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Place of Interest

Celtíberos en Contrebia Leucade

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Short Description:

A Pre-Roman site.


This is one of the oldest settlements in La Rioja, located on the right bank of the river Alhama, close to Inestrillas and Aguilar del Río Alhama, between two small hills. The oldest remains correspond to a burial site dating back to the end of the second millennium before Christ. In the cave of los Lagos (the lakes) some human remains and pottery fragments from the end of the Bronze Age were discovered.

The Peledons settled at Contrebia Leukade during the Iron Age. There, they constructed a fortress, taking advantage of a rocky escarpment over the river, urbanised the land and excavated houses in the rock, with a rectangular floor plan.

Towards the second half of the 4th century before Christ, other Celtiberian tribes arrived. These tribes extended the settlement and reinforced the defensive systems by excavating a deep moat out of the rock and constructing ramparts around the town. Work was also carried out to supply the settlement with drinking water. Then the Romans arrived and conquered the town in the year 142 BC, leading to the Romanisation of the lands of the Alhama river basin.

At present, the archaeological site is one of the most spectacular ones in the Peninsular and is the most significant one for learning about the extent of the Celtiberian technical development and organisational capacity.


The excavation of the moat, which was almost 700 metres long and had a width of around 8 metres, involved the removal of more than 40,000 cubic metres of stone which was subsequently used to construct the ramparts. Only some sections of these ramparts still remain, however the latest archaeological excavations have revealed the complete layout. Those wall sections still standing show evidence of subsequent repairs; such work will need to be chronologically dated in future archaeological work on the site.

The sections conserved in the extreme east pertain to the primitive stage, at the highest point of the archaeological complex. The wall closing off the northern side, the lowest point of the town and right next to the river, differs from the rest of the ramparts in both style and construction technique. It has six semi-circular towers, two of which flank a gateway, and they are predominantly built of well-dressed and well-arranged sandstone. Its construction, brought back several metres with regard to the Celtiberian wall, dates back to the end of the 1st or 2nd century AD.


The town plan adapts to the irregular relief of the site. The houses are aligned in well defined streets, following the contour lines. The house floor plan tends to be rectangular and is often divided into several rooms, arranged lengthwise.

The most complete houses are composed of three rooms: a hall used for auxiliary purposes such as storing wood and implements, locating the weaving loom or storing products for immediate consumption; a main room where the hearth was located slightly above ground and a storeroom which varied in size and, in many houses, acquired a great depth to form huge, underground rooms with a pointed ceiling. Either in the hall or in the main room, but almost always in the contact area, there were one or two stores excavated out of the rock and coated with plaster and covered with a wooden lid.

The conservation of an important part of the side walls excavated out of the rock, in addition to the mortises to receive the beams, reveal the existence of several floors in some of the houses, offsetting the limited surface area by building upwards.

Normally the floors of the houses were made of flattened earth which was repaired and periodically levelled with fresh layers. However, at a later period, coinciding with the Roman rule, special floors were used with mosaics decorated with geometric motifs and schematic animal and plant motifs.

To guarantee a permanent supply of water in sufficient quantities to ensure independence from outside supplies, the inhabitants of Contrebia constructed two works that have no comparison within the Celtiberian period. The constructions involved the creation of two accesses connecting the inner town with the Alhama water table. The southern most access was connected to what is known as the cave of Los Lagos or Lakes, of which the entrance and first few metres of the route are still conserved. The second access was a deep well hollowed out of the rock, with access from inside the town by a flight of steps which were also carved out of the rock and partially arched.

The work was carried out in two stages. The first stage involved hollowing out a well that was supplied through a small channel that took its water from the Alhama river. This above-ground construction meant that, at times of siege, it was easy to intercept the channel and interrupt the water supply. This circumstance must have occurred, leading to the redesign consisting in making the whole complex deeper, the access stairs and well, until the river water table was reached, enabling a constant water supply to be maintained below ground.

For further information about Contrebia Leukade you can visist the Interpretation Centre in Aguilar del Río Alhama.


Guided Tour


Address: C/ Camino Villarijo S/N
Phone: +34 941 197 119
District: La Rioja Suroriental

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