Lady of Elche

The Iberians

Human-animal hybrids in the melting pot of ancient cultures

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.

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Phoenician-style ewer

600 BCE

Sphinx of Agost

550 BCE

Bicha of Balazote

500 BCE

Lady of Elche

499 BCE

Lady of Guardamar

400 BCE

Lady of Baza

350 BCE
Next Movement

Teotihuacan Culture

City of Water & Fire

400 BCE-600 CE

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