Iberian culture is identified as the historical period of the Iron Age, that is a period situated between the 7th and 1st centuries BC. In ethnic terms the population that characterised Iberian Culture is the same that occupied Andalusia since Neolithic times. It has been written that the Iberian peoples arrived from Africa or Asia with their culture already formed, but this idea has to be rejected. However there are great differences between the different phases that characterised the development of Iberian Culture, which is normal for a historical period spanning seven centuries.
From a technological and economic viewpoint, the Iberians produced agricultural tools and iron weapons, fashioned ceramics using a potter’s wheel and gave a strong impulse to cereal farming with the incorporation of the rotary windmill. They also developed arboriculture (almonds, grape vines, olives and fruit trees) as a new agricultural strategy.
From a social and political perspective it was an aristocratic society. Since the start of the Bronze Age a society based on extensive lineage had been developing, consisting of a kinship group united by common ancestors. However, in order to extend their power the aristocrats needed to increase their lineage. They did this by developing client relationships, which integrated many families who bore no blood relationship to them into their lineage. They took the gentilic name of the aristocrat, head of the institution, and handed part of their agricultural production to the prince in exchange for land to cultivate. They were included into the circuits of gifts and services, among other things, offered by the aristocrat to his army.
The princes, above all in the 4th century BC, contributed substantially to the development of sculpture workshops, as demonstrated by the appearance of the extraordinary array of sculptures from Cerrillo Blanco in Porcuna and Cerro del Pajarillo in Huelma. These sculptures can now be seen at the Museum of Jaén.
oppida; large or small urban centres (according to the power of the lineage) that demonstrated aristocratic power with impressive fortifications. The internal design was of an urban layout with parallel and perpendicular streets and blocks of houses constructed with stone baseboards, rammed earth and adobe walls and a clay and reed covering, as roof tiles were still unknown. One of the best known cities in Jaén is the oppidum of Puente Tablas.
The Iberians buried their dead in well organised necropolis next to the oppida. Worship and funeral rites reflected the socio-ideological organisation and development of this society. From the 4th century the Iberian necropolis were the funerary space of the lineage. The social differences between the princes and their clients can be noted in both the construction of the tomb and the funerary objects. The Iberians used the rite of cremation and the ashes were buried together with funerary objects that reflected the social standing of the individual and their beliefs.
The sanctuaries are also the spaces where the Iberians connected with their beliefs and the deities. Many important sanctuaries have been discovered in the territory of Jaén, but La Cueva de la Lobera in Castellar is a particular highlight. A large number of bronze votive offerings have been recovered from this sacred place.
The geography of the Iberian villages shows the diversity between them, even in such a uniform territory as the valley formed by the River Guadalquivir. Historical sources confirm the existence of two major ethnic groups in the most ancient times. One group was the Tartessians, who were found in Lower Andalusia. The other, the Mastians, occupied Upper Andalusia, extending from the Segura river to the Mediterranean coast. Other groups must also have existed. The evolution of this map in the following phases is not clearly defined, although archaeology allows cultural differences between the two territories to be noted. Later sources give the name Turdetania to the Tartessian territory, and the Mastian territory is recognised as Bastetania and Oretania. It is possible that this is a solely geographical reference, given that the new collective identities must have developed from the 5th and 4th centuries BC, based on the oppida. The people were recognised by their lineage and the oppidum where they lived. For some researchers the differences between Tartessians and Mastians (Bastetani and Oretani) would justify the recognition of two different cultures, with different funerary traditions and even different writing and language.