Jumilla is a relatively small town in the north-east of Murcia with around 25,000 inhabitants. However, it has excellent links to the motorway from Murcia City past Cieza and is well worth a visit.
As you near the town on the N344, the most notable feature is the castle which stands out clearly on the hill behind the town centre and dominates the agricultural plain beneath. On this hill, have been found remains from the Bronze and Iron Ages, followed by Iberians who established the first urban nucleus in the area. They were succeeded by the Romans with retired legionnaires obtaining land in the area and building their villas which have bequeathed some superb mosaics.
From a time before 625 AD, it appears that Jumilla found itself in the area of Levantine Spain controlled by Byzantium (the Eastern Roman Empire) before it was integrated fully into the Visigoth Kingdom which had its capital at Toledo. With the Moors’ arrival in Spain in 711 AD, Jumilla was first integrated into the Kingdom of Tudmir until Arab control in Spain began to fragment. The Jumilla area then became part of the Kingdom (Taifa) of Denia, then Valencia and finally Murcia, before the Reconquista saw Christian control established in the mid-12th Century. Thereafter, the town’s fortunes ebbed and flowed in common with the rest of Spain. There was significant urban development in the 16th Century with another major move forward in the second half of the 19th and first few years of the 20th Centuries.
If you wish to acquaint yourself with the town’s early history, then there is nowhere better than the Archaeological Museum (MuseoArqueológico Municipal Jerónimo Molina), which stands at the head of a square, the Plaza de Arriba, near the town’s principal church, the Iglesia de Santiago.
The Plaza de Arriba is located at one of the entrances into Arab Jumilla and is also the site of an Islamic necropolis of the 12th and 13th Centuries. The square then became the economic and political centre of the expanding settlement in the 16th Century. Unsurprisingly, the Town Hall of the time (Palacio del Consejo) was in the square, built in classical style in the mid-16th Century. The interior of the building was totally remodelled in 1997. However, the Renaissance facade has been preserved and is now said to be the only surviving example in a civil building in Murcia. Today, the building houses the Archaeological Museum, but has, in the past, also been a grain store, home of the town archives and a prison!
The Archaeological Museum was inaugurated in 1956. When we were last there, it opened every day except Mondays, from 10am (11am on Sundays) to 2pm and from 5pm to 8pm in the afternoon (not, however, on Sundays). There was a minimal entrance charge.
The ground/basement floor dealt with prehistory before the Iberians, the first floor with the Iberians and the second floor with the Romans through to medieval times.
The prehistoric section goes from Stone Age (Palaeolithic) times through the Copper Age (preceding the main Bronze Age) and the Bronze Age, including the funeral rituals. Various pots are displayed, including a large Bronze Age Pithoi storage jar. The exhibits have signs in both Spanish and English. The most impressive part of the museum, however, deals with the Iberian population of the area. You will be able to view a multitude of ceramics from this time and there is much information on the signboards about life at the time, religious activity, burial customs and Iberian warriors. Among items on display are cinerary urns, weapons and beads and ornaments. Some of the pots are intricately decorated and are of Greek origin.
You will be able to look at typical house contents, while the funeral remains have provided many exceptional items. For men, grave goods would often be weapons (warriors would be cremated accompanied by their arms), while women would have ornaments placed with their remains. At the top of the social tree, a chieftain would even have a masonry structure placed above his interment such as the four sided stone sculpture (the Pilar Estela Funeraria de los Jinetes) depicting a warrior on a horse on three sides and a god with a child on the other from the late 4th Century BC.
Another case of finds had numerous ornaments reflecting female interments, including necklaces and loom weights. You will see examples of Iberian weapons such as the falcate, an iron sword with a flat blade and with one or both edges sharpened. Spears or javelins of around two metres length were a further weapon, while the shorter lances, often made of metal, had points at both ends. Shields were made of leather with an iron grip.
Why so much emphasis on the Iberian period? In fact, many of the remains come from a nearby settlement, Coimbra del Barranco Ancho, not quite three miles from Jumilla. This settlement existed from the late 5th Century to the early 2nd Century BC, with the Roman occupation of the area seeming to have coincided with the village’s destruction. Of particular interest are the three burial areas, or necropolises, which adjoined the village as it was excavation of these which gave the main pieces you can now view in the museum. In 1979, a sanctuary related to the village was found and excavations discovered offerings which had been left in cracks in the rocks as well as votive offerings. Gold and silver masks, bronze items and ceramic vases were among the other finds as well as a terracotta face. The sanctuary has been dated to the mid-4th Century to the late 3rd Century BC.
In the museum, you will find a brief description of the settlement which must have been very impressive in its time. It was walled (large stone blocks) and had a perimeter fully of three kilometres enclosing an internal space of 54 hectares. The entrance was defended by two towers. Internally, generally rectangular houses were in terraces, but there was a lack of public buildings and squares, which was normal in Iberian settlements.
The second floor of the museum contains a wide variety of exhibits from Roman times onwards. The Roman era is represented by various terracotta figures, lamps, pots and building materials, but perhaps most impressive of all is the mosaic which covers a good proportion of the floor area and is said to date from the second century AD. There is also an important collection of Roman coins. In addition, there are also various ceramics from the time of the Visigoths, and vases decorated with manganese from 12th and 13th Century Arab Jumilla. To these are added a few remains found from the early medieval Christian period.
Article by Clive and Rosie Palmer who have written several guide books on towns and regions in Murcia. Their book, “Exploring Murcia, Days Out” is available to buy from the Costa Cálida Chronicle office on Camposol B, Best Wishes (who also stock other of their books), or phone Patti on 968 433 978. All their books can be viewed at and obtained from www.lulu.com, or contact email@example.com.