North of the small city of Baza in southern Spain lies a pre-Roman necropolis known as Cerro del Santuario. In 1971 it was being excavated and one July morning, under the blaze of the Andalusian sun, a worker’s tool struck something hard. It appeared to be a colored rock, but when archaeologist Francisco José Presedo came to look he saw something intriguing. As more earth was cleared away, the face of a woman emerged, finally seeing the light after nearly 2,500 years underground.
Known today as the Lady of Baza, this four-foot-high limestone sculpture depicts a bejeweled woman, richly dressed and seated on a winged throne. Once vividly painted, the work still bears traces of pigments, including a rosy blush on the cheeks and red-and-white squares along the border of her cloak. Inside a compartment in the right side, cremated human remains were found, confirming the Lady of Baza’s role as a funeral urn, dated to around 380 B.C.
The Lady of Baza resembles other carved stone female figures found elsewhere in Spain, such as the Lady of Elche, a similar artifact discovered in 1897. The two statues were both once richly painted and adorned with Iberian attire, headdresses, earrings, and necklaces.