The Iberian citadel of Calafell lies between the tourist destinations of Barcelona and Tarragona. It dates from the 4th to the 1st century BC and replaced an earlier (6th – 5th century BC) walled settlement on the site. The new citadel was enclosed by a cordon of walls reinforced by two towers and a moat. The internal area was approximately 3,000 m2 and the dwellings were laid out in streets.  The landscape here consists of ponds and marshes surrounding small peninsulas and islets, and the strategic site of the citadel would have given it control over a large area.

Location of Calafell, Spain © Google maps

Inland of Calafell the countryside consisted of forests – to provide wood – and open plains where livestock could be kept. It was also a good area for hunting and gathering, and for harvesting the raw materials for the manufacture of reed and palm leaf containers. Several small settlements scattered nearby were inhabited by farmers who cultivated cereals, vegetables, vines and olive trees, and livestock breeders who raised goats, sheep and, to a lesser extent, pigs, horses and oxen. There is evidence that Calafell traded with Greece, Italy and the south of France.

La Ciutadella de Calafell © Bonavista Multimedia
La Ciutadella de Calafell © Bonavista Multimedia

Around the end of the 3rd century BC the citadel was abandoned but the reason is unclear. It may have been related to local unrest or the inhabitants may have feared for their safety during the Punic Wars.

Calafell is now an archaeological open air museum and is also home to a living history project designed to show visitors how the pre-Roman inhabitants lived. In 1992, after 10 years of excavations, the site was reconstructed as a living archaeological site. Dwellings were rebuilt using experimental archaeological methods and the interiors of the houses were recreated using replicas of objects recovered during the excavations. Visitors can enjoy regular living history workshops and educational demonstrations. The citadel is a member of EXARC and OpenArch.

Cordage workshop at Ciutadella Ibèrica de Calafell. Photo by E. Minet

Text                 Alun Harvey

Source:            Calafell visitor guide


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