BMCR 2024.05.35

En tierras de Hércules. Torregorda – Camposoto – Sancti Petri: una revisión del patrimonio

, En tierras de Hércules. Torregorda - Camposoto - Sancti Petri: una revisión del patrimonio. Oxford: Archaeopress, 2023. Pp. 160. ISBN 9781803275994.

Open access


The most famous feature of ancient Cádiz was the Temple of Hercules-Melqart situated at the southern end of the island of Kotinoussa, modern Sancti Petri. Philostratus (Life of Apollonius of Tyana 5.5) and Silius Italicus (Punica 3.14-144) sing the praises of the temple and its decoration. According to Pomponius Mela it lay at the opposite end of the island to the Phoenician city: in altero templum Aegyptii Herculis (Description of the World 3.46). Strabo (Geography 3.5.3) says it lay twelve miles from the Phoenician city at the far end of the island closest to the mainland. Unfortunately changes to the topography of the Bay of Cádiz since Antiquity have submerged the temple and its location remains the subject of debate.

Bruquetas-Galán offers a bibliographical, cartographic and documentary analysis combined with a field survey of the archaeological remains found in the area of Torregorda, Camposoto and Sancti Petri. The southern tip of Kotinoussa—modern San Fernando—is the “Achilles heel” (p. 91) of Cádiz offering the only direct access to the mainland from the Phoenician city. Bruquetas-Galán focuses on the strategic importance of the area structured around the evolution of the access route from the ancient Via Heraclea to the Camino de la Alcantarilla, and the construction of fortifications to defend the island in the seventeenth century. The first two chapters (pp. 1-16) survey the evidence for prehistoric occupation and its relationship to the changing geomorphology of the Bay of Cádiz since the Pleistocene and Holocene. Chapter three (pp. 17-31) affords an overview of the transformation of settlement during the Neolithic and the creation of the first settled communities.

Chapters four, five and six are the core of the book focusing on the Temple of Hercules-Melqart and the archaeology of Sancti Petri. Chapter four (pp. 33-51) explores the sources for the Temple from the Phoenician into the Medieval periods. Chapter Five (pp. 52-82) provides an overview of the archaeological sites in San Fernando and Sancti Petri from the Palaeolithic onwards culminating in the recovery of architectural remains, statues, and incense burners from the vicinity of Punta del Boquerón which together with cartography points to the location of the temple offshore (pp. 81-82). The final chapter (pp. 83-89) focuses on the area of Río Arillo and Calzada de la Alcantarilla and the coastal defences that were built between 1596 and 1812. The text is complemented by three appendices listing the primary sources (I), the plans and maps (II) and outline of the fieldwork carried out since the project was initiated in 2012 in order to place the results in their territorial and maritime context (III).

San Fernando has seen considerable recent work on its archaeological heritage, notably José Ramos Muñoz’s Aproximación a la prehistoria de San Fernando. Un modelo de poblamiento periférico en la Banda Atlántica de Cádiz (San Fernando: Ayuntamiento de San Fernando, 1994) and La ocupación prehistórica de la campiña litoral y banda atlántica de Cádiz: aproximación al estudio de las sociedades cazadoras-recolectoras, tribales-comunitarias y clasistas iniciales (Sevilla: Junta de Andalucía, 2008), and the Carta Arqueológica Municipal de San Fernando published by the Junta de Andalucía in 2005. These last two volumes in particular loom large in Bruquetas-Galán’s work. This book is only the first stage of a longer project, as such much of this book is a recapitulation of what has gone before. Bruquetas-Galán proposes a defensive network of navigable waterways and moorings linking the Bay with the open sea in the area of Camposoto and the Río Arillo, as well as the Fort of La Alcantarilla and the House of the Conde de Alcudia that were destroyed in the tsunami of 1755. The conclusions are preliminary and the location of the Temple is not new having been previously highlighted by the Carta Arqueológica (2005, 101). Nevertheless, the research is comprehensive and this volume provides an authoritative synthesis of the archaeological remains of the area and the of the strategic importance of San Fernando from prehistoric to modern times.