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Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology 19.

1 (2006) 121-150
ISSN (Print) 0952-7648
ISSN (Online) 1743-1700

Past the Last Outpost: Punic Merchants in the Atlantic Ocean (5th–1st
centuries BC)

Alfredo González-Ruibal
Stanford Archaeology Center, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94304, USA

Whereas the Punic presence in the Mediterranean is well-known and there is a large literature dealing
with the politics, economy and culture of the Punic colonies and factories, the Phoenician and Punic
presence in the Atlantic has received very little attention until recently. In this article, it is argued that,
by adopting a post-colonial perspective and by exploring a region that at least partially lay beyond the
effective control of Mediterranean sailors, we can obtain a different view both of Punic expansion, and
the modes of interaction between foreign merchants and local communities.
Keywords: Post-colonial theory, borderlands, ancient colonialism, trading diasporas, Phoenicians/
Punics, northwest Iberia.

Introduction: Margins and Postcolonialism culture was too impressive to be overlooked.

The aim of this paper is to explore the pres- The sites that have been excavated help to
ence of Punic merchants in the Atlantic, support the image of the all-powerful: Greek
and particularly on the northwest coast of or Phoenician towns, wrecks, cemeteries and
Iberia, which was the remotest place where sanctuaries in deeply ‘Mediterraneanized’
those Mediterranean sailors conducted trade regions (Morris 2003) attract the attention of
directly without establishing formal colo- Classical archaeologists, who have tradition-
nies or outposts. I propose a post-colonial ally ignored indigenous settlements. Therefore,
approach that deconstructs the image of the instead of minorities of colonists surrounded
merchants as the ones in control. I will point by a mass of (more or less) controlled natives
to their insecurities and stress the negotiated with whom they have to mediate, we only see
character of their intercourse with locals. the unhindered power and agency of Greeks,
Until very recently Greeks and Phoeni- Phoenicians or Punics.1 The case that I study
cians were invariably portrayed as the main in this article addresses a different situation:
characters in a twofold history of colonial instead of the well-trodden paths of the Medi-
domination, in which diverse native groups terranean, I will explore remoter areas, where
provided an inconspicuous and submissive Mediterranean rules may not apply.
background (Malkin 2004: 358). This situ- The study of margins can be considered a
ation has been especially true in the case of post-colonial undertaking, but also a post-
the Phoenician colonization (van Dommelen modern one: notions of deterritorialization,
1997: 308)—perhaps with the exception of re-territoralization, borderlands and marginal-
southern Iberia, where the local Orientalizing ity are central to the renewed post-modern
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122 González-Ruibal

interest in space (Gupta and Ferguson 2002: of colonial encounters on the borderline. Far
65; see also Clifford 1997). Usually, ancient from the metropolis, contact with local popu-
sources and modern historians alike transmit lations is characterized more by negotiation
an image of the dominant and confident trav- and mediation than by domination (Malkin
eller, who feels at ease sailing unknown seas, 2004: 356). The concept of ‘middle ground’
occupying new spaces, meeting strange people (White 1991; Malkin 2002; Gosden 2004)
and transforming the other into the same. To suitably conveys the nature of these contacts.
be sure, colonists are also affected by isola- From this point of view, the extreme places
tion, fear, a sense of loss and disorientation, of the Atlantic façade in the 1st millennium
but these feelings are usually cloaked under a BC may be very telling. Unlike in the Medi-
rhetoric of success and power, as Hall (2000) terranean, the merchants there were not in a
has aptly described in modern colonialism. position of power that allowed them to dic-
Homi Bhabha (1994) has emphasized insecu- tate the rules. Ambivalence—the impossibil-
rity, vulnerability and the unfulfilled desire for ity of fixed stereotypes and a discourse without
fixity and control as some of the key aspects to challenge—is more obvious in a place where
understanding colonialism. He thinks that ‘the foreigners do not rule. Besides, the idea that
conflict between pleasure/unpleasure, mastery/ colonial power is ‘… inevitable, indeed natu-
defence, knowledge/disavowal, absence/pres- ral, that the colonizing side would prevail over
ence, has a fundamental significance for colo- its “native’’ ’ (van Dommelen 1997: 308), can
nial discourse’ (Bhabha 1994: 75). be subject to criticism. Finally, the ‘profound
The theoretical advantage of marginality colonial divide’ (van Dommelen 1997: 308) is
is that things are even less fixed and stable inevitably less clear and the contact situation
than at the center. Borders, despite being more ambiguous and murky, to use van Dom-
sometimes very physically marked, are fluid: if melen’s terms, which resonate with Bhabha’s
colonial practice and representation are char- concept of ambivalence. This is related to
acterized by ambivalence and uncertainty, the way colonists cope with otherness. In this
as Bhabha (1994) reminds us, this should be regard, I will also draw upon Said’s (2001:
all the more obvious in those places where 58-59) concept of the ‘median category’, a
the fixedness of a colonial discourse is a mere category ‘that allows one to see new things,
matter of desire. According to Malkin (2004: things for the first time, as versions of a pre-
357, emphasis added) ‘it is the inability to viously known thing’. Said considered this
dictate, that is, the lack of hegemonic control ‘a method of controlling what seems to be a
over vast territories, that lies at the heart of threat to some established view of things’.
the colonial experience’. For this reason, I The use of post-colonial theory for ancient
think that we should pay even more attention contexts is risky. Post-colonial critique was
to fringe situations: encounters beyond the developed as a way of dealing with the par-
borderlines, places where the imperial rule ticular colonialism of the 19th and 20th
does not apply, marginal peoples, things that centuries and its outcomes. This colonialism
lie at the interstices of global connectedness. was characterized by a high degree of con-
‘Trading diasporas’ (Curtin 1984: 15-59), such trol, vast territorial conquests, a strong belief
as the one explored in this article, may also be in biological racism and an absolute confi-
considered a fringe phenomenon, a mixture dence in the superiority of (Western) progress
between colonialism and seasonal emigra- and religion, all of which are absent in the
tion. Some historical studies have already ancient world (cf. Malkin 2004), even if there
demonstrated the more negotiated character existed violence, dispossession and oppression
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Past the Last Outpost 123

of other kinds. Archaic Greeks, Phoenicians or more groups of foreign people in a region at
and Romans were much more flexible in some distance from their place of origin (the
accepting difference than European colonists “colonizers”) and the existence of asymmetri-
were—the Greeks much less so after the 4th cal socio-economic relationships of domina-
century BC (Malkin 2004: 345). After all, one tion or exploitation between the colonizing
of the first enunciations of cultural relativism groups and the inhabitants of the colonized
is that of Cornelius Nepos (De Viris Illustribus region’ (van Dommelen 1997: 306). Used
Praef. 1-3), in the mid-2nd century BC, when with broad-mindedness, post-colonial con-
he complained about the Romans who only cepts—such as those of ‘ambivalence’ and the
find appropriate ‘what fits their customs’, and ‘median category’ already mentioned—might
argued that ‘the honest and the shameful are be very useful for rethinking the past (see also
not the same for everybody, but everything van Dommelen 1997; 1998; 2002; Gosden
has to be judged according to what one’s own 2004; Malkin 2004). From another point of
ancestors established.’ Punic people intermar- view, post-colonial theory may help us to get
ried with locals—Hannibal himself married rid of our own colonial prejudices, derived
an Iberian woman (Livy 24.41, 7), while the from our most recent history, and to try to find
spread of citizenship in the Roman empire was alternative insights into the relations between
simply inconceivable in more recent contexts: colonists and local populations.
‘There was imperialism, for sure,’ says Claudia
Moatti (1997: 268), ‘but also an unparalleled
Extreme Places: Exploring the Far West
ability to absorb the other, to appropriate it,
and at the same time to be the other; an atti- The debate on ancient colonialism has
tude that is illustrated over all in the easiness remained largely confined to those areas
with which Roman citizenship has been given where ‘Mediterraneanization’ (Morris 2003)
to foreign populations throughout its history.’ was most obviously at play. I find Morris’s con-
Veyne (1991: 427), however, reminds us that cept apt and useful: as opposed to static and
‘a human group adopts the values of a foreign timeless Mediterraneanism, the new approach
culture if, after its conversion, they are not emphasizes processes, diversity, conflict and
relegated to the last place in that culture… A different degrees of integration and connect-
Lycian or an African tribe that became urban- edness through time, with different social and
ized was not relegated to the last place of the political outcomes.
imperial society; on the contrary, it became ‘Mediterranean’ is a tricky concept, espe-
one of the constitutive cells of the world cul- cially when understood in cultural terms. By
ture of their time.’ Mediterranean I refer to something or some-
A Congolese in the late 19th century body whose cultural references are originally
had not the slightest chance of becoming a rooted in the Mediterranean basin, sometimes
Belgian, and a Belgian would be less than strongly so (e.g. Semitic languages and dei-
inclined to adopt any element of Kuba culture. ties), sometimes loosely (e.g. pottery or dress
The experience of being colonized or coming styles). By the second half of the 1st millen-
into contact with another more powerful and nium BC, Mediterranean communities shared
expansive society was, therefore, quite differ- a hybrid assemblage of cultural elements that
ent in the 1st millennium BC than it was 2,000 originated in a variety of places, including the
years afterwards. Nevertheless, affinities are Levant, Greece, Italy and northern Africa.
not lacking either: after all, both ancient and These cultural elements spread beyond the
recent colonialism implies ‘the presence of one Mediterranean basin itself with the emigration
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124 González-Ruibal

