FUNUS II: Space and Funeral Use in the Historic City. The Cordova example (II B.C.-XV A.D. Centuries)

National R & D & I Plan (2000-2003). Ministry of Science and Technology.
Duration: 2002-2005 Reference: BHA 2003-08677
Institution: University of Córdoba Center: Faculty of Philosophy and Letters
Departament: History of Art, Archaeology and Music Director: Prof. Dr. Desiderio Vaquerizo Gil

It was awarded with the title “Space and Funerary Uses in the Historical City. The Cordoban example (II Century BC – XV Century AD) “, financed by the National Plan for Scientific Research, Development and Technological Innovation 2000-2003 of the Spanish Ministry of Science and Technology, supported by FEDER (Ref. BHA 2003-08677), Covering its development between mid-2003 and mid-2006. As a culmination of the project, during the last week of March 2006, the 6th Cordovan Conference of Andalusian Archaeology was held, with the theme director: Space and funerary uses in the historic city, in which participated researchers from all over Spain in addition to all those who make up our current team. The results of these Conferences are published in a monographic book, specifically 17 (2006), of the journal Anales de Arqueología Cordobesa, published by the Archaeology and the Provincial Government Council of Cordova. In addition, to consolidate previous lines of research, such as the monumentalization of funeral areas, the analysis of architectural and sculptural ornamentation, funerary manifestations of the High-Roman-Empire period, the offerings or the epigraphic environment, the aim was to define the topographical location of funeral spaces, establishing its continuity and use over time and its spatial interrelation with habitat areas and productive areas. Among the most outstanding novelties we can highlight the phenomena related to the christianization of the funerary topography, in case of ritual change, since the incineration is abandoned and burial triumphs, and the construction of basilicas or suburban churches dedicated to the martyrs, which focused the distribution of extramural burials. Muslim cemeteries would occupy areas traditionally used for funerary purposes, as well as living spaces (arrabales, almunias), religious (mosques) and public (gardens, baths, streets, souks).

Based on the excellent results obtained by the Space Project and Funerary Uses in Corduba (Funus) between 1998 and 2001, and also counting on the human and technical resources provided by the Convention recently signed by the University of Córdoba and the Municipal Management of Urbanism of the City of Cordova for the development of archaeological activities in this city, the project sought to achieve, ultimately and always from a diachronic perspective, two fundamental scientific objectives:

  1. To expand existing information and knowledge on the funerary spaces and uses of Roman and ancient Cordoba (II-BC-VIII AD), based on both the incorporation of the findings of the Funus project and the deepening of Important aspects of the funerary world of Corduba: the monumentalization of funeral areas, the typology of burials, the analysis of architectural and sculptural decoration in the funerary field, the study of funerary epigraphy and painting, as well as of offerings or the incidence of christianity.
  2. To systematize and interpret the vast – and until today – chaotic set of archaeological data concerning the funerary world of the medieval Islamic and medieval christian stages of the History of Cordova (8th-15th Centuries AD). Lines of research of special relevance in this regard are those concerning the evolution of the Muslim cemeteries of Qurtuba, pottery recovered in medieval funerary contexts, the territory of Cordova in Islamic times or the funerary world of the Christian early medieval city. Within the framework of this new project, a bioanthropological study on a sample of the medieval population of Cordova through its skeletal remains is also proposed.
  3. The Geographic Information System (G.I.S.) and the database associated with it, both created during the previous Funus Project, will be fundamental tools for the achievement of the mentioned objectives. On the other hand, the final aims of the new project are, on the one hand, the diffusion, dissemination and social profitability of the scientific results achieved, as well as the valorization of the funeral archaeological remains of a historical city like Cordova; On the other hand, the training of research personnel who can later find career opportunities.

In the context of global archaeological analysis applied to the city of Cordova as a unique site, the study of the necropolis pretends to act as an important complement, not only because the layout of the funerary areas of a city – and its distribution in space – usually a first grade indicative to apprehend the urbanistic oscillations of this population, but also because nothing appears more clarifying in relation to the living than the confrontation with their dead; His attitude to death, his rites, the typology of his burials, his schemes, and, ultimately, the ideological component that can be extracted from all of this. Some criteria that are intended to guide the new phase of our project, which basically maintains the same objectives and methodology, incorporating as a fundamental novelty the expansion of the chronological space that we intend to analyze in the historical evolution of Cordova.

