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Bertan > Bertan 20 Burdin aroko herri harresituak Gipuzkoan > Ingeles bertsioa: Everyday life

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Everyday life

126. Inside the fortified settlements and in the surrounding area, the people worked the land and tended their herds. The drawing shows a representation of the south side of the Intxur enclosure.© Fernando Hierro
126. Inside the fortified settlements and in the surrounding area, the people worked the land and tended their herds. The drawing shows a representation of the south side of the Intxur enclosure.© Fernando Hierro

For a contemporary picture of the Iron Age inhabitants of the region, we have to turn to the Greek geographer, Strabo, whose "Geography" - written between 29 BCE and 7 BCE with additions dating from 18 CE on - gives us a precise portrait of these people:

All these mountain inhabitants are sober people, generally drinking little more than water. They sleep on the ground and wear their hair long like women, although when fighting they tie a band around their heads. Their staple meat is goat; to Ares they sacrifice goats and also captives and horses; they often make hecatombs of all sorts of victims, in the Greek fashion, and as Pindarus says they "sacrifice a hundred at a time`. They practise gymnastic, hoplitic and equine combat, and train for boxing, racing, skirmishes and pitched battles. For two thirds of the year they eat only acorns, which they dry and grind down to make bread which keeps for a long time. They drink beer and when they have wine, which is in scarce supply, they drink it immediately at great family feasts. They use lard instead of oil. They eat sitting on benches built around the walls, arranged by order of age and social position; the food is passed round from hand to hand; while they drink, the men dance to the music of flutes and trumpets, jumping high in the air and falling in an attitude of genuflexion. In Bastetania the women also dance with the men, holding hands. The men dress in black, most wearing the tunics with which they sleep on their straw beds. They use wooden tumblers, like the Celts. The women wear dresses with floral decorations. In the hinterland, instead of coins, they barter with spices or small plates of trimmed silver. Murderers are thrown off precipices and parricides are led beyond the borders of their homeland or city and stoned to death. They marry in the Greek style. Like the ancient Egyptians, they set the sick down by the wayside to be cured by others who have suffered the same illness. Before Brutus' expedition, they only had small leather boats with which they made their way through the estuaries and marshes; today, however, they use vessels made of tree trunks, although their use is still rare... This is the way of life of the mountain people who inhabit the north of Iberia; the Kallaikoi, Astoures and Kantabroi, as far as the Ouaskones and the Pyréne, all of whom live in the same way". (III.3.7.).

129. Flax, documented at the Intxur settlement, was used to make fabrics of a very high quality.© Iñaki Zorrakin
129. Flax, documented at the Intxur settlement, was used to make fabrics of a very high quality.© Iñaki Zorrakin
128. The development of clayworking allowed numerous different vessels to be made for use in everyday life. The use of the potter's wheel was one of the great innovations of this period.© Jose Lopez
128. The development of clayworking allowed numerous different vessels to be made for use in everyday life. The use of the potter's wheel was one of the great innovations of this period.© Jose Lopez
127. The occupants of these open-air settlements conducted many of their activities around the fire, by whose light, they could work on beyond sunset.© Lamia
127. The occupants of these open-air settlements conducted many of their activities around the fire, by whose light, they could work on beyond sunset.© Lamia

Archaeological investigations at protohistoric fortified sites have gradually given us a clearer picture of the everyday life of these ancient inhabitants of Gipuzkoa. Important changes in arable and livestock farming, the introduction of new technologies such as ironworking and improved potting, advances in construction techniques, and increased trading relations, show that these societies were well organised and developing fast.

ARABLE FARMING

132. Peas (Pisum sativum) and broad beans (Vicia faba).© Lamia
132. Peas (Pisum sativum) and broad beans (Vicia faba).© Lamia

Materials found at many settlements in continental Europe show that arable farming was one of the main activities throughout protohistory. Evidence for the practice has been found dating as far back as the Palaeolithic in caves such as Kobaederra, in Bizkaia (J.J. Ibáñez, et al, 1998) and from a later date at dolmens such as Zorroztarri in Gipuzkoa (J. Mujika, 1991). The research of the last twenty years shows that crop farming was introduced gradually into Gipuzkoa, as the inhabitants made increasingly efficient use of the land they had recently reclaimed from the forests and scrubland.

