

Cultural and technological contributions made by the Phoenician and Punic civilisations


The Phoenicians inhabited the coast of the region now known as the Lebanon, Israel and Syria. Their main activity was maritime trade. From the year 800 B. C., they set up colonies on the southern and south-eastern shores of the Iberian Peninsula.  They were responsible for introducing the olive, the vine, the pottery trade, incinerating the dead, forging iron and the alphabet, among others. When their most important city, Tyre, fell to the Neo-Babylonian Empire in the year 574 B.C., their colony Carthage (now Tunis) replaced it as the capital of the Phoenician Empire, known since then as the Punic Empire. 

Cultural contributions of the Greeks


In addition to the colonies of Emporion and Rhode, founded by the Greeks of Phocaea (now Turkey) in the 6th and 5th century B.C., ancient geographers  mention that Greek populations existed in other sites such as Alonis (Villajoyosa).Villajoyosa is one of the few sites in Spain where Greek “black figure” pottery dating from the end of the 6th century B.C. can be found. There is a clear Greek influence on stone sculpting, writing, coins and other aspects of the Iberian culture existing in the 5th century in this region. 

Traces of other cultures: Egypt and Etruria


It is very rare to find Etruscan and Egyptian objects introduced by the Phoenician traders in the Iberian Peninsula. The Egyptian collection of Vilamuseu is one of the largest and most relevant in the Peninsula. It includes divine amulets carved in talc stone and in particular, the New Year flask made in Sais, capital of the 24th dynasty, in approximately 600 B.C. which was used to collect the magic water during the flooding of the river Nile, and was believed to cure diseases and give the dead eternal life.

 The strategic location of the Iberian city


The location of the Iberian town of Vila Joiosa is extremely advantageous.  It is set on a hill that is easy to defend and next to a river, opposite a harbour and a beach which was useful for loading and unloading passengers and goods and overlooks the most extensive crop-growing lands of the Marina Baixa district.  What is more, its harbour was the first or the last important port in the Peninsula for ships on the Balearic Island route, an extremely busy route in ancient times for travelling to and from the central and eastern Mediterranean.  

The Iberian religion and the sanctuary of La Malladeta


The site was probable dedicated to the principal deity of the Iberians and Punics, known as Tanit. Although it already existed in the 4th century B. C., it was completely reformed in approximately the year 100 B. C. During the early years of the Roman Empire it was reduced to a few rooms on the hilltop. In approximately 80 a.D. it was abandoned and the sanctuary was transferred to the new forum of the municipium. During the spring and autumn equinoxes, the sun rises symbolically from the hilltop over the island of Benidorm, and the Iberians used this to establish the New Year and the farming calendar. 

The Iberian society and its burial grounds


We know of two important Iberian cemeteries (Poble Nou and Casetes) which consisted of groups of tombs on both sides of the roads that led to the neighbouring towns of l’Alacantí and l’Alcoià. Tombs were excavated from the 7th century B.C. to the end of the Roman Empire, thirteen centuries later. The personal belongings and rituals that accompanied the remains of the dead form a unique collection that sheds some light on what their daily lives were like for almost forty generations. 

Tomb 64


This is one of the tombs with the wealthiest belongings of all those found in the ancient cemeteries of Villajoyosa. It is dated between the years 30 and 10 B. C., during the early years of the Roman Empire, when the characteristics of the Iberian culture (which can still be seen today in several pieces of pottery from this tomb, painted with red lines) are starting to disappear and the Iberians are in the process of rapidly assimilating the Roman culture. In fact, some objects, such as tokens used to play with, vessels with “thin walls” or varnished black pottery are Roman in origin. 

A new decorative style in Iberian pottery

Many items of Iberian pottery in Villajoyosa are decorated in a style that is different to the ones already known. They do not usually relate human or divine stories but contain symbolic images that represent message about fertility. There is a predominance of schematic, abstract lines with rigid strokes, combined to form rich, creative decorations. In particular, the figure of the dove stands out as a symbol of the Iberian goddess of fertility and death, who protects and guides the soul of the dead during their journey to the Afterlife. 

