Castro of Santa Trega



Location: A Guarda, Galicia  Map

Constructed: 600- 200 BC


Museo de Monte de Santa Tecla

A Guarda

Tel. 986 61 4546

Open: Tue- Sun


Description of Castro of Santa Trega

Castro of Santa Trega is an ancient Celtic settlement situated near a little fishing port of A Guarda in a Galicia province in North- West Spain. A group of stone dwellings were constructed in 600 - 200 BC. However petroglyphs on the hill Santa Tecla where the settlement sits date back as early as 2000 BC. During Roman times Castro of Santa Trega was inhibited, but human presence went into decline and the site was completely abandoned. Museum of this archaeological site Museo de Monte de Santa Tecla is located on a hilltop nearby. It was declared a National Historic Artistic Monument in 1931 and also has the consideration of Cultural Interest.


In several of the rocks of the mountain where Castro of Santa Trega stands today archeologists found petroglyphs made 2,000 years before the construction of the fort, so, according to the thesis maintained by Antonio de la Peña Santos, director of the last systematic excavation campaigns in the eighties, settlement had a continued occupation between the 2000 B.C., until the first century AD. From that moment began a slow process of abandonment, which could have been interrupted with temporary sporadic reoccupations in late Roman times.


Archaeological excavations
While it can be assumed that the inhabitants of La Guardia must have known about the existence of the remains of ancient buildings in the mountains for a long time, it should be emphasized that when Father Sarmiento visited La Guardia in 1745, he did not notice anything. mentioning them; it mentions a mountain, a hermit and his pilgrimage.

First discoveries and links
The first recorded discovery was a bronze sculpture of Hercules in 1862, which was found by stonemasons working near the hermitage. This sculpture was stolen from the museum in the 1970s.

In the second half of the 19th century, the ruins began to be appreciated in due measure. The earliest written records of the ruins can be found in the archaeological notes of Ramón López Garcia in 18643 and in the testimony of Manuel Murguia in his 1888 Historia de Galicia, which deduces from the ruins a relationship with the Celtic race. family of Gauls.

Already in the 20th century, the Pro-Monte de Santa Tecla Society was established in La Guardia, which a year later contributed to the air conditioning work around the hermit and the planning of the uphill access road. Work on this road was found at the site known as Campo Redondo, the walls of buildings and the foundations of the outer wall of the fort.

Faced with these discoveries, the society requested official permission to begin systematic excavations at the site, a permit that was issued on February 26, 1914, in which Ignacio Calvo Rodriguez of the National Archaeological Museum was appointed chief archaeologist.

From that moment on, the site began to appear in the media. In the same year 1914, Canon Dominguez Fontela, without any argument, attributed the remains of the "Iberian-Roman civilization" and identified them with the historical Abobrica mentioned by Pliny the Elder (a theory still held by some authors today).

First excavations (1914-1923)
From 1914 to 1923, Ignacio Calvo was the head of the archaeological work, who covered the results of his work in several articles. The Pro-Monte Society is also involved in the area known as Fonte Nova. Calvo attributed ownership to the city from the early Bronze Age to Roman times. He was the first author to call it Quotation (following the example of Portuguese archeology) and talked about the possibility of identifying it with the mythical Monte Medulio, where the classical writers also found the mythical last and heroic resistance of the Galicians.

Hikes of Mergelina (1928-1933)
Between 1928 and 1933, the University of Valladolid professor Cayetano de Mergelina y Luna, using the most advanced methods of the time, conducted a series of archaeological campaigns focused mainly on the eastern slope, exposing a large number of houses and other structures.

In 1945, he published the results of his work in a study entitled La citania de Santa Tecla. La Guardia (Pontevedra) ". Following most of the "invasion theories" of the time, he dated the city to the 6th century occupation. c. C. to the 3rd century AD, with a new occupation in the 5th century, and attributed to its inhabitants a post-galstatic character of Celtic origin.

Abandoned period (1933-1979)
Despite the fact that in 1931 this place was declared a national historical and artistic monument, during these years this place suffered due to the expansion of the ascent route and aggressive reforestation on the mountain, which seriously worsened its condition.

Since 1933, the date of the last campaign of Mergelina, the discovered remains have suffered from the consequences of their abandonment, filled with vegetation. This period of oblivion lasted until 1979.