of colonists and, thence, we can talk about However, the Mediterranean presence in the
the ‘Mediterraneanization’ of the Black Sea Atlantic has drawn very little attention from
or southern Portugal. To be sure, these areas historians or archaeologists. Significantly, M.
were not simply passive receptors of artefacts Eugenia Aubet’s superb book on the Phoeni-
and ideas from Mediterranean metropolises, cian expansion devotes only 12 pages to the
but also gave rise to new elements. A Punic Phoenician presence in Portugal and Morocco
Mañá-Pascual A4 amphora (5th–3rd century (Aubet 2001: 291-304).
BC), however, produced in the area around Nonetheless, recent work in the Atlantic
the Straight of Gibraltar (López Castro 1995: (Tavares 2001; López Pardo 2002; Arruda
64-67), can be considered ultimately Mediter- 2002) along the shores of Morocco, Portugal
ranean, because it evolved from eastern Phoe- and Spain, is providing a context for the
nician models, and both function and concept more extreme explorations of the Phoeni-
can be traced back to a Mediterranean source, cians and Punics. With regard to Africa, the
certainly not to a local Atlantic background. attempt to confirm the Periplus of Hanno
The same can be said of the black-glaze pot- archaeologically has benefited from research
tery produced in Gadir and distributed in the since the 1950s. The northwestern coast of
Atlantic (Niveau de Villedary 2000), which Morocco, which is mentioned in the Periplus,
draws upon a Greek tradition. is well-known nowadays, and its ‘Mediter-
In a sense, then, the Punic Atlantic was raneanization’ has proved to be profound
a self-contained world, with strong internal (Ponsich 1982)—as shown by the existence
connections, and less direct relations with of important Phoenician/Punic sites, such as
the Mediterranean, as Arruda (2001: 81-82) Lixus (Aranegui 2001). This town, located in
has pointed out for southern Portugal. Even a characteristically Phoenician setting on a
if Punic towns were somewhat multi-cultural promontory surrounded by the Loukkos river
communities, which included natives and peo- mouth, has been excavated since the 1950s
ple from other parts of the Mediterranean, the and has yielded evidence of uninterrupted
actual existence of distinct Punic colonists Phoenician occupation from at least the 8th
and the links with the Mediterranean are century BC to the 1st century AD. The most
demonstrated in the survival of a Semitic lan- important feature is a renowned temple to
guage well into Roman times (López Castro Hercules/Melqart that minted coins in Punic
1995: 218-19) and by the textual references times (López Pardo 1992b).
(e.g. Pseudo-Scylax) to empória Karchedoníon Yet we also have some information on the
(‘Carthaginian trading posts’) beyond the furthest Phoenician/Punic outposts, 1,000
Straight of Gibraltar. km away from Gibraltar (Figure 1). We
We know that Mediterranean sailors in the know that Hanno founded a post on a small
mid-1st millennium BC were travelling to very island called Cerne (Periplus 398, 55v, 40).
distant places, probably as far as sub-Saha- This is probably the little island of Moga-
ran Africa and northwestern Europe (Lancel dor, off modern Essaouira and well down
1992: 119-26; Cunliffe 2001). Well-known the Moroccan Atlantic coast (López Pardo
are the circumnavigation of Africa under the 1991; Euzennat 1994: 578). This place is the
sponsorship of Pharaoh Necho II around 600 southernmost Phoenician settlement archae-
BC (Herodotus 4.42); Hanno’s journey along ologically known to date (López Pardo 1992a;
the Moroccan coast (Lipinski 2004: 444-76), Euzennat 1994: 573-76), whereas Cerne is
in the early 5th century BC; and the voyage of the furthest trading post of the Carthaginians
Himilco to Atlantic Europe at a similar date. on the west African coast mentioned by any
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Past the Last Outpost 125

ancient writer (Lipinski 2004: 463). Punic Unfortunately, we know almost nothing
elements that might be related to Hanno’s about these ‘Ethiopians’ that the Periplus
presence, however, are scarce—a few ampho- and Pseudo-Scylax mention. Archaeological
ras and elephant tusks (López Pardo 1992a: research in indigenous sites—as opposed to
289, n. 35), as opposed to the abundant evi- Punic settlements—in pre-Roman Morocco
dence for Phoenician activity (7th century has scarcely been developed (cf. bibliography
BC). Punic materials, in general, are scarce in López Pardo 1991; 2002). Needless to say,
in Morocco between the 5th and 3rd centu- the nature of the interaction between sailors
ries BC (Mederos 1999), a fact that has been and locals (if there ever was such) beyond
attributed to the attacks of nomads (López Mogador is completely unknown and has
Pardo 2000: 225). This marginal area proba- received very little attention. A survey in
bly provided ivory, skins of domestic and wild the 1970s discovered no Phoenician or Punic
animals, and other products (probably gold) remains at all in the area south of Essaouira
to the Phoenician/Punic traders (Pseudo-Scy- (Euzennat 1994: 568-69, fig. 4); but it has
lax §112). Moroccan ivory has actually been been argued, from scant archaeological evi-
discovered in a Phoenician wreck in southern dence, that Punic sailors knew the Canary
Spain (López Pardo 1992a: 291, figs. 6-7). Islands (Mederos and Escribano 1999).

Figure 1. The most important Phoenician/Punic towns in Morocco: 1. Tinga 2. Septem Fratres 3. Tamuda 4. Melilla
5. Zili 6. Kuass 7. Lixus 8. Banasa 9. Thamusida 10. Sala 11. Volubilis 12. Essaouira.

