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Son Fornés site, in Mallorca.
Son Fornés site, in Mallorca. Age
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The 15 most impressive archeological finds in Spain

For lovers of ancient civilizations, the country has a sweeping range of breathtaking ruins

  • Atapuerca (Burgos). This site is considered one of the most important archeological finds in the world. Its discovery has rewritten the history of human evolution, revealing new insight into the long and tangled family tree of homo sapiens. The site features many impressive findings including, Sima del Elefante (Pit of the Elephant), which contains fragments of a jawbone dating back 1.1 million years; the Gallery, where numerous fauna and floral fossils have been found; and the Gran Dolina, which has some of the oldest tools to be discovered in western Europe. Around 15 kilometers from the site are the Atapuerca mountains and in the center of Burgos there is the Museum of Evolutionary History. Entrance to Atapuerca costs €6.
    1Atapuerca (Burgos). This site is considered one of the most important archeological finds in the world. Its discovery has rewritten the history of human evolution, revealing new insight into the long and tangled family tree of homo sapiens. The site features many impressive findings including, Sima del Elefante (Pit of the Elephant), which contains fragments of a jawbone dating back 1.1 million years; the Gallery, where numerous fauna and floral fossils have been found; and the Gran Dolina, which has some of the oldest tools to be discovered in western Europe. Around 15 kilometers from the site are the Atapuerca mountains and in the center of Burgos there is the Museum of Evolutionary History. Entrance to Atapuerca costs €6. Atapuerca Foundation
  • Altamira Cave (Cantabria). “Look dad! Paintings of oxen!” said eight-year-old María in 1879, pointing to the roof of the cave. Marcelino Sanz de Sautuola discovered the paintings of Altamira, but the scientific world did not accept them as authentic until 1902, after the discovery of other caves in France. Since then, they have been an iconic example of paleolithic cave art. Since 2015, visits to the cave have been restricted to only five people a week for 37 minutes. In the museum (entrance costs €3), visitors can see a permanent exhibition on the cave as well as the Neocueva, a three-dimensional display that shows the cave as it was between 35,000 and 13,000 years ago. The museum is two kilometers from Santillana del Mar.
    2Altamira Cave (Cantabria). “Look dad! Paintings of oxen!” said eight-year-old María in 1879, pointing to the roof of the cave. Marcelino Sanz de Sautuola discovered the paintings of Altamira, but the scientific world did not accept them as authentic until 1902, after the discovery of other caves in France. Since then, they have been an iconic example of paleolithic cave art. Since 2015, visits to the cave have been restricted to only five people a week for 37 minutes. In the museum (entrance costs €3), visitors can see a permanent exhibition on the cave as well as the Neocueva, a three-dimensional display that shows the cave as it was between 35,000 and 13,000 years ago. The museum is two kilometers from Santillana del Mar.
  • Antequera Dolmens Site (Málaga). The dolmens of the Menga passageway (shown in photo), in Viera (both neolithic) and the beehive tomb of El Romeral (chalcolithic) are some of the best examples of megalithic art in Europe. They are the first expression of monumental architecture in history, the first of man’s desire to create something majestic that would bring them closer to their gods and what lies beyond. Entrance is free.
    3Antequera Dolmens Site (Málaga). The dolmens of the Menga passageway (shown in photo), in Viera (both neolithic) and the beehive tomb of El Romeral (chalcolithic) are some of the best examples of megalithic art in Europe. They are the first expression of monumental architecture in history, the first of man’s desire to create something majestic that would bring them closer to their gods and what lies beyond. Entrance is free.
