Obelisk Art History
Ancient World

The Iberians
Human-animal hybrids in the melting pot of ancient cultures

The Iberians, Ancient WorldLady of Elche

History has the bad habit of remembering the great empires of the past, and forgetting the cultures of the conquered. So it is with the Iberians, a vast network of city-states, tribes and confederacies who peopled the Iberian peninsula in what is modern day Spain and Portugal.

In 206 BCE Roman sent forces against the Carthaginians in the Second Punic War, conquering an empire spanning the southern paninsula and norhtern Africa, which was the beginning of the end for Iberian independence. For the next 170 years, Time chipped away at the Iberian territories, eventually annexing the whole peninsula in 19 BCE. But before this conquest, the Iberian peninsula was rich with independent cultures, loosely connected through trade, language and four distinct sculptural traditions.

While the Iberians were expert metalworkers, and developed distinctive geometric patterns for their ceramics, it is their Stone and bronze sculptures that claim our historians imaginations. Classified into Southern, Western, Central and Levantine, these regional styles are a melting pot of Egyptian, Greek, Phoenecian Assyrian and Hittite influences.

The most well-documented style is the Levantine, exemplified by the striking Lady of Elche. There are some 670 Levantine sculptures in collections around the world that share an unusual blend of Greek and Egyptian influence, like the Bicha de Balazote and the Sphinx of Agost. The Southern and Western Iberian sculptors were preoccupied with funerary art, like the Lady of Baza, a seated figure with a pocket thought to have contained cremated remains. Sculptures from the Central region were often worked in granite, most famously the Bulls of Guisando.

Reed Enger, "The Iberians, Human-animal hybrids in the melting pot of ancient cultures," in Obelisk Art History, Published June 29, 2018; last modified July 20, 2019, http://arthistoryproject.com/timeline/the-ancient-world/the-iberians/.

Read More
Phoenician-style ewer, The Iberians

Phoenician-style ewer

600 BCE
Sphinx of Agost, The Iberians

Sphinx of Agost

550 BCE
Bicha of Balazote, The Iberians

Bicha of Balazote

500 BCE
Lady of Elche, The Iberians

Lady of Elche

499 BCE
Lady of Guardamar, The Iberians

Lady of Guardamar

400 BCE
Lady of Baza, The Iberians

Lady of Baza

350 BCE
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