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126 González-Ruibal

The Punic and Greek expeditions to the Recent research has exponentially increased
northern Atlantic, such as those of Pytheas, our knowledge of the Phoenician and Punic
Eutimenes of Massalia and Himilco, endowed presence in Portugal (Tavares 2001; Arruda
the Mediterranean peoples with a better 2002) (Figure 2). First, although they are
knowledge of the metal resources of the area. scarcely referenced in the extant ancient
In Himilco’s case, the travel can be related to literature (Avienus, Ora Maritima, 375-77;
a new desire on the part of Carthage for seiz- Guerra 2001), we do know that there were
ing the western resources and perhaps also for Phoenician trading outposts along this coast,
counter-balancing the Greek encroachment which are far older than Himilco’s expedition.
on the Levantine coast of Spain (Frankenstein The most important so far is Abul (Mayet and
1997: 276). References to Himilco’s travel are da Silva 1994; 2000; 2001), a small outpost
few and short. The earliest one is Pliny, in the in the Sado estuary, and the only site whose
mid-1st century AD (Naturalis Historia 2.169.4), Phoenician origin is beyond doubt. This was
who says that Himilco was dispatched to get to basically a large square building surrounded
know the outer coasts of Europe (ad extera by a thick wall and composed of several rooms
Europae noscenda). More data come from the (warehouses) organized around a courtyard,
4th-century AD poet Avienus (Ora Maritima, and which yielded a great quantity of ampho-
114-45, 380-89, 404-15), who uses some of rae and containers. Two different building
Himilco’s information to give an impression- episodes have been identified, the last of
istic description of the Atlantic shores, and which included the construction of an altar in
particularly of the tin-rich areas. the middle of the courtyard. The Phoenician
The Carthaginian sailor stressed the enor- occupations dates to the 7th and 6th centu-
mous difficulties (monsters, seaweed, lack of ries, and a Punic shrine and settlement were
wind, mist, sand-bars) of the journey to the later founded nearby (Mayet and da Silva
northern shores, a fact that has always been 2001).
interpreted as a way of scaring competitors Other sites have produced Phoenician-style
from that coast. Without denying that, I structures and Phoenician and Orientaliz-
would say that, in a sense, the description ing pottery: Rocha Branca, Tavira, Olissipo,
of the Atlantic as an area of wilderness and Alcâcer do Sal, Santa Olaia (Gomes 1993;
danger is a typical colonial construct, reminis- Pereira 1993; Frankenstein 1997; Arruda 2002;
cent of more recent situations, in which the Maia 2004). Most of them are indigenous sites
others’ land is presented as a counter-image with numerous Mediterranean imports (Mayet
of one’s own world—the tamed and familiar and da Silva 1994: 186). Other coastal settle-
Mediterranean, in this case. The geography of ments like Olissipo and Santa Olaia may be
the early modern explorations is full of similar Tartessian outposts (Aubet 1993: 218, fig. 45),
narratives that were influenced by Classical perhaps multi-cultural communities (includ-
legends (Dathorne 1994: 21-27). It is not by ing Phoenicians and natives). Recently, it has
chance that, for Greeks and Romans, Hades been suggested that the site of Tavira may be a
was considered to be located on the Atlantic Phoenician and later Punic town, as shown by
Ocean (Strabo 1.1.4; 3.2.13). Furthermore, the the great quantities of Mediterranean pottery,
simplicity and vagueness of the descriptions along with characteristic features of Phoeni-
of the Atlantic provided by Mediterranean cian/Punic settlements, including a sanctuary
authors call to mind the modern Orientalist to Baal and Astarte (Maia and Silva 2004)
lack of accuracy when it comes to representing and an inscription in the Phoenician language
the other (Said 2001: 71). on a potsherd.
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Past the Last Outpost 127

Figure 2. Some of the most important Phoenician/Punic and orientalizing settlements in Portugal: 1. Santa Olaia
2. Conimbriga 3. Olissipo 4. Abul 5. Alcácer do Sal 6. Rocha Branca 7. Tavira 8. Castro Marim 9. Mértola.

Although its ethnic character is disputed, consumed Phoenician-style ivories, brooches

the site of Santa Olaia (Pereira), near the and jewels (Correia 1993; Frankenstein 1997).
Mondego river mouth, has a special interest. Arruda (2002) argues that many Phoenician
It is the last known Mediterranean outpost on and Orientalizing settlements in Portugal dis-
the Iberian Atlantic façade. Excavations have appeared or faded away between the 6th and
yielded a stone rampart, rectangular houses, 5th centuries BC, a phenomenon that can be
a metallurgical quarter and an important col- at least partially related to the decadence of
lection of Phoenician pottery (7th–5th cen- Tyre and its western colonies (Aubet 1993:
turies BC), including large painted containers 273-76). Nevertheless, other sites, such as
and R-1 amphoras. This outpost favoured the Tavira, did not vanish, despite suffering great
emergence of a local Orientalizing culture in changes in the late 6th century BC (Maia
neighboring indigenous settlements, such as 2004: 6): most of the original settlement was
Conimbriga, Crasto and Chões, whose elites abandoned, but the port area grew and a new

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128 González-Ruibal

artificial harbour (cothon), a typical Carthag- As in the African case, we know that Medi-
inian feature, was added. Perhaps meaning- terranean sailors explored places that were
fully, the comptoir of Abul was superseded by a far from their last outposts, specifically south-
sanctuary (6th–5th centuries BC), located very ern Britain and Brittany. On the one hand,
close to the original settlement (Mayet and da there are some ancient accounts that refer to
Silva 2000: 167-68). We can hypothesize that, these explorations, namely Pytheas’s (Cunliffe
after the 6th century, the Carthaginians began 2001) and Himilco’s travels. Nevertheless,
to take some sort of control and reinvigorated these voyages did not result in any regular
some of these old sites with new structures trade with northwestern Europe. The Medi-
(temples and harbours). Himilco’s journey terranean artefacts that have been located,
must be linked to this process. mainly coins (see, among others, Milne 1948;
Evidence that can be related to the earliest Sanquer 1983; Cunliffe 1991: 431; 2001: 72;
Carthaginian expeditions is also notable in Newman 1997) and glass beads, were probably
the northwest of Iberia. There, Mediterranean transported down-the-line or by middlemen.
remains made a sudden and relatively mas- Most of the finds that were considered genuine
sive appearance around the 5th century BC by Harbison and Laing (1974) are probably
(González-Ruibal 2004a: 296): pottery, glass easier to explain as contacts among aristocrats,
beads and even a polychrome glass aryballos as some also appear in central Europe, but
have been discovered in sites dated to the late rarely on the Atlantic façade of Iberia. Despite
6th to early 4th centuries BC (Figure 3). the intense activity led by Iron Age archaeolo-

Figure 3. Some of the earliest Punic imports in the extreme northwest (6th–5th century BC). From top to bottom:
glass beads from Pena Redonda (Ponte Caldelas), a painted cup from Coto de Altamira (As Neves) and a
plain cup from Castrovite (A Estrada), all from the province of Pontevedra (Galicia, Spain).

