BMCR 2015.02.14

Villajoyosa antique (Alicante, Espagne): territoire et topographie, le sanctuaire de La Malladeta. Collection de la Casa de Velázquez, 141

, , , Villajoyosa antique (Alicante, Espagne): territoire et topographie, le sanctuaire de La Malladeta. Collection de la Casa de Velázquez, 141. Madrid: Casa de Velázquez, 2014. 334. ISBN 9788415636625. €55.00 (pb).

The site of Tossal de la Malladeta lies on the outskirts of the town of Villajoyosa beside the road to Alicante to the south. Occupation on the site was first reported at the beginning of the Civil War with the discovery of a bronze ex voto a few metres from the hill in the area of Els Gasparets (p. 3). Settlement in Villajoyosa dates back to the seventh century BC and it has been claimed as a possible site for one of the Greek colonies referred to by Strabo (3.4.6).1 The potential significance of the site and the damage caused by erosion prompted the Sección Municipal de Arqueología, Etnografía y Museos de Villajoyosa to initiate the Hispano-French project ‘Villajoyosa ibérica: territorio, santuario y fronteras’. Five seasons of excavations were carried out (2005-2009) followed by two seasons of analysis. This volume represents the definitive publication of these excavations.2

The first chapter is devoted to a discussion of the topography of the area: firstly the evidence for centuriation and the creation of a GIS database of the area enabling the identification of 143 sites categorized according to period.3

Chapter two consists of a stratigraphic record of each of the five sectors excavated. Sector 1 excavated in 2005 consists of 100 m 2 situated on the highest point of the western slope. Sector 2 extends over 230 m 2 on the eastern slope of the hill. Sector 4 excavated in 2006-2007 consisted of the interior of a tower built on the summit of the hill in 1892, and Sector 5 lies outside the same tower to the south. Three phases of occupation were identified: the first dating from 375-100 BC is known only from finds of Iberian, Punic and fourth century Attic pottery. The excavated buildings date to the second phase between 100 and 25 BC. The presence of African pottery in Sector 5 dates the abandonment of the final phase to the final quarter of the first century AD (pp. 84-85). This is followed by a discussion of the architectural remains. The poor state of the excavated structures and lack of in situ finds makes it difficult to identify their function.

The final section of the chapter is devoted to a discussion of the finds. The most significant finds are one hundred and seventy-two fragments of terracotta perfume burners in the form of busts of female figures. Most are locally produced, similar to those from other sanctuaries in the region: Tossal de La Cala (Benidorm), Coimbra del Branco Ancho (Jumilla) and La Serreta (Alcoy), although one is Italian in origin (n. 23) and another is unique in the Peninsula perhaps coming from Tunisia (n. 15). A small fragment of a lead plaque with a Latin votive inscription was also found (pp. 172-173).

A short conclusion identifies the site as a sanctuary on the basis of the perfume burners. The perfume burners were found throughout the site and no specific ritual area was identified – although Sector 5 Space 3 is a possible claimant with numerous fragments of perfume burners associated with quantities of ash.

Appendix 1 consists of an inventory of finds from each of the sectors and appendix 2 is an inventory of sites in the vicinity consisting of a short description, plans and brief bibliographical citation for each of the sites.

A book of this type offers little for the reviewer to comment upon consisting as it does of a factual record of the excavations and its finds. Much of the book is devoted to a catalog and illustrations of stratigraphy (pp. 56-65, 71-76, 78-83, 86-91), architecture (pp. 99-105) and finds (pp. 125-155). The volume is an important addition to our understanding of Iberian settlement in the area complementing the Orientalizing necropoleis excavated at Les Casetes and Poble Nou.4 The volume will also be of interest to scholars exploring Rome’s impact on the region and the effects of the establishment of the Flavian municipium of Villajoyosa.5 The result is an excellent excavation report that adds much to our knowledge of the area and highlights a significant site both for scholars interested in Iberian settlement and the role of sanctuaries, as well as the impact of Rome.


1. cf. Espinosa Ruiz, A. 2006. ‘Sobre el nombre de la ciudad ibérica y romana de Villajoyosa y la ubicación del topónimo Alonís/Alonai/Allon ’ in Lucentum 25: 223-248.

2. Preliminary results were published in Rouillard, P., J. Moratella and A. Espinosa Ruiz. 2011. ‘El santuario ibérico del Tossal de la Malladeta’ in La Vila Joiosa. Arqueologia i Museu. Museo Arqueológico de Alicante, 118-131.

3. The region is also included in Frías Castillejo, C. 2010. El Poblamiento Rural de Dianium, Lucentum, Ilici y la Ciudad Romana de la Vila Joiosa (siglos II a.C.-VII d.C.). Bases para su estudio, Publicaciones Universidad de Alicante.

4. On Les Casetes, cf. García Gandía, J. R. and J. Padró, 2002-2003. ‘Una cantimplora de fayenza egipcia procedente de la necrópolis de Les Casetes (La Vila Joiosa, Alicante)’ in Pyrenae 33-34: 347-364; García Gandía, J. R. 2003. ‘La tumba 17 de la necrópolis de Les Casetes (Villajoyosa, Alicante)’ in Saguntum 35: 219-228; García Gandía, J. R. 2009. Las necropolis orientalizante de les Casetes (La Vila Joiosa, Alicante). Publicaciones Universidad de Alicante. The publication of the excavations at Poble Nou is in progress, cf. Pérez Blasco, M. F. 2011. ‘Un nuevo estilo pictórico en cerámica ibérica: la necropolis de Poble Nou (Villajoyosa, Alicante’ in Lucentum 30: 89-116; Espinosa Ruiz, A. 2003. ‘Necrópolis de Poble Nou’ in Actuaciones Arqueológicas en la Provincia de Alicante 2003. CD-Rom, Sección de Arqueología del Ilustre Colegio Oficial de Doctores y Licenciados en Filosofia y Letras y en Ciencias de Alicante.

5. On the municipium, cf. Espinosa Ruiz, A., D. Ruiz Alcalde and A. Marcos González, ‘El municipi romà de Vila Joiosa i el seu territorium’ in La Vila Joiosa. Arqueologia i Museu. Museo Arqueológico de Alicante, 154-173.