During these years, there were few and short-term interventions, such as the intervention of Manuel Fernandez Rodriguez in the vicinity of the building known as Casa Forestal, or the renovations carried out in 1965 and 1972 in two houses on both sides of the road, renovations that are from a scientific point of view vision they pose serious problems with fidelity, but in a short time they have become an icon of Castro culture.

This stage of abandonment ended in 1979, when Alfredo García Alain was in charge of cleaning and strengthening the buildings closest to the road with the support of the Ministry of Culture.


Campaigns from 1983 to 1988
In 1983, with the financial collaboration of the Junta de Galicia and the La Guardia city council, the archaeologist Antonio de la Peña Santos led a team from the Pontevedra Museum initiating a new period of systematic excavations. This stage focused on the northern corner of the town.

The structures discovered in these and previous campaigns were consolidated in these same years by a team led by Montserrat García Lastra Merino.

Since 1988, no more archaeological work has been carried out.

Already in 1996 the Ministry of Culture and Sports announced in the press that they would undertake actions for the socio-cultural use of this site. In July 2006, the Ministry announced a master plan for the Santa Tecla site, which included the protection of the entire mountain, new archaeological works, etc.

The visit to the mountain is not free. On the other hand, the site lacks surveillance and the number of unguided visitors causes the structures to suffer significant deterioration.8

Every year, in August, the so-called Fiesta del Monte takes place, declared of tourist interest.

The settlers of the castro
Following classical authors such as Plinio the Elder, Pomponio Mela, Appiano, Ptolemy ... the southwestern end of present-day Galicia would be populated by the community of Grovii or Grovios, whose most important city would be Castellum Tyde or Tude, the current one You and. Following the theory of Antonio de la Peña Santos:
The Galician forts were not, then, inhabited by Celts in the strict sense but by Galicians only very remotely related to what has been understood as continental Celtic cultures, with which they perhaps shared a common linguistic background within the Indo-European group.

Interpreting the archaeological findings, it would be a town whose egalitarian structure (buildings of similar sizes), with a non-bellicose peaceful character (defensive systems more symbolic than effective) and whose agrarian economy (proximity to fertile lands, approximately 1 or 2 km from distance) but with a certain purchasing and commercial capacity (abundant foreign products).

With time and as a result of the reforms of the emperors of the Flavian dynasty and the progressive introduction of the Roman system of exploitation, the inhabitants of the town began a slow abandonment to settle in the new villages and vici, located in the valleys and closer to the lands with the highest productive value.

Community economy
The importance of cereals in the community's economy is evident in the numerous stone manual mills found scattered throughout the excavated area, most of the late circular mills, which some authors relate to Roman influence.

Other instruments found such as axes, aixolas, podons and bronze and iron sickles speak of agricultural work.

The large amounts of monofacial cut edges stand out, as are very regular discoidal nodules found on the interior pavements of the structures. The primitive design (similar to the Choppers, very rudimentary and ancient lithic utensils, from the Lower Paleolithic) and its possible usefulness cause strangeness among scholars.

The collection of wild fruits would be another source of resources attested mainly in the remains of charred acorns that were found.

For the study of organic remains, the shells are essential, of which several were found at the site. In them it is attested, in addition to the activity of exploitation of marine resources, the livestock exploitation of the species of ovicápridae (Ovis aries and Capra hircus), bovids (Bos taurus) and gallinaceae (Gallus gallus). Highlights the absence of domestic pig.

In relation to fishing, three bronze and two iron hooks were found, and skeletal remains of specimens of the Sparidae, Gadidae, Labridade and Morenidae families, species surely caught from the same coastline. Of the remains from shellfish harvesting, more than half belong to the common limpet (Patella vulgata), followed in quantity by the mussel (Mytilus galloprovincialis), the common periwinkle (Littorina littorea) and the toothed top (Monodonta lineata). It is worth noting the absence of species typical of sandy areas.


Among the handicraft activities attested, the most widespread is textiles, witnessed in the large number of loom weights found, spindle loops13 and in the bronze needles with oval eye (all straight except one). On the contrary, the findings related to metallurgical activity are scarce, they are some pieces of crucible and some stone molds.

The commercial activity must have been of great importance, so much so that its own situation would be determined by its logistical value for commercial maritime cabotage as well as river navigation (going up the lower course of the Miño). With the arrival of the Romans, the community was incorporated into the complex maritime and land trading system of the Empire.

The discovery of a large quantity of ceramic remains of amphorae confirms this trade. Most of these correspond to models used to transport wine, other models would be for oil (mainly to serve as fuel for skylights) and other merchandise.