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Past the Last Outpost 129

gists in Britain, pre-Roman Mediterranean ele- cannot assert that Gallaecians were ‘absolute
ments are exceedingly rare: important trading others’, as the region had been in touch with
ports such as Mount Batten (Cunliffe 1988) the Mediterranean since the Late Bronze Age
should have yielded Punic remains, if it were (González-Ruibal 2004a); but they were cer-
the case that Mediterranean merchants were tainly closer in the Punic or Greek imagina-
travelling so far north. Lacking Punic pottery, tion to the mythic Hyperboreans than to the
it is therefore reasonable to think that, apart Etruscans. Before the Roman annexation, in
from some expeditions, the end of the Punic the late 1st century BC, Gallaecia was never
world, in practical terms, lay on the northern colonized.
coast of Iberia. A complex and nuanced panorama can now
The relations between Punic sailors and be depicted for the Gallaecians (Figure 4),
natives around the extreme Atlantic outposts thanks to new excavations and (mainly) to
and beyond have scarcely been investigated. innovative and theoretically-oriented research
There is, however, an area that was never (Sastre Prats 2002; Parcero Oubiña 2003). For
occupied by Mediterranean merchants and many years, the region has been a backwater
that nevertheless maintained close relations in Iberian Iron Age archaeology, their inhab-
with them: I am referring to the northwest of itants being considered the most ‘primitive’
Iberia. and least developed societies of the Peninsula,
among other things due to their distance from
the Mediterranean. Even today, they scarcely
Dealing with Otherness, Finding a Middle
feature in synthetic accounts of Iberian archae-
ology. A good example of this is the book on
Gallaecia (modern Galicia)—the Islands of the Iron Age by Almagro-Gorbea et al. (2001),
Tin (Pliny, Naturalis Historia 4.119.2)—is the whose avowed imbalance towards the Medi-
remotest western territory where any Mediter- terranean world (and especially the colonies)
ranean merchant conducted trade directly and shows that ancient colonial categories still
on a regular basis, without establishing formal drive some modern archaeological agendas.
colonies or trade posts, until the late 1st A similarly telling example of this lingering
century BC. It is located more than 1,000 km colonial gaze is evident in Presedo et al. (1988:
distant from the closest important Punic town 402): writing about Himilco’s journey, they
(Gadir, modern Cádiz, in southern Spain). say that the Punic sailor failed to establish
Gallaecia was, from a Punic point of view, colonies in the remotest parts of Africa that he
an absolutely alien territory, well beyond visited due to ‘the state of underdevelopment
the comfortable sphere of Mediterraneanized and lack of culture in which the native popula-
regions. It was not an easy place to conduct tions lived’.
trade, if compared to the Mediterranean, The peoples of Atlantic Iberia are gener-
where Greek and Phoenician customs had ally considered Celtic—a controversial label
spread since the 8th century BC, and less so of dubious usefulness (Collis 2003) and with
actually to live. Malkin (2004: 348) says that, potential colonialist implications (by adopt-
in contrast to the colonizers of the New World, ing a Mediterranean-centered gaze). Greek
the ancient Greeks did not perceive the lands and Roman authors regarded the populations
they reached as inhabited by ‘absolute others’, from the northwest as a quite uniform bunch
and that, as colonization progressed, even of barbarians (‘highlanders’, in Strabo’s Geog-
remote places like the Black Sea became part raphy). A similarly homogenizing vision has
of the familiar world, the oikumene. Maybe we been maintained by modern archaeologists in
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130 González-Ruibal

Figure 4. A typical coastal hillfort in Galicia (northwest Spain): Castro de Baroña, which has yielded some Punic
pottery, amphorae and glass beads.

Iberia, who have usually defended a uniform ings, a monumental architectural tradition in
archaeological culture in the northwest: the stone, and jewellery (González-Ruibal 2004a).
‘Castro Culture’ (see Queiroga 2003). Recent By the Late Iron Age (2nd–1st century BC)
research has proved that even those ele- strongly hierarchical house societies, revolving
ments that were considered typical of the ‘cul- around large oppida (c. 10-20 ha) prevailed
ture’ as a whole, such as stone round-houses, in the region (González-Ruibal 2006), which
are far from widespread (González-Ruibal, had been in regular touch with southern
in press). A post-colonial approach has to merchants since the early 1st millennium
take into account the complex, dynamic and BC. The most important evidence of a Punic
fragmented character of indigenous communi- presence (including most sites mentioned in
ties. Thus, I have proposed that behind the this article) is to be found along these coasts.
northern Iberian highlanders we actually have Northern Galicia was occupied by smaller
a diverse cultural geography that comprises at chiefdoms, in which wealth and social status
least three large regions with different political was based on cattle and jewels (especially
organizations and different ways of construct- gold torcs) (Parcero Oubiña 2003). People
ing social identities (González-Ruibal 2006; in lived in small (c. 0.5-2 ha), well-defended hill-
press). forts, often with perishable architecture, and
In northern Portugal and southern Galicia had scant contact with Mediterranean sailors.
there existed more hierarchical social struc- Apparently, trade focused on a few coastal
tures and more sophisticated material cultures locations, the most important of which was
of power, including elaborate stone carv- A Coruña bay, in whose waters several Punic

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Past the Last Outpost 131

amphoras have been recovered (González- was much more important than previously
Ruibal 2004a: 299-300). Finally, the eastern thought: apparently, Punic sailors were season-
ranges of Galicia, northern Portugal, León ally inhabiting indigenous settlements. The
and Asturias were occupied by groups that I best evidence comes from two sites that played
have defined in terms of the anthropological the role of native emporia: A Lanzada (Suárez
concept of ‘deep rurals’ (González-Ruibal, Otero and Fariña Busto 1990) and Punta do
in press), in which collective ethics were Muiño, also called Museo do Mar and Alcabre
more prevalent, relations with outsiders were (Suárez Otero 2004a; 2004b; González-Ruibal
curtailed and small hillforts (again 0.5-2 ha) 2004a: 296-98) (Figure 5). Moreover, in the
predominantly emphasized community over northwest of Iberia as a whole, around 60
individual status (Sastre Prats 2002). Local sites from the late 5th to the late 1st centuries
patterns of consumption and the appropria- BC have produced Mediterranean materials
tion of foreign artefacts and knowledge varied (González-Ruibal 2004a: fig. 8). The evidence
greatly according to the regional diversity that of Punic presence in A Lanzada and Punta do
has been outlined. Muiño is manifold: we have shrines, structures
With regard to the Punic sailors, recent works and Mediterranean artefacts. The massive
prove that their presence in northern Iberia appearance of amphorae, containers, tableware

Figure 5. The ‘Rías Baixas’ (Galicia) in the northwest of Iberia, with the most important archaeological sites that
have yielded evidence of interaction with Punics.

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132 González-Ruibal

Figure 6. Late Punic amphorae and common ware from Montelagre hillfort (Pontevedra, Galicia): 2nd–1st
century BC.

and cooking pots (Figure 6), as opposed to the With regard to structures, the Punics prob-
scarcity of fine ware, is a common pattern in ably occupied perishable huts, as is often the
Phoenician and Punic outposts (López Pardo case in early or temporary Phoenician settle-
1992a: 281-83; Mayet and da Silva 1994: 176- ments, such as the first phases of Mogador
79). In particular, the abundance of amphorae (López Pardo 1992a: 280) and La Fonteta
usually suggests the commercial character of an (González Prats 1999), on the Levantine coast
outpost (López Pardo 1992a: 283). Due to the of Spain: perishable huts have been located
lack of well-published reports, it is hard to cal- in Punta do Muiño along with Punic pottery
culate the proportion of Punic sherds in rela- (Suárez Otero 2004b). However, in A Lanzada
tion to the total amount of pottery excavated. there is a rectangular structure (a warehouse?),
The only hillfort for which quantitative data whose foreign origin is almost certain, given
have been published—Romariz, in northern its early date (5th–4th century BC) and the
Portugal—yielded 26% imported materials in a fact that similar structures only became wide-
5th–4th century BC level (da Silva 1999: 119). spread in the area during the 1st century AD.
According to its excavators, a Punic ritual The crudeness of the masonry is similar to that
structure in Punta do Muiño (see below) was of other Semitic settlements in Iberia, such as
associated with Punic pottery alone (Vicente Abul (Mayet and da Silva 2000) or Chorreras
Caramés, personal communication, 2003). (Aubet 1986: fig. 2, plate III), and it contrasts