More specifically, we will extend our analysis to the stage of Islamic domination and the first centuries of the new christian domination, seeking to detect in detail the oscillations of the funerary space, the evolution of the rite, the typology of burials, offerings and, ultimately, the diachronic characterization of Cordovan society through the mirror that implies his attitude towards death and the physical expression of his funeral depositions. All this starting from fundamental studies and recent on these subjects and focused of priority way in the following lines of investigation:

  1. Topographical location of funeral deposition spaces in the city of Cordova. Continuity and change. Each social formation includes in its corresponding cultural subsystem a particular conception of death and a peculiar relation between the formalization of the spaces destined to the multiple activities of the living and those others reserved to shelter the remains and the remembrance, more or less manifest and Present, of the ancestors. Starting from this premise, we can define the priority objectives of this line of research in the following terms: spatial delimitation of funerary deposition areas for each of the cultural phases considered; Analysis of the interrelation between funerary spaces and those of habitat and productive over time; And incidence of ritual changes in the location and formalization of funeral spaces.
  2. The monumentalization of funeral areas in Roman times. It is our fundamental objective to complete the initial studies that, despite the difficulties and limitations of the sources of information, have managed to draw a completely unsuspected picture; Which, however, will be significantly expanded thanks to the framework of the collaboration agreement with the Management of Urbanism of Cordova, since the completion of the first phase of the project the recent interventions carried out by our team in the city have allowed to document some archaeological developments of great interest as the appearance of several cupae and some funeral messages; Both architectonic typologies unknown until now in the capital of Betica.
  3. Analysis of the architectural and sculptural ornamentation of funerary environment in the Roman Córdoba. The situation that begins to be glimpsed as a result of our own investigations on the subject is that of an important Hispanic city completely romanized from its beginnings, a fact that is manifested in the architectural and sculptural ornamentation of funerary environment. In this respect, we aim to achieve the following objectives: to advance in the knowledge of the types and architectural models of monumental burials that the Roman Cordova disposed of; Deepen the social background of these monuments; Concretizing and explaining the chronological distribution of monumental burials through the study of their architectural and sculptural ornamentation; To incorporate to the corpus of the funerary art of the patrician new discoveries that have occurred lately and to deepen the knowledge of this one.
  4. The patrician funerary manifestations of high and full imperial era. So far we have been able to verify the disposition in the surroundings of the city of numerous open air enclosures with diverse dimensions and formal characteristics, forming a peculiar funerary landscape next to the main transit routes, alternating without doubt with other tombs and monuments of Varied size. The data currently available make it possible to follow the trail of the monumental tombs of Roman Cordoba from about the Augustinian period until the first third of the 2nd Century AD. From then on a vacuum is observed in this aspect, a void that requires a deeper explanation than that of simple chance in conservation. In short, we intend to treat as a Doctoral Thesis a methodical and integral revision of the funeral archaeological material of high and full imperial Roman age, which contemplates the variation in rituals, the dispersion of burials, the typological variety of the same and their corresponding adjustments, as well as their similarity or variation in relation to the rest of the Empire.
  5. Analysis of funerary adjustments of Roman times: the ceramic contexts. We intend to analyze the set of ceramic materials from the tombs of the Roman period, including objects in glass and metal, in order to establish their chronology and the definition of “type of offerings” in some of the funerary sets in Cordova. The lack of funerary assemblages of the imperial era in the city itself, due mainly to methodological errors and incorrect archaeological practice, has led to a very partial knowledge of these funerary complexes, which are very small in number. On the other hand, one of the most noteworthy elements in the study of these offerings is the chronology inferred from their analysis, since they are closed contexts that provide a valuable chronology post quem and assess the dating of other ceramic contexts of the city, allowing to establish ceramic facies.
  6. The funeral epigraphic environment in Corduba. Prosopography and sociocultural analysis. Among the sources of information we have, it emphasizes funeral epigraphy, which plays an essential role in the final interpretation of the city and its inhabitants. An epigraphy that, although already partly compiled in CIL II² / 7, nevertheless requires revision, relocation and reinterpretation in its original contexts and according to the advances in the knowledge of the Cordovan funerary world that has been contributing the project that we integrate. All this in order to recreate the “epigraphic environment”, that is, the chronological, spatial and instrumental environment in which it was inserted and fulfilled its original function, since we can not understand these archaeological pieces outside its original context, isolated from the complex relationships that link the Roman with death and urban space, and encompass technical, economic, social, legal, religious, ritual, urban, etc.
  7. Roman funerary painting. For the Roman period, the great explosion of the pictorial activity in all the environments: political, religious, domestic and funerary, makes that we can penetrate in ideological aspects difficult to verify through other aspects of the Archaeology, contributing therefore an invaluable information for the interpretation of the mentality and the beliefs of the beyond the Roman society. It is from this point of view from which we consider fundamental the study of funerary painting within the present project, basic for the ultimate interpretation on the world of death in the capital of Betica.