The ceramic pieces found, made of glass and other materials, reinforce the importance of this trade with the Roman world (campaniform ceramics, from terra sigillata). Finally, the almost one hundred coins found, mainly from the governments of Augustus and Tiberius, a group from the republican period and another set of copies minted in the Ebro valley mints, bring us new information about the process of incorporation into the new commercial system that this community was to live.

It is a castreño-roman town whose occupation is situated within the castreña culture. Following the last excavations made, its occupation dates from the 1st century BC to the 1st century AD. C., in a period in which the process of romanization of the peninsular northwest already began. Its abandonment would coincide with the administrative reforms carried out by the emperors of the Flavian Dynasty.

Despite this, the construction system reflects construction techniques that are very respectful of the Castro tradition (almost absolute predominance of circular constructions over rectangular ones) and little influenced by the Roman presence (always urbanistically speaking), although more detailed studies may bring us closer data on this greater or lesser Roman influence.

Of the totality of the excavated, a very low percentage of the estimated size of the settlement, at present only the northern area excavated in the 1980s and some constructions in the highest area of ​​the mountain can be visited. The eastern zone or neighborhood excavated by Mergelina and the one excavated by other teams are covered by bushes and trees and is almost not perceptible. This state of abandonment makes its study impossible. This, together with the inexistence of a planimetry of the site, makes the study of the town as a whole very complicated.

It is delimited by a simple wall that houses an extension of land with maximum axes of 700 meters (north-south) and 300 meters (east-west). Although these dimensions are not duly confirmed and the current vision of the site is subject to the systematic used in its archaeological study, the low percentage of excavated land and the damage that took place since its discovery (road, constructions on the summit , reforestation, etc.).

In the event that subsequent studies confirm these dimensions, we would be in the presence of one of the largest forts found so far both in Galician lands and in northern Portugal.

The wall
In the design of the wall, a function of delimitation of the land with respect to its surroundings seems to prevail, as opposed to defensive or dissuasive functions.

The wall was made in quarrying with mud, not exceeding 160 cm in maximum thickness, lacks foundations and so far no interior accesses have been found to them, such as stairs or ramps.

The north gate opens at its northeast end with a guardhouse on the right. Facing the southern end, not visible today because of the vegetation, another door opens with a right-angle access system.

The communication system in the interior of the northern area is based on a patrol path attached to the wall that surrounds the buildings.

The cabins

Almost all of them have circular or oval plants and are free, not sharing dividing walls with few exceptions. The few cabins with a rectangular plan are also an exception and these have, for the most part, arched corners.

The thickness of its walls is usually quite uniform, about 40 cm on average, and with a better finish facing the outside. The vast majority are small.

They sit directly on the bedrock and their walls would be covered with a mortar of lime and sand. Remains of pigmentation found would indicate that the topcoats would be tinted with different colors.

Many of the cabins have an access hall that many authors understand to be a Mediterranean influence adapted to the characteristics of indigenous constructions.

Inside, some have adjoining benches and the pavement in some cases is terra-stepped and in others slab. In many of the entry thresholds you can see the hinges, holes that the doors would fit into.

In this fort, a large number of monolithic jambs and lintels decorated with geometric shapes, strung, intertwined, have been found. They were also found, embedded in the walls, monolithic cylindrical blocks of not very large dimensions and with one of their faces decorated with geometric shapes such as spirals, trisqueles, pinkish or pinwheels. Other elements, such as bases or so-called moorings, have similar decorations and also representations of animals.

This type of decoration, according to Antonio de la Peña Santos:
highlights the existence of an own and peculiar plastic of the castreño world, product of the assimilation and re-elaboration of ornamental themes of Mediterranean affiliation.

In relation to the roofing system, the traditional theory that defends a coverage with a conical roof supported by a central post is not endorsed by archaeological findings, since the hole to fix the central post has not been found and in that central place they are accustomed to find lareiras for combustion. Due to this lack of reference to archaeological evidence, it is possible to think of a covering system that discharges directly onto the walls. In the same way, there is no evidence to reject the possibility of a conical, flat or gabled covering. On the other hand, if the use of plant materials for its covering has been confirmed, reinforced by ropes tensioned by perforated slabs (weights) that would hang from the limit.

As is logical, not all the cabins would have a residential use, the houses would be those of greater dimensions and with higher quality rigging (some with those lintels and decorated elements already mentioned), with a lobby and that have careful pavements of sablon and with lareiras in the center of the room. In the hall you would find a simple oven.