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Past the Last Outpost 133

sharply with the robust and well-fashioned it is not the full answer: travelling to distant
walls of local constructions. This panorama is lands means coming in contact with differ-
interesting in itself, because it shows a colo- ent people, experiencing other landscapes
nial situation somewhat reversed: the indig- and materialities. It also means vulnerability
enous people not only had the control over and isolation. This phenomenological side
their own land and granted a space for the of colonialism is usually not acknowledged,
foreigners to stay and conduct trade, but they but clinging to the familiar—or the fabrica-
also lived in monumental buildings, whereas tion of familiarity—is a usual resort of colo-
the sailors inhabited flimsy shacks. nists. As Said (2001: 58-59) wrote, there is
It can be argued that the relations between a necessity to see new things as versions of a
Punics and Gallaecians were channeled through previously known thing. The need for famili-
four main mechanisms: maps, myths, temples arity can be found among settlers, colonists
and markets. and conquerors of any kind; but it is felt as
something especially necessary in the case of
those displaced peoples who do not occupy
a dominant position in the new land. It is
By maps I understand cognitive represen- perhaps not by chance that some Phoenician
tations—devices that allow people to ori- settlements were called ‘The Fortress’ (Gadir,
ent themselves both spatially and temporally. Abul, Mogador) (López Pardo 2000: 227-28),
From this point of view, Punic merchants can and were physically or symbolically detached
be said to have ‘mapped’ the northwest of Ibe- from their surroundings.
ria in two ways: by occupying the places in the The need for the predictable was also solved
landscape that resembled more closely those by the Punic traders through a re-inscription
with which they were already acquainted in of the landscape in order to make it fit into
the Mediterranean, and by renaming and their own cultural imagination. This mapping
inscribing the land with Punic names and sto- process, an exercise in ‘imaginative geogra-
ries. A third form of appropriation is related to phy’ (Said 2001: 73), is well known in the
the cultural geography of the area, which will Greek case (Blázquez 1996; Malkin 1998).
be studied in the following section. The process implies a thorough renaming of
With regard to the landscape, one of the the most prominent geographical elements of
first striking things is the resemblance between an alien landscape and the transfer of myths to
the places where more eloquent evidence for them. The aim is the symbolic (if not actual)
the Punic presence has been recovered, and dispossession of the natives from their land
the location of Punic and Phoenician settle- (Domínguez 2002: 68-69). It is, then, a sort
ments in the Mediterranean: prominent capes of ‘geographical violence’, as Domínguez has
flanked by beaches, coastal promontories close remarked (using Said’s words). According
to estuaries, and small isles near the coast (Fig- to Bhabha (1994: 246): ‘The colonial space
ure 7). The similarity of the setting of Phoeni- is the terra incognita or the terra nulla, the
cian/Punic towns and factories everywhere in empty or wasted land whose history has to
the Mediterranean and Atlantic (Aubet 1993: be begun, whose archives must be filled out’
figs. 3, 39, 41, and 46) is typically interpreted and Spivak (1999: 212) has pointed out that
in functional terms: the settlers selected those ‘the necessary yet contradictory assumption of
places that offered the greatest advantages for an uninscribed earth that is the condition of
long-distance trade and sailing (Pellicer et al. possibility of the worlding of a world generates
1977: 220-22). This cannot be denied, but the force to make the “native” see himself as
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134 González-Ruibal

Figure 7. Topographical setting of some of the most important settlements with Punic evidence in northwestern
Iberia: 1. A Lanzada 2. Neixón 3. Punta do Muiño 4. Toralla.

other’. I argue that—differences with modern Phoenicians and Punic sailors named sev-
colonialism notwithstanding—the Mediter- eral prominent capes on the Atlantic façade
ranean attitude to the Atlantic bears some of Iberia after their god Baal Hammon—later
similarities with this hegemonic insight. The translated as Saturn by the Romans (Marín
inscription of the land, however, should not Ceballos 1992: 11-12). This god also had a
be regarded simply in terms of asymmetrical temple in the Punic port of Tavira (Maia
power relations: we have to look at it in and Silva 2004). Melqart was another impor-
the light of the concept of ambivalence, as tant deity transported to the Atlantic, as
defined by Bhabha (1994). The attempt to shown by the temple he had on Cape San
inscribe the land must be understood rather Vicente, in southern Portugal (Avienus Ora
as a desire—a fantasy—for control and secu- Maritima, 201-205, 326-27; Salinas 1988),
rity, which is always unfulfilled and subject to and by the fact that Melqart/Hercules’ deeds
challenge by the other. This is quite clear in were thought to have occurred in remote
the case of the Punic people on the Atlantic Atlantic regions (Strabo 1.2.2; Blázquez 1996:
façade: the attempt to reduce otherness to 104, 106). Melqart was probably the most
the same is a way of exorcizing the fear of the important divinity for the Punic peoples liv-
unknown, a fantasy of domination, in a place ing on the Atlantic shore, given the fame of
always beyond the effective power of Gadir or some of his temples, such as those located in
Carthage. Gadir (Bonnet 1988) and Lixus (López Pardo

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Past the Last Outpost 135

1992b). In addition, a Phoenician myth has journey (Lipinski 2004: 154), a fact that again
been recently discovered in Al-Idrisi’s geogra- points to the insecurities of colonists and mer-
phy (Matesanz 2002), from the 12th century chants in foreign lands. Obviously, these alien
AD, referring to Olissipo (Lisbon). geographies were contested by locals: it is not
Even those areas that lay beyond the Punic by chance that native geographical names
control were symbolically conquered by renam- are the ones that have mainly survived to the
ing: a cape in northern Gallaecia is today present day (most obviously in river names:
called Punta da Muller Mariña (Cape of the e.g. Minius>Miño). Two different (mythical)
Marine Woman). It is very likely that, hidden geographies co-existed and probably mingled
behind this intriguing appellation, there lies in the same physical space.
a Venus Marina, and before that Astarte, to
whom many coastal features were dedicated in Myths
the Mediterranean (Aubet 1969: 61), includ-
ing an isle in Gadir (Avienus, Ora Maritima, The process of appropriating the geography
315-317). Avienus, drawing upon the Periplus implied also the renaming of settlements and
of Himilco, also mentions a cape of Venus in peoples, a phenomenon that provided time
the far north of Iberia (Ora Maritima, 158). depth to spatial maps, by tracing genealogies
Very close to this cape, in the port of Bares, that linked the Atlantic to Mediterranean
there were discovered six Punic coins from history. Punic settlers and merchants, like the
the cities of Gadir, Abdera and Ebussus (2nd Greeks, often resorted to false etymologies to
century BC) (Maciñeira 1947: pl. 25; Suárez explain local names in Punic terms.
Otero 1996) (Figure 8). Interestingly, sailors There are very significant cases of this
sought in Astarte/Venus protection for their ambiguous attempt to transform the Other

Figure 8. The ‘Cape of the Marine Woman’ in northern Galicia and the Punic coins located nearby.

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136 González-Ruibal

into the Same in the case of Gallaecia. At cal alterity, fabricating genealogies for others is
least three local groups were reinterpreted a colonial enterprise, which enables the crea-
with Greek ethnic names. The Grovii were tion of hierarchies and irredentism (Malkin
called Graii, ‘Greeks’, and they were con- 1998: 208; 2004: 360-61; Said 2001: 66).
sidered to be the children of Aeneus, king We should distinguish here the Punic and the
of Aetolia (Silius Italicus, Punica 3.366-67). native perceptions of local ethnicity which, at
The Cileni were reinterpreted as Helleni and the same time, were deeply intertwined. From
their origin was linked to Teucer’s travels to the Mediterranean point of view, it seems
the west, after the fall of Troy (Strabo 3.2.13; that sailors were distinguishing two very dif-
Justin 44.3.3; Pliny, Naturalis Historia 4.112). ferent areas in Gallaecia on the basis of their
Finally a group called Amphilochos—prob- own experience of contact with the local
ably a Celtic name *Ambi- (Bermejo Barrera populations. Those peoples that inhabited the
1982: 13)—was related to the nostos of the northernmost parts of Gallaecia were labelled
hero of the same name (Strabo 3.2.13). Teuc- as Celtici (Pliny, Naturalis Historia 4, 111); in
er’s story is particularly interesting, because his contrast, the people living in the south were
nostos links Gallaecia with important Phoeni- identified as Helleni and Graii (Pliny Naturalis
cian and Punic places—Cyprus, Carthago Historia 4, 112). What is being stressed, then,
Nova and Gadir (Silius Italicus, Punica 3.368; is a distinction between somewhat Mediterra-
Philostratos, Vita Apollonii 5.5). neanized and non-Mediterraneanized peoples.
It is very likely that these stories, transmit- This cognitive map coincides with the density
ted by Greek authors, were derived from Punic of Mediterranean items located in hillforts in
ideas and information. Another possibility is both areas (Figure 9).
that the Punic merchants themselves were From a local perspective, it is possible that
carrying Greek myths to the far west, just as the so-called Helleni and Graii may well have
they were carrying Greek pottery. Besides, felt some kind of genealogical tie to the
the differences between distinct Greek and Mediterranean sailors, after several decades
Punic cultures were becoming blurred during of contact. Significantly, Gallaecian warriors
Hellenistic times. Through the ‘Mediterrane- fought on Hannibal’s side during the Second
anization’ of its physical and cultural geogra- Punic War (Silius Italicus, Punica 3, 344-45).
phy, a strange world inhabited by barbaroi was Some material evidence for the assimilation of
partially deprived of its Otherness: ‘the threat foreign myths might be provided by a group of
is muted, familiar values impose themselves, statues of seated gods that have come to light
and in the end the mind reduces the pressure in southern Gallaecia. They represent a deity
upon it by accommodating things to itself with spiral armlets and short tunic seated on
as either “original” or “repetitious” ’ (Said a throne and usually holding a vase or two
2001: 59). Malkin (2004: 352) has said that (González-Ruibal 2004b: 126-27), a hybrid of
extending Greek origin myths to barbarians Mediterranean and local forms. This implies
went against their being perceived as absolute that some Gallaecians were acquainted with
Others. I do not agree with him fully at this foreign myths and were elaborating them on
point. European missionaries extended Judeo- local grounds. Whoever was the Mediterra-
Christian myths to heathen populations (usu- nean-inspired hero(es) that linked the Gal-
ally identifying ‘primitives’ with any of Israel’s laecians to the East, they could have easily
lost tribes), which did not reverse their percep- translated a local origin myth to a Mediterra-
tion of them as fundamentally different—and nean mythical discourse. Stories of migrations
conquerable. And even if it goes against radi- from the east were not absent in indigenous
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Past the Last Outpost 137