130. Iron sickle from the Intxur settlement.© Aranzadi Zientzia Elkarteko Gordailu Zentroa
130. Iron sickle from the Intxur settlement.© Aranzadi Zientzia Elkarteko Gordailu Zentroa

A large number of pieces of stone, pottery and metal have been found dating from this period on, as well as remains of different plants. These are commonly found in areas of greatest human activity, in or around and give us precise information on the way these tasks were performed.

131. Areas of cultivated land.© Fernando Hierro
131. Areas of cultivated land.© Fernando Hierro

Saddle querns had been used since earlier stages in the development of arable farming; they are common in Iron Age settlements and in Gipuzkoa have been found at Intxur and Basagain. Rotary querns, introduced later, have also been found in Basagain. These utensils were used to make flour from grain or acorns.

133. Ear of spelt.© Xabi Otero
133. Ear of spelt.© Xabi Otero

Many large vessels have been found for storing produce, including grasses; these were made by hand or on a potter's wheel and sometimes occupied a specific place inside the home, where they acted as small larders. Hand-turned vessels have been found at all the sites excavated.

At the same time farm tools and other utensils were developing considerably; after the introduction of iron working, well into the first millennium BCE, many tools were manufactured in this metal and iron sickles and ploughshares have been found at the sites in Gipuzkoa.

136. Charred grains of wheat from the Intxur settlement.© Edurne Koch
136. Charred grains of wheat from the Intxur settlement.© Edurne Koch

But the best evidence of arable farming practices comes from the actual crops grown at the time. Large amounts of burnt grain have been found from cereals such as spelt, barley - husked and naked - and millet, as well as pulses such as peas and broad beans. These plants were combined with wild species, such as wild oats, brome grass, plantain and brambles. The grain found at Intxur came from inside dwellings dating from between 2,260±80 and 2,070±80 years ago.

135. Ploughshare from the Basagain settlement.© Aranzadi Zientzia Elkarteko Gordailu Zentroa, Xabi Otero, Grafismo
135. Ploughshare from the Basagain settlement.© Aranzadi Zientzia Elkarteko Gordailu Zentroa, Xabi Otero, Grafismo

In some cases, there is evidence of crop rotation and processing of the seeds. Crop rotation made for better use of the land. At Intxur cereals alternated with pulses, with sowing seasons in autumn-winter and in spring. Seeds found in one house at the same site contained many impurities while in a separate dwelling, clean grain was found. This shows that after harvesting the seeds were processed in some way. From this time on, cereal and pulse farming was to play a central role in these settlements, allowing highly nutritional harvests, which could easily be stored and eaten throughout the year. In some cases, harvests wree large enough to produce surpluses.

134. Reconstruction of an Iron Age plough.©
134. Reconstruction of an Iron Age plough.

Other plants such as flax (Linum sp.), documented at some sites, such as Intxur, was perhaps used to supplement wool for fabric-making as it was in many settlements from this period.

LIVESTOCK FARMING

137. As the settlers cleared the woodland, they gradually established meadows in which their livestock could graze.© Fernando Hierro
137. As the settlers cleared the woodland, they gradually established meadows in which their livestock could graze.© Fernando Hierro
138. Iron needles like this one found at the Basagain settlement, were essential for making garments.© Lamia
138. Iron needles like this one found at the Basagain settlement, were essential for making garments.© Lamia
139. Sheep (Ovis aries).© Xabi Otero
139. Sheep (Ovis aries).© Xabi Otero

Gipuzkoa contains a considerable range of terrains for livestock farming; from the Atlantic coast to the mountains of the Mediterranean watershed, there are many intermediary terrain types, with plenty of suitable spots for grazing herds all the year round.

140. Cow (Bos taurus).© Xabi Otero
140. Cow (Bos taurus).© Xabi Otero

The settlements discovered to date are located at medium elevations, and all are near land which is suitable for grazing cattle. As is still the case, the highest pastures are only used in the warmer months.