Another group of buildings, which could be generically called warehouses, similar in number, would have uses other than those for housing, so they present a less elaborate typology and a less careful construction than the residential ones and with a more banked threshold. Inside these constructions, remains of amphorae, some mills, carving edges, etc. were found.

These constructions are adapted to the terrain with the help of small terraced walls that delimit the space. The urban distribution is characterized by the presence of groups of buildings forming perfectly individualized sets. These are known as Family Units (other authors speak of Patio Houses) made up of the corresponding houses and warehouses structured around a small common patio, often paved.

The urban planning of the site includes a complex network of rainwater drainage channels located under the pavements and plains, and sometimes on the surface, sculpted on the base rock and covered with slabs. Sometimes these waters are channeled into cisterns dug into the rock and lined with a waterproofing mortar.

This internal arrangement of the space appears conditioned by the wall, the possible first element to be raised, which makes De La Peña Santos think of the existence of a meticulous planning prior to the construction of the cabins.


In the same area where the town was built, the human presence has been verified approximately 2,000 years earlier. Testimonies of this presence are the rock carvings left in various locations of the later fort. Many of these petroglyphs were covered by the structures erected at the time of the construction of the castro.

Among the different representations that are still visible today, geometric representations, the one known as Laja Sagrada or Laja del Mapa stands out, which, located in the upper part of the mountain, is composed of several spirals, concentric circles and more or less parallel linear lines. Its discoverers interpreted that it was a map of the mouth of the Miño, a hypothesis that lacks scientific foundation. Close to it, between two walls that partially cover it, there is another rock with similar engravings.

What is evident is that these engravings have no relationship with the castro since they are the product of a society that developed 2,000 years earlier, in the final stage of the Galician Neolithic.

Material findings
In addition to the aforementioned findings, a large number of ceramic remains found can be highlighted, a fact common to the Galician forts, both indigenous ceramics, characterized by having dark pastes modeled by hand or with slow lathe, as well as numerous remains of other typical varieties of the Roman world, such as bell-shaped pottery, with a characteristic green glaze and parts of terra sigillata, with its characteristic red glaze, as well as remains of the so-called common Roman pottery. Fragments of a painted Iberian kalathos have also been found. Pieces of skylights were also found among the ceramic remains.

Also abundant were the finds of pieces of Roman glass of various shapes and shades. Two fragmented basins of polychrome glass of a very rare variety known as mosaic glass or millefiori, typical of the oriental works of the first half of the 1st century AD, stand out. C., and that due to their quality can be considered one of the best found so far in the Iberian Peninsula. Finally, a large number of necklace beads made of glass and game chips in the same material were also found, the latter may be linked to the appearance of a Roman-type checkered stone board known as tabula latrunculata.

Metallic finds, not very abundant in these lands due to the acidity of the soil, are also present in the site in the form of pieces of cauldrons, bronze sítulas and flat bronze bladed knives that would form part of the domestic trousseau of the inhabitants of the castro. .

The goldsmith also has its presence with two auctions of torques made of gold plate. One of them, of great artistic quality, presents a globular shape finished in scotland and profuse geometric decoration and with a trisquel at the base of the end. Bronze pendants of various shapes, remains of bracelets and bangles also in bronze are part of the findings, as well as Roman bronze rings.

Related to clothing, bronze fibulae of various types have been found, omega, long arm, etc.

Finally, the few finds at the site of remains of weapons are reduced to a few iron dart points, two bronze spindles, a Roman iron dagger (pugio) with bronze rivets and remains of the scabbard, a sword with antennas. finished in bitroncoconical buttons and iron leaf. These last two are late pieces that are considered to have been used more as elements of social distinction than strictly as weapons themselves.

To all these elements should be added the missing bronze statuette representing a Hercules and which was found in the mid-nineteenth century near the hermitage.

The museum
In the years when Ignacio Calvo excavated in Santa Trega (1914-1923), the findings of these works began to be exhibited in a place in La Guardia, the seed of the museum that years later was opened on the top of the mountain.

In 1943, the Pro-Monte Society acquired a building in the upper part of the mountain that was designed by the architect Antonio Palacios for use as a restaurant. The pieces found in the excavations that made up the current museum were transferred to this building, which was inaugurated on July 23, 1953 with the presence of archaeologists attending the III National Congress of Archeology.