The Celtiberian city of Tamusia and its coinage.
The ruins of the Celtiberian town of Villasviejas del Tamuja are located about 3 kilometers from the town of Botija (province of Cáceres, Spain), being able to reach them by a dirt track in good condition. Highlight that great part of its materials and even its structures were reused many years ago for the construction of sheep corrals.
Photo 1.- Ruins of the external enclosure of the “Villasviejas del Tamuja” ancient site.
The site occupies the top of a broad but low hill, whose gentle slopes offer no special advantages from the fortification point of view with the sole exception of its western front: much more rugged due to the Tamuja river stream which flows surrounding its basis.
Photo 2.- Lower (exterior) and upper (interior) enclosures of the city-wall.
Judging by the preserved city-wall remains, mostly collapsed rubble with more than 2 meters thick, the ancient city counted for its defense with two concentric enclosures located at different heights. The spaces located at the foot of the ramparts are completely clogged at present, thus forming a kind of ground retaining walls. It is possible, therefore, to walk along its top: undoubtedly strongly diminished in height.
Photo 3.- Powerful collapse rubbles at the foot of the remains of the internal enclosure.
Although some room structures have been recently excavated inside the walled enclosure, with interesting findings, as well as the incineration necropolis of the town, it is evident that the most striking of the site are its defeated city-walls. Unfortunately, its advanced degree of deterioration forces us to focus our attention on a few better conserved points in order to document their constructive technique: an external front executed in granite ashlars of good size (not cyclopean), many of them well-carved, as well as placed without participation of mortar, delimiting a rough core of irregular masonry and sand. Today it is impossible to determine the characteristics of the internal front, since it is entirely terra-filled. However, it is possible to suppose constructive characteristics similar to those of the external front, perhaps, if anything, worse finished according to parallels with other contemporary city-walls.
Photo 4.- The usual rough ashlar stonework in the site of Villasviejas del Tamuja, the ancient Tamusia.
Historically the remains of Villasviejas del Tamuja have been identified with the Celtiberian city of Tamusia, undoubtedly following the evidence provided by the current hydronym "Tamuja". For its part, the finding in recent times of a large number of coins with legend TAMUSIA written in north-eastern Iberian characters as well as two Latin tessellas containing the legend TAMVSIENSIS CAR, both exhumed within the archaeological area of the site, has served to reinforce the traditional identification proposal.
Photo 5.- Wall of rough small ashlar located in the external front of the upper enclosure.
The last excavations have purposed a city inhabitation period from the fourth century BC, when it was founded, until the beginning of the first century AD, in which its abandonment is verified. Affected by the Romanisation of Lusitania after its conquest by the Roman legions in the 2nd century BC, it is believed that its main dynamic engine was the exploitation of the silver deposits located in the region ordered by Rome. In fact, every coinage series minted in Tamusia belong to its roman period, the best time for the city, when it was enoughly important to struck legal coins. Specifically, it is a powerful emission of Bronze Asses (with many minor variants) characterized by the usual celtic type: male head type in obverse and spearman riding horse in reverse, in this case identified by the legend Ta-M-u-S-i-a in north-eastern Iberian characters. Its typological parallelism with the later series of the great celtiberian city of Sekaisa allows us to date these Tamusian emissions in the first half of the first century BC. Recently, the hypothesis of a displacement of celtiberians to this area of classical Lusitania, which would have been contracted as miners for the silver mines of the region and settled in Tamusia, has been proposed. This would explain the strong Celtiberian flavor of its mintings as well as the rapid decline and, finally, abandonment of the city once the mines stopped being exploited. Below we can see three exemplars of Celtiberian asses struck in the Tamusia mint.
Photos 6, 7 and 8.- Celtiberian type Asses struck by the Tanusia mint in the first half of the first century BC.
There is also a rare emission (represented in the drawing and photo below of this paragraph) totally different as far as typology is concerned of this one that we have just described but that is also often attributed to the city of Tamusia. It consists in a brief issue of asses of elevated diameter and weight (from 28 to 30 mm and from 22 to 24 grams) with a non-bearded male head on obverse depicted in a quite different style from that of the typically celtiberian emissions. To the left of this head we see the iberian letters: Ta-M, initial of the name of the city. For its part, the reverse considerably differs from the conventional type "spearman riding horse", showing a boat with rowers to right and the Latin legend TAMVSIENSI (letters A, M and V in nexation) above. Considering the very strong typological divergence between the two tamusian types, there is no shortage of authors who are reluctant to assign this last emission to the mint of Tamusia, even though the reverse legend seems to point in that direction. Any case, a relatively late chronology has been proposed for this emission: towards the year 50 BC, quite later, therefore, to the emission of Celtiberian type.
Photos 9 and 10.- Scheme and exemplar of the “TAMVSIENSI” type assigned, not without reservations, to the Tamusia mint.