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of a civilization

from 30 April 2021

to 16 January 2022

The Iberians await you at the MAC!!

The exhibition “The Iberian Enigma. Archaeology of a civilization” proposes a new look at the history and culture of the Iberians.

The exhibition has been configured as a great fresco or historical panorama that, through an innovative and evocative museography, invites us to delve into the discovery of one of the most original Mediterranean civilizations of the Second Iron Age (6th-1st centuries BC).

7 Areas and 6 Enigmas

Come and discover them!


Area In search of the Iberians

The first major find linked to the Iberian world was in the mid-19th century in Cerro de los Santos (Montealegre del Castillo, Albacete), where hundreds of stone sculptures appeared.

Enigma Where did the Iberians come from?


Area The Iberian mosaic

The Iberians were a heterogeneous group of people that occupied the Mediterranean coastal region between Almeria and northern Catalonia between the 6th and the 1st centuries BC.

Enigma What language did they speak?

Iberian hasn’t been translated and the debat continues


Area The first Iberians

The Iberian were not people that arrived from other lands, as orginally thought. Current research suggests gradual processes of evolution of the local people in all areas.

Enigma What did they believe in?

Images and symbols that embody the invisible


Area The time of princes

The prosperity of Iberian society was in parallel with the
consolidation of a hereditary warrior aristocracy that resided in imposing buildings in the main towns.

Enigma Equals in the face of death?

Archaeology offers some answers


Area Inside Iberia

As regards to economic strategies, the internal diversity of the Iberian world is evident. Everywhere basic activities are developed, but there is also a clear regional diversification.

Enigma Where was the Iberian Barcelona?

The roots of a city


Area Between Rome and Carthage

The conflict between Rome and Carthage in the 3rd century BC was of global dimension and affected many other peoples, one of which being the Iberians.

Enigma Which way did Hannibal go?

The tracks of a great army


Area The end of a world

At the end of the 1st century BC Rome completed the conquest of the Iberian peninsula. The local cultures ended up disappearing in favour of the language, law and religion of the empire.

Enigma 1000 square metres of innovative and evocative exhibition

An exceptional heritage

A selection of almost 500 objects on display from 38 Catalan, Spanish and French museums and institutions in line with the Museum’s rich collection

Figure of a warrior on a horse

Possible tip of a standard (signum equitum) that would be supported on a long pole of metal or wood. These elements distinguished a group of riders on the battlefield or at military parades. The figure of the rider symbolizes the image of the hero as a mythical ancestor of equestrian elites, who hold power in society. The piece depicts a rider, naked and without weapons, mounted on a horse. The distinctive helmet has a large crest. The piece is set on a circular platform.

  • Unknown origin
  • Bronze
  • 400-300 BC
  • 90 x 34 x 28 mm
  • Private Catalan Foundation for Iberian Archaeology
  • Photographic archive of the MAC, M. Carreté

Female Ex-voto

High-ranking lady in a praying or offering position, with open and outstretched hands, of exaggerated size, to highlight the request to the divinity. She wears a high headdress or miter covered by a cloak that falls behind her shoulders. Under the cloak she wears a long sleeveless tunic with a strip of cloth crossing his upper body. She wears a spiral torc around her neck and two discs at ear level.

  • Cueva de la Lobera Sanctuary, Castellar, Jaén
  • Bronze
  • 400-300 aC
  • 66 x 33 x 24 mm
  • Museu d’Arqueologia de Catalunya-Barcelona
  • No. reg. MAC BCN-019292
  • Photographic archive of the MAC, ArtworkPhoto.eu


Large globular container with airtight lid. It has a decoration painted on the sides distributed in two bands, the top with sections of concentric semicircles and waves around the bottom. On the lid we find motifs of ivy or smilax leaf intertwined with filaments. On the lid and main body are small repair holes that denote the value and esteem of the piece by the owners.

  • Turó de la Font de la Canya, Avinyonet del Penedès, Penedès
  • Painted Iberian pottery with oxidizing firing
  • 400-200 BC
  • 250 x 330 x 330 mm
  • DO Vinífera Visitor Centre, Avinyonet del Penedès; Vinseum, Vilafranca del Penedès. Dipòsit de la Generalitat de Catalunya
  • No. reg. TFC09-SJ158-UE1521

Askos with inscription

Closed container (askos) in the shape of a bull, which lacks the head, the nozzle of the hole to fill with liquid and the handle. It appeared under the stones lining door 1. It has a votive / religious inscription, as it begins with a standard formula (neitin iunstir) that is used in votive contexts and also in letters and other texts on lead as a welcome, similar to a ‘May God Be With You’.

