This 2,400-year-old statue reveals insights into ancient Spain

Hungry for artifacts from an elusive Iberian civilization, archaeologists were thrilled to find an elaborate funerary statue dubbed the 'Lady of Baza.'

Seated on a winged throne, the colorful Lady of Baza was found in an Iberian necropolis in Baza, Spain. The piece was created in the early fourth century B.C.
ASF/ALBUM

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.

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