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Selective use of limestone in Iberian Iron Age sculptures and monuments: a case study from Jutia (Albacete, Spain)

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The Iron Age societies of the southeastern Iberian Peninsula, like their Greek and Etruscan counterparts, used stone sculptures to decorate their sanctuaries and cemeteries. Limestone was the raw material used. While abundant throughout the region, it was not always of sufficient quality to implement the iconographic projects at hand. This paper describes a study of Jutia monument (fourth to second centuries BCE), an architectural structure supporting a number of zoomorphic sculptures. Located at a distance from any major city of the time, the sculptor’s workshop had to select the best materials in the surrounds. The present study aims to establish the origin of the limestone used and ascertain how decisions were made and collective work invested to build this monument. A geological study of the possible areas of origin is supplemented with the petrological characterisation of the respective outcropped materials and the archaeological elements recovered. Colour parameters, ultrasound pulse velocity (UPV) and limestone hardness and geochemical composition, the latter using a handheld XRF instrument, are also determined. The findings reveal that the figures were sculpted from Upper Miocene calcarenite or sandy limestones quarried at around 3 km from the site. In contrast, other parts of the building were erected with bioclastic limestone from the immediate surrounds, at just 200 m from the monument.

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The authors wish to thank Albacete Museum, the Municipal Government of Nerpio and Yeste and the History Institute’s R&D laboratories (CCHS, Spanish National Research Council) for the support provided throughout this study.

Manuscript edited by Margaret Clark, professional translator and English language science editor.


This study was funded by the Spanish Ministry of the Economy and Competitiveness under projects HAR2012-35208 and HAR2015-67355-P; the Regional Government of Castile-La Mancha under project 15.0904; and the Regional Government of Madrid in the framework of the GEOMATERIALS-2CM [S2013/MIT-2914] programme. The senior author is a member of the ‘Applied Petrology for Heritage Conservation’ research team [ref. 921349]. The analyses were conducted at the Institute of Geoscience’s petrophysical laboratory.

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Correspondence to Rafael Fort.

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Fort, R., Chapa, T. & González Reyero, S. Selective use of limestone in Iberian Iron Age sculptures and monuments: a case study from Jutia (Albacete, Spain). Archaeol Anthropol Sci 11, 853–870 (2019).

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