  • Puig de Sant Andreu, Ullastret, Baix Empordà
  • Clay. Iberian pottery with oxidizing firing
  • 500-300 BC
  • 100 x 135 mm
  • Museu d’Arqueologia de Catalunya-Ullastret
  • No. reg. MAC ULL-01468
  • Archive of the MAC, Josep Casanova

Woman known as “the Cánovas head”

Head of a life-size sculpture. The woman is wearing a conical mitre covered by a veil. The almond-shaped eyes protrude from the face, with the gaze directed downwards, as if it is to be viewed from a lower position. The lips form a serene smile. The highlight is the headband that covers the forehead, with plant and geometric motifs, finished with a rosette at each end. We find oval motifs that progressively increase in size framing the face. Perhaps a representation of the hair. The statue represents a woman of high social status.

  • Cerro de los Santos Sanctuary, Montealegre del Castillo, Albacete
  • Limestone
  • 400-200 BC
  • 285 x 135 x 155 mm
  • Museu del Castell de Peralada
  • No. reg. 6654
  • Museu del Castell de Perelada

Human skull with nail

It is the first documented skull from the Iberian world, discovered in 1911, corresponding to a woman between 30 and 40 years old. There are remnants of a small bone tumour in the posterior area and there are marks of skinning on the front and preparation of the bone to prevent it from breaking when the iron nail is inserted.

  • Puig Castellar, Santa Coloma de Gramenet, Barcelona
  • Bone and iron
  • 300-200 BC
  • 149 x 210 mm
  • Museu d’Arqueologia de Catalunya-Barcelona
  • No. reg. MAC BCN-039986
  • Photographic archive of the MAC, ArtWorkPhoto.eu


An element that would be part of a series applied to a necklace or personal ornamental item. Decoration applied on a sheet of gold with twisted gold threads that define different concentric circles, four on the sheet, two on the side and five on the bottom. In the central part of the sheet, a U-shaped motif and two contrasting semicircles, in twisted thread. At the top, a thread runs from one end of the sheet to the other, with two circular sconces at each end.

  • Castellet de Banyoles, Tivissa, Ribera d’Ebre
  • Gold
  • 250-195 BC
  • 30 mm h
  • Museu Nacional Arqueològic de Tarragona
  • No. reg. MNAT 6921
  • Archive of the MNAT, R. Cornadó

Dishekel. Spanish-Carthaginian coin

Coin from the Mazarrón treasure. On the obverse we find the bust of Melgart, assimilated to the Greek Heracles by the club, the protector god of the Barca family and known in Iberia. The image is reminiscent of the Greek style. The apparent realism suggests that it may be an image of Hannibal. On the reverse, a war elephant, a symbol of the Punic armies.

  • Paraje el Saladillo, Mazarrón, Múrcia
  • Silver
  • 237-227 BC
  • 27.3 mm in diameter / 14,76 g
  • Museo Arqueológico Nacional, Madrid
  • No. reg. MAN 1993/67/1556
  • Archive of the Museo Arqueológico Nacional, Raúl Fernández Ruiz


Block with sculpted front face, incomplete. In the central part is the figure of a rider armed with an oval shield with a marked boss and a spear. At the bottom, at the foot of the horse, is a standing male figure of remarkably smaller size, probably naked, in front of a figure of a wounded animal with its spear in its back, quite lost. At the bottom of the stele we can see two rows of straight spears, in groups of eight. On the upper frieze, there is a decoration of sinuous lines, while a string motif delimits the perimeter.

  • Palerm, Teruel
  • Limestone
  • 200-50 BC
  • 1300 x 690 x 270 mm
  • Museu d’Arqueologia de Catalunya-Barcelona
  • No. reg. MAC BCN-019878
  • Photographic archive of the MAC, ArtWorkPhoto.eu

Tivissa Treasure

Selection of objects that form part of the so-called Tivissa treasure, found by chance in 1927 and which entered the MAC in 1936. It is considered the best example of goldsmithing located in Iberian territory. It consists of four patens, eleven goblet-shaped vessels, a small kylix, a torc-type necklace and a spiral bracelet finished with two serpent heads, all of them silver and some with gilded details.

  • Castellet de Banyoles, Tivissa, Ribera d’Ebre
  • Partially gilded silver
  • 250-195 BC
  • Museu d’Arqueologia de Catalunya-Barcelona
  • No. reg. MAC BCN-19445-19460, 27708, 40247
  • MAC archive, Hugo Fernández

Torso of a warrior

An iconic piece in Iberian statuary, of which the torso with remains of the original polychrome is preserved. It represents an Iberian warrior adorned with a luxurious panoply of which the armour disk (Kardiophylax) decorated with the head of a threatening wolf, in relief. The wolf is one of the most present animals in iconography, related to the wild world as opposed to the human order and beyond. The careful technique allows us to appreciate details like the neck of the tunic and its folds, and the straps that would fix the disc on the chest. The upper straps feature a decoration of acorns surrounded by a wavy line. Also noteworthy is the belt buckle plate with an interlacing that fastens the tunic.

