Located in the heart of the Sierra Morena, 8km from Villanueva del Río y Minas in the province of Seville, Munigua is the site of the Roman city of Municipium Flavium Muniguense whose origins go back to the pre-Roman period. Evidence of human occupation extends from the mid-4th century BC to the 8th century AD. During the Romanisation of the province of Baetica, Munigua developed rapidly and received Latin rights from emperor Vespasian and became a municipium in the mid-1st century AD.
Coordinate: 37°42’47.1″N 5°44’25.9″W
Discovered in 1765 by two researchers from the Academy of Letters in Seville, the site was subsequently forgotten until 1956 when the German Archaeology Institute in Madrid once again studied it. At Munigua archaeologists have found temples, sanctuaries, a two-story porticus, residential houses, a forum, public bathhouses, city walls and a vast necropolis. However, the monumental terrace sanctuary located on the slope of the hill was known from 18th-century drawings which refer to it as the “Castle of Mulva”.
Archaeologists believe that the settlement was established by the Turdetani, an Iberian tribe who occupied the area. The first settlement undoubtedly owed its existence to the mining and metallurgy activities that have long characterised the Sierra Morena, a mountain range rich in copper and iron ore. The copper production was massively increased during the Roman occupation when elaborate ventilated underground galleries, interconnected tunnels and deep shafts were built.
Wealth derived from the mines made possible the construction of a number of monuments, the most remarkable of which was the terraced sanctuary on the slope of the hill. Dominating the city, the imposing structure standing on several tiered terraces was reinforced by 13 buttresses at the rear which gave it the appearance of a fortress and later became known as the castle of Mulva. The building is characterised by its architectural symmetry, with access ramps and stairs neatly paired on either side of the sacred precinct. The plan seems to have been taken from the temple of Fortuna Primigenia at Praeneste or the Temple of Hercules Victor in Tivoli. Nothing is known about the deity worshipped on the site, though it may have been that of Fortuna and Hercules.
The city developed at the feet of the terraced sanctuary. Between the mid-1st century and the late 2nd century AD, all of the town’s structures were built: the forum, the baths and the houses. Construction activity was boosted by Vespasian’s decision to grant Munigua the Latin right circa AD 73/74, promoting it to municipium status.
Munigua flourished under Hadrian but declined towards the end of the 3rd century AD following an earthquake that hit the town. Another earthquake in late antiquity brought an end to Munigua’s heyday, although today we know that the site was continuously occupied at least until the Almohad period in the 12th century.
The town has yielded numerous archaeological artefacts: some 45 stone sculptures and approximately 160 terracotta pieces. Other noteworthy discoveries include a considerable number of glass objects found in funerary contexts, nearly 1,500 metal artefacts and pieces of jewellery. Finally, more than 80 inscriptions were found at Munigua, including two made of bronze, a tessera hospitalis or hospitality token, and a letter from Emperor Titus.