141. Pig (Sus domesticus).© Xabi Otero
141. Pig (Sus domesticus).© Xabi Otero

Judging from the remains found at Basagain and many other sites near Gipuzkoa, the stock consisted mainly of sheep, goats, cows and pigs. However, although no bones have been found, other animals such as horses, donkeys, dogs and hens were probably also raised. In La Hoya, in the neighbouring province of Araba, remains of hens have been found dating from the Second Iron Age. The soil at most of these sites is very acidic, and the bones have note been preserved in good condition.

By studying pollen from the digs, we can form an idea of the type of vegetation that existed in nearby areas. Forests near inhabited areas were often felled for timber and also to clear the land for crops and pastures. Some of the cattle that grazed in the adjoining areas were moved to higher ground during the summer, a practice which is still common today. The herds were driven to mountains such as Aralar, Aizkorri or Ernio. The first archaeological evidence for this transhumance is beginning to emerge in areas such as Urbia (Ugalde, Tx.; et al, 1992-93).

143. Plants from the pastureland documented at Intxur.: Meadow fescue (Festuca pratensis), Perennial Ryegrass (Lolium perenne), Sweet clover (Melilotus altissima), Medicago hybrida, Red clover (Trifolium pratense),  Ribwort plantain (Plantago lanceolata)© Iñaki Zorrakin
143. Plants from the pastureland documented at Intxur.: Meadow fescue (Festuca pratensis), Perennial Ryegrass (Lolium perenne), Sweet clover (Melilotus altissima), Medicago hybrida, Red clover (Trifolium pratense), Ribwort plantain (Plantago lanceolata)© Iñaki Zorrakin

Domestic livestock provided Iron Age people with meat, fat (possibly used for a range of purposes as well as a substitute for olive oil) and milk, but also raw materials such as wool, hides and horn with which they made fabrics and other basic items. Oxen and horses were used to plough the land and pull carts and were also ridden.

Evidence from some sites shows that the inhabitants made cheese and other dairy produce, using leather or wooden vessels and pots with perforations, as well as sieves.

142. Cows, sheep or goats and pigs were the most common species of livestock in the latter part of the prehistoric period. Remains of all of them have been found in Basagain.© Aranzadi Zientzia Elkarteko Gordailu Zentroa
142. Cows, sheep or goats and pigs were the most common species of livestock in the latter part of the prehistoric period. Remains of all of them have been found in Basagain.© Aranzadi Zientzia Elkarteko Gordailu Zentroa

Sheep - common farm animals in this period - provided wool, which was probably the most frequent material for making clothes and other fabrics, as the discovery of remains of looms in houses in various settlements and occasional pieces of cloth attest.

HUNTING, FISHING AND GATHERING

144. Iron Age settlers supplemented their diets by gathering fruit, nuts and seeds. Acorns.© Lamia
144. Iron Age settlers supplemented their diets by gathering fruit, nuts and seeds. Acorns.© Lamia

Although the farm economy was developing fast, some hunting was still practised, mostly to provide supplementary sources of food. A similar trend can be seen with plants; crop farming was supplemented with the gathering of fruits and other plants for food and - in the case of bramble leaves (Rubus fruticosus) and elderberries (Sambucus nigra) for healing purposes.

No evidence of hunting has been found in Gipuzkoan settlements, but it has been documented at other nearby sites and it seems likely that such proof may come to light here in the next few years. The animals most commonly hunted were probably deer and wild boar. By this period, however, hunting played a very secondary role to the breeding of domestic animals.

The inhabitants of several Iron Age sites are know to have fished. They used bronze -and later iron - hooks, and possibly also nets; however, we have no clear evidence of this activity from the sites excavated in Gipuzkoa.

147. Large storage pots such as these ones found in the Munoaundi settlement, were used to hold much of the produce they gathered.© Edurne Koch, Xabi Otero
147. Large storage pots such as these ones found in the Munoaundi settlement, were used to hold much of the produce they gathered.© Edurne Koch, Xabi Otero
150. Salmon.©
150. Salmon.
145. Hazelnuts.© Lamia
145. Hazelnuts.© Lamia
146. Hunting of deer and wild boar continued, but played a secondary role.© Xabi Otero
146. Hunting of deer and wild boar continued, but played a secondary role.© Xabi Otero

As well as practising arable farming the inhabitants of these fortified settlements continued to gather a number of wild plants from nearby areas, as they had since the dawn of Prehistory. If we turn back to the passage from Strabo, we read: " For two thirds of the year they eat only acorns, which they dry and grind down to make bread which keeps for a long time.". While we should be cautious about taking these accounts at face value, many remains of acorns have certainly been found at settlements in this area (Buruntza, Basagain). They may have been used to supplement crops of cereals and pulses: cereals were harvested in summer, whereas acorns, which provided very similar nutrients - carbohydrates, fat, proteins and fibre - were gathered in early autumn. S. Mason (1995) suggests that an average of 700 kg of acorns could be gathered per hectare in the SW. Iberian peninsula, as compared to 650 kg per ha of traditional cereals.