  • L’Alcúdia, Elche, Alicante
  • Limestone
  • 525- 475 BC
  • 420 x 380 x 220 mm
  • Fundació L’Alcúdia – Universitat d’Alacant, Elche
  • No. reg. LA-884
  • Fundació L’Alcúdia – Universitat d’Alacant

“Lord of the Horses” stele

Bas-relief showing the Iberian god Despotes Hippo, sculpted in a square block. The god is depicted bifrontally, sitting on a scissor chair, and holding the snouts of two horses sitting on their hind legs. The details of the central character’s mouth, eyes and hair have been highlighted with incisions, as well as the eyes and mane of the horses. “The lord of the horses” is one of the few known Iberian deities, characteristic of the southeast of the peninsula, with precedents in the Mediterranean. Most of them, like this one from Villaricos, appear in open spaces, outside the villages, places where horses were possibly bred. This animal symbolized the status of the Iberian elite

  • Villaricos, Cuevas de Almazora, Almería
  • Limestone
  • 300-100 BC
  • 310 x 380 x 180 mm
  • Museu d’Arqueologia de Catalunya-Barcelona
  • No. reg. MAC-BCN-019892
  • Photographic archive of the MAC, ArtWorkPhoto.eu

Lead plaque with inscription

Inscription on lead plaque, a possible commercial letter. It has an elongated rectangular shape, with irregular contours, and must have been rolled into nine folds. It is written on both sides in North-eastern Iberian writing. On side A, there are six inscribed lines that occupy the entire surface, and one line on side B, from end to end. This is one of the most extensive Iberian inscriptions. In the text you can read names of people and numerals, which has allowed this document to be interpreted as a business letter, similar to the Greek letters located in Empúries and Pech Maho.

  • Puig de Sant Andreu, Ullastret, Baix Empordà
  • Lead
  • 300-200 BC
  • 40 x 155 mm
  • Museu d’Arqueologia de Catalunya-Ullastret
  • No. reg. MAC ULL-03309
  • MAC archive, Josep Casanova

Male head known as “big ears”

Small head modeled in clay from which the asymmetrical ears protrude, whence the name by which it is known. He has a kind face, with closed eyes, a sharp nose and a small mouth, half smiling. He has short hair, with a parting in the middle and a fringe. It was embedded in a wall in the Roman city of Lucentum, near the city walls. This is probably the head of an ancestor, given his realistic features, of which there are other examples in the Bastet area. However, other interpretations point to the representation of a deity who would convey the prayers, hence the oversized ears.

  • Tossal de Manises / Lucentum, l’Albufereta, Alicante
  • Terracota
  • 400-300 BC
  • 131 x 99 mm
  • Museu Arqueològic d’Alacant-MARQ
  • No. reg. MARQ S5817
  • MARQ (Museu Arqueològic Provincial d’Alacant) archive

Wolf with baby suckling

Funerary sculpture depicting a wolf sitting with suckling baby while holding a prey with its front legs. A position that is interpreted as a sign of both protective motherhood and strength. Due to its position and size, the piece could occupy the back part of an aristocratic funerary monument.

  • Necropolis at Cerro de los Molinillos, Baena, Córdoba
  • Stone
  • 200-100 BC
  • 980 x 430 x 690 mm
  • Museo Íbero de Jaén
  • No. reg. MIJ-00291 aC
  • Museo Íbero photographic archive


Vase in the shape of a decorated chalice. The main image is in the upper half, where a bird is seen with outstretched wings ending in scrolls. The lip is painted with wolf teeth and lines, and the lower half, with a band of intersecting semicircles. The representation of birds with outstretched wings is common in painted pottery, especially in the Elche-Arxena style. The iconography has Mediterranean origins. The bird is likened to a figure that links the world of the living and the world of the dead, but has also been identified with a female deity, a winged goddess who would also emerge from the underworld.

  • Corral de Saus, Moixent, València
  • Painted Iberian pottery with oxidizing firing
  • 300-100 BC
  • 134 x 123 x 123 mm
  • Museu de Prehistòria de València
  • No. reg. MPV-01906
  • MUPREVA photographic archive

Activities and press

Cycle of conferences

Iberian enigmas

Specialists give answers to the most intriguing enigmas

Zoom channel
Free registration

Adult workshop

Iberian writing

Via the Arqueonet platform
North-eastern Iberian writing: How did the Catalan Iberians write?

Family workshop

Iberian colours

23 May, 6 & 20 June, 4 & 18 July

Time: 10.30am. Duration: 2 hours. Price: 6€, includes entry to the museum. Booking essential