The camp of the Sertorian Wars

During recent years, the urban archaeology of Villajoyosa has uncovered a new surprise in different sites during excavation work carried out before the process of constructing new buildings; the defence trench of a Roman military camp (castra), the only one found in the Region of Valencia to date. It belongs to the Sertonian civil wars (83-72 B.C.), in which two bands confronted each other, lead by the generals Pompey and Sertorius. The camp housed a troop, probably Sertorian, which controlled the exit of food and supplies from the port of Allon.

The Bou Ferrer Roman wreck 

These are the submerged remains of a huge Roman merchant sailboat dating from the 1st century a.D. which was laden with amphora-shaped bottles filled with fish sauce in Dressel 7-11 amphora-shaped bottles stowed on three or four levels, and lead ingots. The Bou Ferrer project is sponsored by the Regional Government of Valencia, Valencia City Council, the General Foundation of the University of Alicante and the Nautical Club. It is the largest ancient ship excavated in the Mediterranean, with a length of about 30 m and weight of approximately 200 Mt., and its name is due to its discoverers, Antoine Ferrer and José Bou. It is the first Spanish wreck in which guided underwater tours are organised. 

The municipium of Allon and its material evidence


Most experts say that Villajoyosa is the site of the Iberian and Roman town of Alon or Allon (pronouned Al·lon) to which reference is made in ancient texts. It was known by the Greeks as Alonis. For many centuries it was known that a Roman city existed because of the inscriptions carved a municipal market (macellum) by a mayor (duumvir). This city, called municipium in approximately 74 a.D., was the capital of a territorium or municipality that included the modern district of Marina Baja. According to Artemidorsu of Ephesus, its citizens were known as Allonites. The historical recreation of the FESTVM ALONIS event is held every spring. 


For five centuries, every effort has been made to locate the Roman city of Villajoyosa, but to no avail.  It was thought that the city was 3 km from the Tower of Sant Josep, but in 2005 Diego Ruiz and Amanda Marcos found the large municipal baths in the centre of Villajoyosa. Allon is the fourth (and last) Roman city in the province of Alicante, together with the colony of Ilici (Elche) and the municipalities of Lucentum (Alicante) and Dianium (Denia). The baths were built between 85 and 110 a.D. and were abandoned in the 4th century a.D. 

The villas


Next to the Roman city of Allon there was a residential area formed by villas with private baths: Plans, Jovada I, Barberes Sur, Ribetes… Industries related to fishing have been located in the villa of Xarquet, as well as trades such as washing, pottery and wine, oil or lime industries. In particular, the villa of Xauxelles, which was fitted out with luxurious private baths at the end of the 3rd century and decorated with mosaics, marble and figures carved in the walls. 

Childhood and games


The Roman cemeteries have yielded an extraordinary number of games and toys: knucklebones (tali); latrunculi (a precursor of chess, with two presided over by checkers); dolls and miniatures made of pottery used as toy kitchens; circular tokens cut from amphora for playing with; marbles, dice, etc. There are also objects in children’s tombs such as bullae (amulets worn by children until the age of 17), bronze punches (styli) for writing on waxed tablets, ceramic feeding bottles and even a bronze rattle (crepitaculum) with sound plates and the face of Somnus, the god of sleep. 

Dressing tables and personal adornments


These objects are often found in the tombs of Poble Nou and Casetes. Ceramic perfume bottles were common until the 1st century, when they were replaced by glass ones. There were also bronze rings, bracelets, earrings and pendants (such as the ring in the form of a coiled snake usually worn by physicians); fertility amulets such as masculine or feminine genitals made of glass or bone; mirrors, pincers for removing hairs and brooches to fasten garments to the shoulder (“fibulae”), always made of bronze; or tiny spoons for cosmetic powders and pins for styling hair, made of bone.



Ceramic is the most common finding in ancient Roman sites. Tableware often varied, depending on the fashion and for that reason it is useful for dating archaeological strata. In the republic (until the 1st century B.C.) it was varnished in black, and later during the time of the Empire, in red (this is called “sigillata”, ‘sealed ceramic’ because some bear the manufacturer’s seal). Until the 2nd century a.D. it was common to find glasses and goblets for drinking in imitation silver and those known as “thin walls” (with a thickness of less than 1mm.).  

