Tomb 100 at Cabezo Lucero: New Light on Goldworking in Fourth-Century BC Iberia

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The goldwork of Iberia in the first millennium BC is justly famous (Figure 1). It is characterised by brazing, filigree and granulation--the 'Mediterranean trio.' These techniques can be traced back to 2500 BC in the Middle East (Wolters 1983), but reached technical and iconographic excellence during the Iron Age of Mediterranean Europe. Brazing is the permanent metallurgical joining of metals to form a single more complex, more voluminous or hollow object, using high temperatures and a filler alloy (solder). This method lies at the heart of filigree and granulation, two of the oldest jewellery-making techniques, which involve the use of tine threads and tiny gold drops respectively, brazed to a laminar base to form ornamental patterns. The grave goods from Tomb 100 at the Iberian necropolis of Cabezo Lucero throw new light on goldworking processes in the mid fourth century BC.


The necropolis of Cabezo Lucero (Guardamar de Segura, Alicante), lies in the lower valley of the River Segura, 6km from its current mouth. The corresponding fortified settlement is approximately 200m to the north and, so far, has not yet been fully excavated. The necropolis covers an area of approximately 4200[m.sup.2] and dates from the early fifth century to the early fourth century BC. Tomb 100 contained the remains of an adult warrior. In addition to his standard military equipment the tomb contained a complete goldsmith's toolkit including some 50 specialised instruments. This exceptional find was recovered during excavation in 1986 but has remained unstudied until the present. Some of the instruments went on public display in 1992 as part of a small exhibition at the Museo Arqueologico de Alicante (Llobregat 1992), and at an exhibition (The Iberians) held at the Grand Palais de Paris (Aranegui-Gasco et al. 1997: nos. 69-78). Recently, 31 bronze dies--part of the set of tools discovered--were the subject of a monograph focusing on their iconography (Uroz Rodriguez 2006) and an article reflecting on the status of artisans in Iberian society (Graells 2007). Some of the grave goods found in Tomb 100 are currently on display at the new Museo Arqueologico de Alicante.


Our purpose here is to describe this remarkable assemblage and demonstrate its contribution towards understanding the techniques and context of goldworking in the Mediterranean Iron Age.

A goldsmith's toolkit

The materials found in Tomb 100 reflect ali of the stages of jewellery production, from procuring the raw material, to its shaping, ornamentation, and finally joining.

Procurement: two balance plates have been identified; both are now highly deteriorated and fragmented (Figure 2a). One, about 40mm in diameter, is not perforated; the other, 72mm in diameter, has a central perforation. This weighing system also includes a disc-shaped weight with an unusual perforation and four incised points (Figure 2a). Its current weight is 9.36g.

Shaping. once weighed and cut, the raw material was melted in a crucible. The ingot obtained was then beaten with a hammer until a sheet of the desired thickness was obtained. This stage is represented by the larger tools found, including iron tongs for the handling of crucibles, and two anvils. One of the latter, made of iron, is poorly preserved; the other, in bronze, has a circular work surface 47mm in diameter that shows signs of deformation owing to prolonged use (Figure 2b). This group of tools also includes a bronze socketed hammer (Figure 2c), the head of which measures 104 x 128mm. It is poorly preserved having been found within an encrusted mass of highly oxidised iron objects. Finally, there is a small saw that may have been used in some way for the transformation of the raw material.

Ornamentation: once sheets of the worked metal were obtained in an appropriate size and shape, these would have been stamped with the desired dies. …