Figure 9. ‘Greek’ (Helleni, Graii) and ‘Celtic’ (Celtici) populations as imagined by Mediterranean peoples, in rela-
tion to finds of Mediterranean pottery (Punic, Greek, Iberian, Italic).

mythology (Avienus, Ora Maritima, 152- a hybrid space ‘in-between’, one that enabled
155). We can consider this a case of mimicry interaction with aliens—no longer strangers,
(Bhabha 1994: 85-92). As Bhabha (1994: but kin-related.
112) would say, the Gallaecians were turn- In my opinion, this appropriation of for-
ing their gaze ‘back upon the eye of power’. eign myths, which is a case of mimicry that
Pompeius Trogus’s text (epitomized in Justin empowers its performers, is not dissimilar to
44.4.4) is especially compelling, because it the appropriation of other things and knowl-
reveals uneasiness with the local appropriation edge by natives (or rather native elites), such
of a Mediterranean origin, echoing ideas of as jewelry techniques and sculpture. Myths
imposture that resonate in many colonial writ- can be also considered a technology of power,
ings (Said 2001): ‘with regard to Gallaecians, negotiated according to the political econo-
they claim for them [sibi adserunt] a Greek ori- mies prevailing in each local community.
gin’ (my emphasis). A similar case among the Thus, in the north of Gallaecia, where status
Etruscans has been explored by Malkin (1998). was negotiated through jewelry and cattle,
Meaningfully, both Gallaecians and Etruscans new Mediterranean techniques, such as filigree
lived beyond the effective colonial powers, and granulation (García Vuelta 2002), were
and could safely and creatively elaborate on adopted to enhance local torcs. In the south,
their myths. Etruscans and Gallaecians, by where house societies achieved a growing
reshaping alien myths of origin were creating importance during the second half of the 1st

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138 González-Ruibal

millennium BC, elite individuals resorted to cian shrines and altars, usually endowed with
architectural decoration and sculpture as novel baetyls (aniconic representations of gods),
avenues to display power and reinforce dis- were erected in their colonies and in native
tinction (González-Ruibal 2004b). The influx environments alike (López Pardo 1992b: 95).
is clearly Mediterranean—there is no other The installation of these religious centers,
strong sculptural tradition in Atlantic Europe sometimes before the construction of a city,
during the Iron Age, but the idea was thor- has been explained in functional terms: they
oughly appropriated and transformed in the were an ‘instrument’ to conduct trade with
hands of local artisans. This phenomenon is natives (López Pardo 1992b: 97) and, at least
especially interesting, given that no similar tra- in Phoenician times, ensured the tutelage of
dition has been discovered in the central and the temple of Tyre and the monarchy in the
southern Portuguese coastal area, where the commercial enterprise (Aubet 1993: 234).
presence of Phoenician and Punic people was The economic role of the Semitic temples—
much more intense. It proves that local agency which often had a treasury and later minted
determined which elements (myths, things coins—would have been similar to those of
or techniques) were incorporated and which the Near East. They hosted a wealth of infor-
rejected, at least as much as availability and mation about routes, ports, coasts and peoples,
the actual foreign presence in the territory. and they acted as neutral guarantors of any
In conclusion, myths, like other technolo- transaction carried out within their sacred
gies, although originally aimed at controlling area: not only were Phoenicians allowed to
the Other (even if only symbolically), were carry out negotiations there, but also foreign-
used by locals in unexpected ways to reinforce ers (Aubet 1993: 234-36).
their own power and to blur the distinc- The most important function of the sacred
tion between themselves and the foreigners: area was to provide security to the merchants
‘copying’, says Thomas (1991: 187), ‘is appro- and enable safe interaction with others: by
priation, a project engaged into specify alterity tracing a temenos and thrusting baetyls into
and to incorporate the powers of the other’. the ground, they were granting themselves
Similarly, the locales of interaction (temples/ (and others) the protection of the god and
markets), to be discussed next, turned out to creating a safe, controlled space. Baetyls
be spaces of contention, where alien things marked the end of the lands over which they
were discussed and eventually rejected. ruled: from the ‘columns’ of Herakles/Melqart
in Gadir to the ‘altars’ of the Philenes in
Cyrenaica (Polybius 3.39.2; Malkin 1990). In
the extension of baetyls farther to the west, we
The most physical inscription of the land- see evidence of an attempt to attach, at least
scape is represented by the foundation of symbolically, remoter independent locations
sanctuaries. Temples have a great deal of to the well-tethered Punic core. As occurred
relevance in Greek and Phoenician colonial- with mapping (above), this gesture can be
ism and they were keys to enabling spaces for interpreted in two ways, which are telling of
trade—markets. ‘In ancient trade, the temple its ambivalence: it may be read as a colonial
built close to a market or place of exchange inscription of a foreign land, an appropria-
guaranteed the protection of visitors and mer- tion; yet it is also evidence of vulnerability—a
chants… The sanctuaries in antiquity were desire for fixity and stability—in an environ-
the prime places of commercial transactions in ment which is not as predictable and control-
a foreign country’ (Aubet 1993: 234). Phoeni- lable as the Mediterranean.
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Past the Last Outpost 139

Two Punic shrines are known in Gallaecia, to this site, at the hillfort of the small isle of
and two other places are very likely to have Toralla, another baetyl, identical to the three
had some kind of sacred space. In Punta do discovered in Punta do Muiño, was found in
Muiño/Museo do Mar, a small coastal prom- a rescue excavation (Abad Vidal 1998). The
ontory near the modern city of Vigo (Galicia, polished stone, which was 1.1 m long, was
Spain), a sanctuary with three (perhaps four) thrust into the ground in a layer of similar date
baetyls was discovered in 2003 (Suárez Otero (6th–5th centuries BC), associated with per-
2004a; 2004b). These baetyls were polished ishable structures. The hillfort has also yielded
granite blocks, over 1 m in length, deeply a good quantity of Punic pottery, including
thrust into the ground (Figure 10). The sacred amphorae, red-slip ware, wheel-turned table-
area was delimited by a square structure of wares and an unspecified number of blue glass
small stones. A large amount of Punic pot- beads (Hidalgo 1990–91).
tery (around 2,000 fragments), mainly early The resemblance of these structures to other
Mañá-Pascual A4 amphorae, was discovered. Punic shrines is remarkable. We have several
There are some slight remains of perishable representations of baetyls in Phoenician ste-
structures, but no stone buildings. The sanctu- lae (Barreca 1986: figs. 89, 123, 124; Moscati
ary was abandoned around the 4th century BC 1992: figs. 25, 45). They became very popular
and a native settlement, with massive stone in the 6th to 5th centuries BC (Moscati 1992:
structures, was built on top of it. Very close 39) and from the 4th century BC onwards