Religion and funerary articles in Roman times


In the 2nd century a.D., due to the influence of eastern religions, instead of incinerating their dead, the Romans changed to burying the corpses without incinerating them (“inhumation”). In the 21st century the opposite is occurring. If no-one remembered a person after death, their soul disappeared. The cemeteries contain tombs on both sides of the roads with inscriptions asking passers-by to say sit tibi terra levis (STTL) (“may the earth be light”). We should mention the tower of Sant Josep (dating from the 2nd century a.D.), the largest funeral tower conserved in Hispania, located opposite the most important road of that time; the sea.

The Islamic settlement


From the 4th century, the urban life of Allon started to decline. The great lords went to their rural villas which were becoming larger, more heavily populated and more luxurious. Villas such as Xauxelles, Jovada I and Plans (Villajoyosa), El Albir (Alfaz) or La Pila (Altea) lasted until the Byzantine and Visigoth periods (5th to 7th century). Following the Islamic invasion of 711, the population fled to the interior, to escape from the dangers of the coast. Over time, some villas were converted into Islamic villages, for instance Torres (l’Almiserà), which still conserves its Latin name and has a “morabito” or rural mosque (to date, the only one in the Region of Valencia).

Vilajoiosa: the birth of a sea town 


In 1300 Bernat de Sarrià, the admiral of Jaume II, founded the vila nova of Vilajoiosa on the border of the Crowns of Aragón and Castilla, on the ruins of the Iberian and Roman cities. It was repopulated with inhabitants from the Catalan and Aragonese Pyrenees who brought with them new customs, a new religion and a new language. At that time it was the only port in the Marina Baja district and a port of call for the fleets coming from Flanders which carried raisins from the region. In 1443 Queen María granted it a royal charter, a privilege that explains the crown on the coat-of-arms of Villajoyosa. 

Attacks by Barbary pirates and defensive architecture


The attacks by the Barbary pirates from Northern Africa increased in number from the 16th century, when the Spanish Armada focused its efforts at protecting the fleets of America. King Felipe II devised a defence system for the Kingdom of Valencia: towers, castles and guards distributed into twelve districts. Villajoyosa was the capital of the Marina Baja district and headquarters of one of the three coastal cavalry sections of the Kingdom, whose job was to prevent the disembarking of the corsairs. It was also a much feared base of Christian corsairs, and chips were built in its yards for the Crown and for the corsairs. 

St. Martha and the origin of the Battles of the Moors and the Christians


legend has it that the saint of that day, St. Martha of Bethany, unleashed a store that prevented the corsairs from landing in 1538; but the truth is that the corsairs landed but were stopped by the residents, assisted by the inhabitants of Jijona and Alcoy. Over the years, St. Martha became the patron saint of Villajoyosa. In 1753 festivities were organised to celebrate the battles with parades by voluntaris entrusted with the civil defence. Two years later, another Barbary attack took place. These parades gave rise to the Battles of the Moors and the Christians, events of international tourist interest, with their spectacular Desembarc


“There are three types of men: the living, the dead and those who live for the sea” (Anacarsis, 6th century B. C.)

“Ex oriente lux” (“The light comes from the east”, a Roman aphorism)

“...the fishermen of Villajoyosa, who were intrepid and intelligent in manipulating boat rigging and sails, were famed throughout the eastern coastline and their naval registration was the second most important in Spain” (Teodoro Llorente, Las Provincias, Valencia, 24 October 1904). 

 “The gulf of Illici has three cities: Allon, Lucentia and Ilici” (Pomponius Mela, Roman geographer, 1st century a.D.)

Anunci Tresors MAC
Cantimplora egipcia
Collar orientalizante
Cratera de las Amazonas copia
Conjunto tumba 64 iberica
Colador etrusco copia
Mosaico romano Xauxelles copia
Olpe consagracion
Simpulum de bronce romano
Inscripcion funeraria islam