They also gathered hazelnuts - rich in fatty oils and vitamins, elderberries and blackberries.

148. The use of seafood has been documented from the earliest prehistoric periods.© Lamia
148. The use of seafood has been documented from the earliest prehistoric periods.© Lamia
149. Trout.© Xabi Otero
149. Trout.© Xabi Otero
152. The many rivers and streams in the region formed an important source of food for the settlements.© Xabi Otero
152. The many rivers and streams in the region formed an important source of food for the settlements.© Xabi Otero
151. Blackberries.© Lamia
151. Blackberries.© Lamia

METALWORKING

153. Goethite.© Lamia
153. Goethite.© Lamia
155. Limonite.© Lamia
155. Limonite.© Lamia
157. Malachite.© Lamia
157. Malachite.© Lamia
156. Chalybite (siderite).© Lamia
156. Chalybite (siderite).© Lamia

Bronze working was to continue throughout the first millennium although the introduction of ironworking relegated it to a second place.

154. Metalworking relied on the existence of outcrops of mineral ore.© Lamia
154. Metalworking relied on the existence of outcrops of mineral ore.© Lamia

Although bronze was not widely available locally, there is ample evidence that it was being worked. A variety of pieces have been unearthed, made by smelting the metal and pouring it into moulds. The people of the area probably traded with areas where bronze was available, purchasing ingots or cake for smelting as well as melting down old pieces or resorting to local resources, however poor in ore. Bronze was used to make a range of tools, and also for weapons and ornaments.

Iron working is thought to have been first introduced in the Ebro basin from the eighth century BCE; however, many of the iron utensils unearthed date from 500 BCE on, although a variety of items may have been imported before this time through trade with more technologically advanced areas.

160. Auriferous pyrite.© Lamia
160. Auriferous pyrite.© Lamia
159. Pyrite.© Lamia
159. Pyrite.© Lamia
158. Oligist.© Lamia
158. Oligist.© Lamia
161. Different types of furnaces were used to achieve the temperatures required for metalworking.© Xabi Otero
161. Different types of furnaces were used to achieve the temperatures required for metalworking.© Xabi Otero

Once they had acquired the technological skills required and mastered the various phases of the ironworking process, the people of these settlements began to make their own pieces, although no large deposits of ore were available at this time, and they may have had to resort to mining small deposits. The discovery of iron slag at Basagain and Munoaundi shows that iron was being worked in the region.

162. Iron sickle from Intxur.© Xabi Otero
162. Iron sickle from Intxur.© Xabi Otero

It soon became the principal material for metal tools, with bronze generally only used to make ornamental items, such as clasps, bracelets and rings. Iron was used for farm tools (sickles and ploughshares); utensils (knives and scissors), building tools (nails and staples), and weapons.

163. Bronze accessories from Basagain.© Lamia
163. Bronze accessories from Basagain.© Lamia

Several iron objects from Intxur have been carbon dated at between 2,030±80 and 2,260±80 years. Other items from the nearby village of Basagain have been similarly dated to between 2,170±80 and 2,360±120 years ago.

166. Iron nails from Basagain.© Lamia
166. Iron nails from Basagain.© Lamia
165. Fragments of iron from Basagain.© Lamia
165. Fragments of iron from Basagain.© Lamia
164. Slag from the Basagain settlement.© Lamia
164. Slag from the Basagain settlement.© Lamia

TRADE

167. Glass beads from Basagain.© Lamia
167. Glass beads from Basagain.© Lamia
171. Some decorative objects were the result of trade with distant peoples.© Xabi Otero
171. Some decorative objects were the result of trade with distant peoples.© Xabi Otero

The great strides made in arable and livestock farming, and the important technological developments of the era - the most important of which was iron working - helped increase agricultural output, and in some cases provided a surplus. These excess products were traded for other materials. We have discovered a number of items which help us trace the route of this trade. Metal weights have been found at some sites with different marks and different weights. One of the most important discoveries is a set of weights from La Hoya, in Araba, which contains parts in bronze and iron from the Celtiberian level. In Gipuzkoa a bronze weight recovered at Munoaundi has a series of marks on the top. These discoveries are proof not only of trading relations, but also of a knowledge of mathematics.

