Society and culture in iron-age northern Spain
There’s nothing quite like a picture of a smashed-up human skull to send you scurrying to an exhibition about some prehistoric culture you’ve never heard of before. The stark poster advertising ‘Northern Iberians: Life, Death and Ritual on the Other Side of the Pyrenees’, a travelling exhibition created by the Archeological Museum of Catalonia, certainly does the trick. It focuses our attention on the darker rituals of the ancient Iberians – who lived in north-eastern Spain in the immediate centuries before and after Christ. The poster image refers to some of their odder practices, such as cutting off their enemies’ heads and nailing them to poles in the middle of the street. However there was more to Iberian culture than this, as the fine ceramics and jewellery in this exhibition attests. The Iberians also had a written language, although it was supplanted by Latin in the second century AD and has no known descendants. However it’s in Iberian sculpture that this shadowy culture comes alive, with figures of goddesses, sphinx-like beasts and armoured horsemen revealing a compelling, part-classical part-primitive beauty. If you’ve never come across the ancient Iberians before, this is a great opportunity to make their acquaintance.