Figure 10. Punic baetyls discovered in a test pit beneath a Middle Iron Age house. Punta do Muiño (Pontevedra,

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140 González-Ruibal

they began to disappear, due to the effects of Other ritual evidence is less clear. In A
hellenization and the emergence of anthro- Lanzada, an important emporion like Punta
pomorphic representations of deities (Moscati do Muiño, two artefacts might be related to
1992: 45, 49). Actual temples with baetyls are religious activities (González-Ruibal 2004c):
known in Crete, Sicily, Sardinia and Iberia a votive statuette (Figure 11), similar to
(Guerrero Ayuso 1986: 370-73; López Pardo those found on Eivissa, in the Balearic Islands
1992a: fig. 3; Shaw 2000; Tusa 2000). As for (Almagro Gorbea 1980), Sicily and Sardinia
the stelae representing baetyls, some of them (Moscati 1977: 53, fig. 4; 203-208) from the
have been dated to the 6th to 5th centuries 3rd–1st centuries BC, and an askos (late 3rd–
BC (Tusa 2000), a chronology that fits well early 2nd century BC), which is a vessel often
the Gallaecian Punic shrines. In our case, we associated with funerary or religious contexts.
know that these baetyls were foreign, because The impressive mountain of Santa Trega,
no similar element has ever appeared in any in the Miño estuary, is another relevant site.
hillfort further inland or lacking Punic items. The development of a large oppidum in the
The idea of the baetyl itself, however, could 1st century BC has left little traces of previous
have been understood and accepted by the occupations, but several pre-Augustan imports
indigenous communities, given that their dei- have been recovered (Figure 12). From this
ties were aniconic until the Late Iron Age site comes a representation of Hercules that
(González-Ruibal 2004b). Since the shrines dates from the Roman period. As we have
were occupying native ground, it is reasonable seen, Hercules/Melqart was one of the most
to think that the rites themselves were prob- important Punic deities in the Atlantic. The
ably a mixture of local and foreign beliefs. devotion to Melqart survived in Roman times

Figure 11. A fragment of possible votive statuette from A Lanzada (Pontevedra, Galicia) (right), compared to a
statuette from Bithia, Sicily (left).

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Past the Last Outpost 141

and it is embodied in many small bronze figu- Just as with mapping, we cannot simply
rines of Hercules that have been found in the consider temples as a one-way imposition.
area around the Strait of Gibraltar (Rodríguez We have to view altars as a Punic attempt to
Oliva 1990: 95). It is reasonable to think that, establish a dialogue both with local people
given the extraordinary strategic relevance of and local gods: they are spaces of negotia-
the mountain of Santa Trega and its sacred tion. Phoenician and Punic shrines were often
character for the natives themselves, the Punic established in indigenous sacred places. A
sailors could have established a small shrine case in point is the temple to Sardus Pater in
there, as they did in other places. The cult was Antas (Sardinia), which is associated with
later appropriated and re-elaborated by the Iron Age Nuragic elite burials (Moscati 1992:
natives, as shown by the persistence of the cult 60). This island offers the best examples of
to Hercules in Roman Gallaecia (Oria Segura ritual uses of older pre-colonial monuments,
1989: 271). sometimes performed by natives using Punic

Figure 12. Mediterranean materials from Santa Trega (late 2nd century BC), including Italic amphorae, Campanian
ware and Punic glass beads, showing the prominence of the site as a trading post (after González-Ruibal
in press).

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142 González-Ruibal

artefacts (van Dommelen 1997). In Gallaecia, case of Neixón (A Coruña, Galicia), a coastal
it is by no means accidental that the possible hillfort with numerous Mediterranean imports,
cult to Hercules-Melqart was established in including Punic amphorae (Mañá-Pascual A4,
Santa Trega, a locale of paramount religious Mañá C2) and Campanian A ware. Sur-
importance for local peoples since the Bronze rounding the settlement, a ditch has been
Age, as shown by its hundreds of petroglyphs excavated that yielded, among other things, a
(Martínez Tamuxe 1980). With regard to probable ritual structured deposit containing
Punta do Muiño, the shrine was erected only a dog bones,3 local pottery (including an unguen-
few meters away from a ritual deposit of bronze tarium), and Punic vessels (Ayán Vila 2005)
axes of the Bronze Age/Iron Age transition (Figure 13). Another interesting example is an
(Caramés 2004). It is probably significant Orientalizing bronze statuette discovered as a
that most other hillforts with a notable Punic votive offering in the Dola river, in northern
presence (Toralla, Montealegre, Neixón, A Galicia near the aforementioned ‘Cape of
Lanzada) were occupied well before the arrival the Marine Woman’, in an area frequented
of the Punic sailors (9th–8th centuries BC). by Punic sailors (Maciñeira 1947: 371); the
When Punic traders arrived in the area, these artefact is clearly Mediterranean, but the ritual
were ancestral locales already meaningful for itself is native Atlantic. As in the case of maps
the local populations. Local traces of rituals and myths, ritual places might have actually
are scant. It is, however, worth mentioning the made possible a ‘third space’ (Bhabha 1990:

Figure 13. Local materials (two decorated jars and an unguentarium) and Punic vessels from the structured deposit
in a ditch in Neixón hillfort (A Coruña, Galicia), 4th–2nd century BC (Ayán Vila et al. 2005, with
additions from the 2005 field season).

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Past the Last Outpost 143

211), which was neither Punic nor Gallaecian, The same restrictions apply to fine ves-
a hybrid middle ground that allowed a dialogue sels, such as black-glaze pottery. They are
‘in between’. extremely rare in Gallaecia, unlike other
That the relation between Punics and locals imports—amphorae or glass beads. In my
was a dialogue, based on a contested middle opinion, Gallaecians were mostly interested
ground rather than a colonial imposition, can in those things that could be consumed col-
also be seen in the natives’ agency. Temples/ lectively (e.g. wine) and that could be easily
markets were a space of contention, locales adapted to local social needs and be circulated
where alien goods were subjected to discus- widely (e.g. beads), thus maintaining and
sion. As opposed to orthodox opinion, which creating social links (cf. Turgeon 2004: 42 for
portrays locals as avid consumers of foreign a similar example)—qualities that black-glaze
trinkets, Gallaecians appear as exigent part- pottery lacks. Fine vessels in other areas were
ners in their relation with the Punic traders. used for enhancing one’s prestige and finally
Two specific technologies help make this joined the owner in the tomb. This occurs
point clear: rotary quern-stones and wheel- on the southern Portuguese coast, where the
turned pottery. Both inventions were quickly indigenous elite used Attic and Campanian
incorporated and replicated by most indig- pottery as a status marker (e.g. Soares 1978;
enous Iberian communities after their contact Arruda 1997). In the necropolis of the indig-
with Phoenicians and Greeks, but not by Gal- enous coastal settlement of Alcâcer do Sal,
laecians. We know that they were acquainted for example, Attic pottery appears together
with rotary quern-stones, because they have with local symbols of power (arms and fibu-
been located in hillforts dated to the 4th–3rd lae). Gallaecians had a conception of prestige
centuries BC (Carballo et al. 2003), but they and legitimation of power that curtailed the
only became popular during the 1st century BC use of certain Mediterranean goods, because
and especially after the Roman conquest. they offered almost no possibilities for their
A similar thing occurs with wheel-turned negotiation in collective terms nor could they
pottery. Despite being familiar with wheel- be validated through public confirmation—as
turned vessels through exchanges with Punic opposed to wine, for example, which could
merchants, Gallaecians were reluctant to use be consumed in feasts sponsored by the elites,
the wheel themselves until the 1st century BC. and torcs, which could be conspicuously worn
Painted pottery, common in the Punic world, at feasts or in war (see Woolf 2002: 11).
was extremely rare in Gallaecia, too, and Med-
iterranean models were seldom reproduced Conclusion
by Gallaecian potters. Social agency appar-
ently hampered the replication of these alien The Atlantic Ocean has been marginalized by
techniques. Significantly, Gallaecians used modern scholars interested in ancient coloni-
other complex rotary technologies, such as in alism, partly because it has remained virtually
jewelry (García Vuelta 2002). The rejection unknown to researchers outside the region, but
of rotary quern-stones and wheels for making also due to the persistence of ancient colonial
pottery can only be explained as conscious categories in modern research: for ancient
local technical choices, perhaps to be related scholars the Atlantic was a backward and
(among other things) to gender concepts: pot- remote area in which few, if any, interesting
tery was a female task and quern-stones were cultural developments could occur. In this arti-
most likely used by women, too, as in the great cle, I have shown the importance of the Punic
majority of traditional societies. presence in the Atlantic, and, especially, the