168. This glass bracelet, rebuilt from a fragment found at Basagain, gives clear evidence of long-distance trade.© Xabi Otero
168. This glass bracelet, rebuilt from a fragment found at Basagain, gives clear evidence of long-distance trade.© Xabi Otero

Some glass pieces found at sites in Gipuzkoa - such as Intxur and Basagain - suggest that the inhabitants may have traded with other parts of Europe. These magnificent jewels give us some idea of the level of development of these late prehistoric farmers.

169. Fragment of glass bracelet, from the La Tène period, found during excavations at the Basagain settlement.© Lamia
169. Fragment of glass bracelet, from the La Tène period, found during excavations at the Basagain settlement.© Lamia
170. Bronze clasp, found in Munoaundi and probably manufactured at the settlement or nearby.© Aranzadi Zientzia Elkarteko Gordailu Zentroa
170. Bronze clasp, found in Munoaundi and probably manufactured at the settlement or nearby.© Aranzadi Zientzia Elkarteko Gordailu Zentroa
173. Cord-decorated pottery from Buruntza.© Aranzadi Zientzia Elkarteko Gordailu Zentroa
173. Cord-decorated pottery from Buruntza.© Aranzadi Zientzia Elkarteko Gordailu Zentroa
172. Bronze weight from Munoaundi.© Aranzadi Zientzia Elkarteko Gordailu Zentroa
172. Bronze weight from Munoaundi.© Aranzadi Zientzia Elkarteko Gordailu Zentroa
174. Gold bowls from Axtroki, dating from the Hallstat period. Found in Eskoriatza.© Aranzadi Zientzia Elkarteko Gordailu Zentroa
174. Gold bowls from Axtroki, dating from the Hallstat period. Found in Eskoriatza.© Aranzadi Zientzia Elkarteko Gordailu Zentroa

Among the items imported-sometimes from great distances-are the golden bowls found in Axtroki (Eskoriatza), dating from 850 to 500 BCE. They are hemispherical in shape and decorated with a range of geometrical motifs, similar to those excavated at digs in Central Europe.

ARMED CONFLICT

179. Building the wall at Basagain.© Angel Benito Gastañaga
179. Building the wall at Basagain.© Angel Benito Gastañaga

Many archaeological finds show evidence of armed conflict throughout the late Bronze Age and the Iron Age, or at least of the potential risk of war. A good example is the violent destruction of the settlement at La Hoya, in Araba, during one period of occupation.

180. Detail of the inner face of the wall at Basagain.© Lamia
180. Detail of the inner face of the wall at Basagain.© Lamia

Defensive walls and fosses are a feature of all the settlements excavated to date; together with the strategic locations of the settlements, generally built overlooking the surrounding land, suggest that defence played an important role in the lives of these people.

175. Iron spear ferrule found at Munoaundi.© Edurne Koch
175. Iron spear ferrule found at Munoaundi.© Edurne Koch

As well as providing land for crops and pasture, the felling of the surrounding woods served a strategic purpose, offering clearer visibility of any potential attackers.

176. Iron spear ferrule found at Basagain.© Lamia
176. Iron spear ferrule found at Basagain.© Lamia

As surplus produce increased, so too did the risk of theft and looting.

178. Reconstruction of parallel defensive walls on the south side of Intxur.© Fernando Hierro
178. Reconstruction of parallel defensive walls on the south side of Intxur.© Fernando Hierro

Many items have been discovered that are directly related to warfare; weapons - swords, shields and lances - are common in the protohistoric settlements themselves and also in graves. As well as the strong defensive walls and complementary fosses, the sites in Gipuzkoa, such as Basagain and Munoaundi, have also yielded iron weapons, such as spear tips.

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