  • Los Millares (Almería). This large prehistoric city gave the name to a culture that, during the Copper Age (3,200-2,000BC), dominated the southeast Iberian peninsula. Protective walls can still be seen around the citadel, as well as a necropolis and various bunkers. Entrance is free. More information:  andalucia.org
    4Los Millares (Almería). This large prehistoric city gave the name to a culture that, during the Copper Age (3,200-2,000BC), dominated the southeast Iberian peninsula. Protective walls can still be seen around the citadel, as well as a necropolis and various bunkers. Entrance is free. More information: andalucia.org Getty
  • Las Cogotas (Ávila). Discovered in 1876, the excavations of this fort have provided insight into the culture of the Vettones, who occupied land between the Duero and Tajo rivers during the Late Bronze Age and the Second Iron Age. Today, visitors can still admire their impressive walls and peculiar ‘cheval de frise’ defensive system, which used closely set upright rocks to stop horses from passing. It is free to visit. More information:  castrosyverracosdeavila.com.
    5Las Cogotas (Ávila). Discovered in 1876, the excavations of this fort have provided insight into the culture of the Vettones, who occupied land between the Duero and Tajo rivers during the Late Bronze Age and the Second Iron Age. Today, visitors can still admire their impressive walls and peculiar ‘cheval de frise’ defensive system, which used closely set upright rocks to stop horses from passing. It is free to visit. More information: castrosyverracosdeavila.com. Wikimedia Commons
  • Son Fornés (Mallorca). The Talaiotic culture, which was present in the Balearic Islands in the Bronze and Stone Age, would see people gathered around enormous enigmatic stone structures, known as talaiots, to resolve conflicts and celebrate big events. Situated 2.5 kilometers from Montuïr, the Son Fornés Archeological Museum is open Monday to Friday (entry €3.50, museum and site guide €4.50). More information:  sonfornes.mallorca.museum.
    6Son Fornés (Mallorca). The Talaiotic culture, which was present in the Balearic Islands in the Bronze and Stone Age, would see people gathered around enormous enigmatic stone structures, known as talaiots, to resolve conflicts and celebrate big events. Situated 2.5 kilometers from Montuïr, the Son Fornés Archeological Museum is open Monday to Friday (entry €3.50, museum and site guide €4.50). More information: sonfornes.mallorca.museum. AGE
  • Cancho Roano (Badajoz). In 1978, a laborer who was building a shelter discovered this Tartessus building, which had been burned with everything in it 2,500 years ago. First believed to be a sanctuary, more recent studies suggest it was the palace of a rural noble, in the same style as others that ran along the Guadiana Valley between 400 and 500BC. It is free to visit. More information:  turismoextremadura.com.
    7Cancho Roano (Badajoz). In 1978, a laborer who was building a shelter discovered this Tartessus building, which had been burned with everything in it 2,500 years ago. First believed to be a sanctuary, more recent studies suggest it was the palace of a rural noble, in the same style as others that ran along the Guadiana Valley between 400 and 500BC. It is free to visit. More information: turismoextremadura.com.
  • Numancia (Soria). In the summer of 133BC, Numantians preferred to commit suicide and burn their city rather than submit to the Roman consul Scipio Aemilianus. It’s hard not to be stirred looking at the remains of this siege and the city, which was once a Celtiberian-Roman stronghold. Entrance is €5.
    8Numancia (Soria). In the summer of 133BC, Numantians preferred to commit suicide and burn their city rather than submit to the Roman consul Scipio Aemilianus. It’s hard not to be stirred looking at the remains of this siege and the city, which was once a Celtiberian-Roman stronghold. Entrance is €5.
  • Empúries (Girona). This colony was founded in 575BC by Greek merchants from Phocaea who was named it Emporion. The Romans also entered the Peninsula from this port, which they called Ampurias, in the year 218BC during the Second Punic War. And without them even realizing, they began the romanization of Hispania. Visit to the site and museum costs €5.50. More information:  mac.cateslSedesEmpuries.
    9Empúries (Girona). This colony was founded in 575BC by Greek merchants from Phocaea who was named it Emporion. The Romans also entered the Peninsula from this port, which they called Ampurias, in the year 218BC during the Second Punic War. And without them even realizing, they began the romanization of Hispania. Visit to the site and museum costs €5.50. More information: mac.cat/esl/Sedes/Empuries. Getty
  • Cabezo de Alcalá (Teruel). The town of Azaila, who some identify with Sedeisken, the capital of the Sedetani, was occupied in different phases from 550BC until its destruction in the Sertorian War (82-72BC). Since 1868, archeological digs of the site have uncovered the acropolis, the lower city and numerous remains representative of the Iberian culture. Entrance costs €3. More information:  http:www.patrimonioculturaldearagon.es.
