Royal Tombs of Selca e Poshtme

Pogradec, Albania

The Illyrian Tombs of Selca e Poshtme are located near the town of Pogradec in Albania. On the right bank of the river Shkumbin lie the remains of the ancient city of Pelion and the accompanying necropolis. The Roman Via Egnatia led past it towards Thessaloniki. Though there are traces of human activity in Neolithic times, the settlement proper dates to the Iron Age through to the Illyrian urban period (5th to 2nd centuries BC), and reached its height under settlement by the Illyrian tribe of Enchele in the later Iron Age and was also occupied in the Roman period as traces of a municipal building show. From the 4th to 1st centuries BC the city was the royal residence of Illyrian kings and therefore, also probably an important political and economic centre.

According to excavations, the settlement has five phases of occupation. Selcë I to III are divided into late Neolithic, early Bronze Ageand Late Bronze Age, all represented by different ceramic forms. The settlement was continuously inhabited from the Bronze Age into the Iron Age. During the 6th to 5th centuries BC the settlement developed as a proto-urban center on the road that ran along the river Shkumbin connecting the coast of Albania to Macedonia. From the Iron Age there is a permanent settlement at the site.

Around 570 BC/550 BC the phase of Selcë IV began, evidenced by traces of burnt dwellings, pottery, including imports from Corinth in the lower horizon, and some Ionian wares. In the upper horizon, local, red-brown painted pottery, wheel made pottery with two handles and Ionic and Attic products were found. The local potters copied Greek models and were also influenced by their style. During the 4th century the acropolis was fortified by an encircling wall of well-cut stone.

In the 4th and 3rd centuries BC Selca was an important trading centre and was the administrative centre of the Illyrian region of the Dassaretae. Terraces were created in order to develop the settlement across the hilly terrain. In the 3rd century monumental tombs were cut into the rock around the acropolis, some with Ionic columns. One of these tombs was reused at the end of the 2nd century and a wide array of finds were discovered therein, including weapons, bronze vessels, ceramics and gold jewellery. The construction of the Via Egnatia, which bypassed the city, led to its decline.

During the 4th century AD Selca, as a military and administrative centre, was re-fortified with stone walls bound with mortar. Houses were constructed from reused Roman and Illyrian masonry. On the basis of coin finds two elements phases of construction can be determined. The first from the time of Valentinian I (364-375), the second from the time of Justinian I (518 - 565) to the years 547/548. The city was of economic and political importance before being conquered by the Slavs who destroyed the last remains of the Illyrian city.

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Founded: 6th century BCE
Category: Cemeteries, mausoleums and burial places in Albania

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Lorca Castle

Castle of Lorca (Castillo de Lorca) is a fortress of medieval origin constructed between the 9th and 15th centuries. It consists of a series of defensive structures that, during the Middle Ages, made the town and the fortress an impregnable point in the southeast part of the Iberian Peninsula. Lorca Castle was a key strategic point of contention between Christians and Muslims during the Reconquista.

Archaeological excavations have revealed that the site of the castle has been inhabited since Neolithic times.

Muslim Era

It has not been determined exactly when a castle or fortress was first built on the hill. The first written documentation referring to a castle at Lorca is of Muslim origin, which in the 9th century, indicates that the city of Lurqa was an important town in the area ruled by Theudimer (Tudmir). During Muslim rule, Lorca Castle was an impregnable fortress and its interior was divided into two sections by the Espaldón Wall. In the western part, there was an area used to protect livestock and grain in times of danger. The eastern part had a neighbourhood called the barrio de Alcalá.

After Reconquista

Lorca was conquered by the Castilian Infante Don Alfonso, the future Alfonso X, in 1244, and the fortress became a key defensive point against the Kingdom of Granada. For 250 years, Lorca Castle was a watchpoint on the border between the Christian kingdom of Murcia and the Muslim state of Granada.

Alfonso X ordered the construction of the towers known as the Alfonsina and Espolón Towers, and strengthened and fixed the walls. Hardly a trace of the Muslim fortress remained due to this reconstruction. Muslim traces remain in the foundation stones and the wall known as the muro del Espaldón.

The Jewish Quarter was found within the alcazaba, the Moorish fortification, separated from the rest of the city by its walls. The physical separation had the purpose of protecting the Jewish people in the town from harm, but also had the result of keeping Christians and Jews separate, with the Christians inhabiting the lower part of town.

The remains of the Jewish Quarter extended over an area of 5,700 square m, and 12 homes and a synagogue have been found; the synagogue dates from the 14th century and is the only one found in the Murcia. The streets of the town had an irregular layout, adapted to the landscape, and is divided into four terraces. The synagogue was in the central location, and around it were the homes. The homes were of rectangular shape, with various compartmentalized rooms. The living quarters were elevated and a common feature was benches attached to the walls, kitchens, stand for earthenware jars, or cupboards.

Modern history

With the disappearance of the frontier after the conquest of Granada in 1492, Lorca Castle no longer became as important as before. With the expulsion of the Jews by order of Ferdinand and Isabella, Lorca Castle was also depopulated as a result. The castle was abandoned completely, and was almost a complete ruin by the 18th century. In the 19th century, the castle was refurbished due to the War of Spanish Independence. The walls and structures were repaired or modified and its medieval look changed. A battery of cannons was installed, for example, during this time. In 1931 Lorca Castle was declared a National Historic Monument.

Currently, a parador (luxury hotel) has been built within the castle. As a result, archaeological discoveries have been found, including the Jewish Quarter.