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144 González-Ruibal

relevance of the region for gaining a differ- communities of northwest Iberia, a region
ent insight into ancient colonialism. I argue known as Gallaecia in antiquity.
that borderlands show with more clarity than Moreover, it is obvious that merchants did
core areas the ambivalence and ambiguities of not simply deceive candid natives with their
colonial narratives and the constant challenge fancy tricks and trifles. On the contrary, those
to which these narratives are subjected by oth- sacred neutral spaces for trade created by Punic
ers. I have specifically examined the mecha- sailors and natives (temples/markets) became
nisms deployed by Punic sailors in northern places of contention, where techniques, arte-
Iberia to inscribe an (almost) absolute alien facts and myths were discussed. Native agency
world and to enable a dialogue with (almost) is especially clear in the Atlantic beyond effec-
absolute others. I have suggested that maps, tive Punic control: many widespread Mediter-
myths, temples and markets were the basic ranean techniques, such as the wheel or the
mechanisms that allowed Punic merchants to rotary quernstone, were rejected by the Gal-
come to terms with alterity and enable a space laecians, whereas other forms of knowledge
of interaction, but they were also the means (jewelry, sculpture) were appropriated accord-
by which any desire for control could be con- ing to the particular political economies and
tested by locals. to their usefulness in establishing a symmetri-
Most research on ancient colonialism has cal relation with foreign sailors (myths).
focused on places where control was in the Although I have dealt with a region that was
conquerors’ hands, usually due to the effective never colonized by Phoenicians/Punics, the
conquest of the local land. This has given an case that has been studied here could be useful
air of inevitability to the colonial processes for rethinking early culture contact in regions
and too strong an agency to the colonists, to that were effectively settled by colonists. The
the detriment of the local people. The aim of relations of domination that resulted from
this article has been to demonstrate that things contact between colonists and natives in dif-
are not necessarily so straightforward: mer- ferent parts of the Mediterranean and beyond
chants, settlers and conquerors feel isolation were not necessarily enforced from the begin-
and insecurity; they have to struggle, physi- ning (Dietler 1998: 298): other ways of inter-
cally and symbolically, with alien landscapes action, based on negotiation and the creation
and peoples. There is a vulnerability in the of a middle ground, were possible. Historical
colonizers’ identity and in the grounds of their research has shown it to be so for modern colo-
authority, as Homi Bhabha (1994) has argued. nialism (White 1991) and archaeology can do
The mechanisms they deploy for appropria- the same in antiquity.
tion of the land reveal an unfulfillable need
for control. Furthermore, some of the mecha- Notes
nisms could be turned against the foreigners, as
Bhabha, again, has shown for recent colonial- 1. In this article, the term ‘Punic’ is used to
ism. By adopting and reshaping foreign myths define the western Phoenicians between the
or geographies that were originally aimed late 6th century BC (after the fall of Tyre)
at symbolically controlling the Other, locals and the early 1st century AD (when the last
could empower themselves, enable more egali- Punic independent kingdom, in Morocco,
tarian interactions with foreigners, and blur was annexed by the Roman empire). On ter-
the divide between themselves and the sailors. minology, see Aubet (1993: 5-12).
This way of counter-attacking colonial nar- 2. The Tartessians were an indigenous group in
ratives has been exemplified with the native Iberia who were deeply influenced by Eastern

© The Fund for Mediterranean Archaeology/Equinox Publishing Ltd., 2006

Past the Last Outpost 145
Mediterranean cultural elements and devel- lished report. Servizo de Arqueoloxía. Xunta
oped a particular Orientalizing culture, like de Galicia, Santiago de Compostela.
the Etruscans in Italy (Torres 2002). Almagro Gorbea, M.J.
3. Dogs had a ritual role in Phoenician/Punic 1980 Corpus de las terracotas de Ibiza. Madrid:
Bibliotheca Praehistorica Hispana.
religion. They have appeared in ritual pits,
Almagro-Gorbea, M., O. Arteaga, O. Blech, D. Ruiz
but they are not unusual in indigenous Atlan-
Mata and H. Schubart
tic ritual deposits, either.
2001 Protohistoria de la península Ibérica. Barcelona:
Acknowledgments Aranegui, C. (ed.)
2001 Lixus: Colonia fenicia y ciudad púnico-mau-
I want to thank Bill Rathje and Ana Rodríguez ritana: anotaciones sobre su ocupación medie-
Mayorgas for reading previous drafts of this val. Memoria de las excavaciones arqueológicas
paper and for their valuable comments. I am realizadas por el equipo hispano-marroquí en
grateful to Roberto Aboal Fernández and la ladera sur de Lixus (Larache) entre 1995 y
Xurxo Ayán Vila (Laboratorio de Arque- 1999. Valencia: INSAP and Universitat de
oloxía e Formas Culturais and CSIC) for València.
kindly allowing me to use some unpublished Arruda, A.M.
materials from their excavations presented in 1997 As cerâmicas áticas do castelo de Castro Marim.
Figures 6 and 13. Lois Armada Pita provided Lisboa: Colibri.
2001 Importações púnicas no Algarve: cronologia e
important precisions about the Punic coins
significado. In A.A. Tavares (ed.), Os púnicos
from Ortigueira. Finally, I want to thank the
no extremo ocidente. Actas do coloquio inter-
anonymous referees and the editors of the nacional, Lisboa, 27 e 28 de outubro de 2000,
journal for their suggestions and comments 69-98. Lisboa: Universidade Aberta.
which have considerably improved the article. 2002 Los fenicios en Portugal: Fenicios y mundo
Any errors remain my own. indígena en el centro y sur de Portugal (siglos
VIII-VI a.C.). Cuadernos de arqueología medi-
terránea 5-6. Barcelona: Universitat Pompeu
About the Author
Alfredo González-Ruibal is a MEC/Fulbright Aubet, M.E.
post-doctoral fellow at the Stanford Archae- 1969 La Cueva d’es Cuyram, Ibiza. Barcelona: Uni-
ology Center. He holds a PhD in Prehistoric versidad de Barcelona.
Archaeology from the Complutense Univer- 1986 Los fenicios en España: estado de la cuestión y
sity of Madrid. His interests include the Iron perspectivas. In G. del Olmo and M.E. Aubet
Age communities of Atlantic Europe; ancient (eds.), Los fenicios en la península Ibérica, Vol.
1: 11-38. Sabadell (Barcelona): Ausa.
and modern colonialism, imperialism, cultural
1993 The Phoenicians and the West: Politics, Colo-
contact and trade; ethnoarchaeology and the
nies, and Trade. Cambridge and New York:
archaeology of the contemporary past. http:// Cambridge University Press. 2001 The Phoenicians and the West: Politics, Colo-
ezRuibal/Home nies, and Trade. 2nd edition. Cambridge and
New York: Cambridge University Press.
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