    10Cabezo de Alcalá (Teruel). The town of Azaila, who some identify with Sedeisken, the capital of the Sedetani, was occupied in different phases from 550BC until its destruction in the Sertorian War (82-72BC). Since 1868, archeological digs of the site have uncovered the acropolis, the lower city and numerous remains representative of the Iberian culture. Entrance costs €3. More information: http://www.patrimonioculturaldearagon.es. AGE
  • Santa Tecla Fort (Pontevedra). This fort, located 300 meters above sea level, overlooks the Atlantic Ocean, the mouth of the Miño River and a good part of the coast. Its origins date back to the first and second century BC but its rectangular houses indicate Roman influence – Galician homes were circular, allegedly to stop spirits from getting trapped in corners. Entrance is €1. More information:  aguarda.es.
    11Santa Tecla Fort (Pontevedra). This fort, located 300 meters above sea level, overlooks the Atlantic Ocean, the mouth of the Miño River and a good part of the coast. Its origins date back to the first and second century BC but its rectangular houses indicate Roman influence – Galician homes were circular, allegedly to stop spirits from getting trapped in corners. Entrance is €1. More information: aguarda.es. Getty
  • Painted Cave (Grand Canary). Since its discovery in 1873 until systematic excavation began in 1987, the site has gone through many issues that brought it close to destruction and oblivion. The pre-Hispanic site, which includes more than 60 homes and artificial caves, dates back between the 6th and 16th century. Entrance is €6. More information:  cuevapintada.com.
    12Painted Cave (Grand Canary). Since its discovery in 1873 until systematic excavation began in 1987, the site has gone through many issues that brought it close to destruction and oblivion. The pre-Hispanic site, which includes more than 60 homes and artificial caves, dates back between the 6th and 16th century. Entrance is €6. More information: cuevapintada.com. age
  • Recópolis (Guadalajara). After unifying the territory of the Visigothic kingdom, King Leovigildo founded this city from scratch in 578 and named it after his son, the future king Recaredo. Among the excavated remains, visitors can see a palace, a church and a wall. Entrance is €5.
    13Recópolis (Guadalajara). After unifying the territory of the Visigothic kingdom, King Leovigildo founded this city from scratch in 578 and named it after his son, the future king Recaredo. Among the excavated remains, visitors can see a palace, a church and a wall. Entrance is €5. AGE
  • Medina Azahara (Córdoba). In 936, the first Umayyad caliph from Córdoba, Abd-ar-Rahman III, ordered the construction of a "shining city" – which is what Madinat al-Zahra translates as. It was a lavish city that showcased the splendor and luxury of the region, but it didn’t last long. In 1010 it was destroyed in the war that ended the Umayyad dynasty. Entrance is free. More information:  www.museosdeandalucia.es.
    14Medina Azahara (Córdoba). In 936, the first Umayyad caliph from Córdoba, Abd-ar-Rahman III, ordered the construction of a "shining city" – which is what Madinat al-Zahra translates as. It was a lavish city that showcased the splendor and luxury of the region, but it didn’t last long. In 1010 it was destroyed in the war that ended the Umayyad dynasty. Entrance is free. More information: www.museosdeandalucia.es. Getty
  • Segobriga. This city is a good example of the urban development of Roman Hispania. Pliny the Elder spoke of the richness of its mines of lapis specularis, a variety of translucent gypsum which was used for the windows of homes. The city prospered thanks to trade as it was the preferred route to Rome from Carthago Nova and Complutum. More information:  segobriga.org.
    15Segobriga. This city is a good example of the urban development of Roman Hispania. Pliny the Elder spoke of the richness of its mines of lapis specularis, a variety of translucent gypsum which was used for the windows of homes. The city prospered thanks to trade as it was the preferred route to Rome from Carthago Nova and Complutum. More information: segobriga.org.