  8. The Christianization of the urban topography of Corduba. In this line of work we intend to observe the changes that the city of Córdoba experiences after the penetration of christianity and the transformations that took place in the urban and funerary framework. We try to observe and analyze, through archaeological vestiges and ancient sources, the evolution of the city from the 3rd Century AD, especially in the funerary field. It will be in this field where we study a new ritual in the burials, since from now on the incineration is abandoned and the burial of the deceased triumphs as a unique ritual between late Roman society. The appearance of large necropolis on the outskirts of the city is closely linked to another eminently Christian phenomenon: the construction of basilicas or suburban churches dedicated to martyrs, which focus on the distribution of burial outside the walls.
  9. The Muslim cemeteries of Qurtuba (711-1236). Of course, the Muslim cemeteries (maqabir) of Cordoba are documented from the first moment of Islamic occupation, usually occupied areas traditionally intended for funerary uses already in previous times, growing in relation to the demographic development that the city experiences and lasting Until the Christian conquest. For this reason, one of the most interesting aspects is the study of the evolution, transformation and situation of funerary spaces throughout the five centuries of Islamic occupation. In the next level of analysis we must face each of these cemeteries independently, analyzing the total surface occupied, as well as the numerous existing overlaps. In this way we could know which specific area was initially selected to be used for funerary use and where it was growing. We also believe that the links established with respect to the areas of habitat (suburbs), religious (mosques) and public (gardens, baths, streets, souks) are fundamental.
  10. Islamic ceramics in the funerary setting of Qurtuba. Unlike other periods, at this stage we observe an almost total absence of funerary furnishings in the graves, a fact that we must put it in relation to the Qur’anic precepts and the “egalitarian” view that they have of the death following the Malikí rite prevailing in Al -Andalus. As a result, our research would focus on the study of all those pieces extracted from a clear archaeological context that could guide us about the complex stratigraphic sequences and the numerous overlaps in the most extensive Islamic cemeteries. This would give a much broader and more comprehensive knowledge of the necropolis of Qurtuba, discerning the changing uses of the different sectors of the city, and ultimately completing the evolution of the urban fabric of Cordova during the Islamic occupation.
  11. The territory of Cordova. To this day, only a few necropolis are known from the most immediate suburbs to Madinat Qurtuba, without knowing anything about its location in places further away from the urban nucleus. Therefore, an aspect to be covered would be the distribution of the different funeral areas in the territory of the core and its relationship or not with the city itself, in order to deepen the knowledge of the population organization in Islamic times. Equally important is the study of the funerary register in the non-urban sphere, since its necropolis will reflect the evolution of the rural world. Thus, this analysis would determine the socioeconomic role of these settlements in relation to Qurtuba, and especially if the degree of islamization reached by these populations would be comparable to that of urban settlements.
  12. The funerary world in the late medieval christian city. The configuration of the parish cemeteries of Cordova (13th-15th Centuries AD). The christian conquest of Cordova in 1236 marked remarkable urban transformations, because in contrast to the location outside the walls of the Islamic cemeteries, Christian funerary customs linked the cemeteries to the parishes that constituted the core of the feudal city. In this way, the so-called “parish cemeteries”, located at the foot of the churches or even, in unique cases, inside the temple, in the chapels of certain nobiliary lineages. Paradoxically, in spite of having a greater volume of information from the parish registers, the material data with which we can work are very scarce, reducing to the appearance of some decontextualized ossuaries and with no archaeological information. These shortcomings are a handicap that must be overcome with research such as the one we intend to tackle with this project.
  13. Applications of Geographic Information Systems (G.I.S.) to the management and research of the Archaeological Heritage of Cordova. From the scientific point of view, the ability to treat cartographic information associated with textual documentation allows the development of complex analyzes (statistics, spatial location, areas of influence, spatial patterns, predictive models, etc.) of great utility in diachronic research on the funerary world. In the field of heritage management, the combination of different blocks of information allows the planning, management and protection of archaeological assets in relation to the current planning regulations, making this type of technology a very useful tool that, at present, it is in full expansion within organisms, entities or teams dedicated to this field. To this aspect, the possibilities of publication and dissemination of results are added through thematic maps, forms, web servers, interactive CDs or multimedia. Therefore, it is considered the need to advance in the design of computer models applicable to the most direct field archaeological research.
  14. Dissemination of the archaeological heritage of funerary character: the case of Cordoba: In any research project must be established bases to bring the results to society; As a result, the work we intend to carry out: the profitability of public funds. The priority points raised would be, among others: the definitive implementation and consolidation of a Center of Interpretation of the funerary world in the Historical City of Cordova from Pre-Roman times to the 14th Century AD; The preparation of several itineraries, supported by the different funerary elements distributed by the city; The edition of a Tourist Guide of the Historical City of Cordova, as well as the elaboration of publications destined, within the spectrum of the education, to the lower levels – primary and secondary. It is, therefore, a matter of creating new ways of communication typical of our time that provoke an interest in the citizen to know and coexist with Archaeology, because only from knowledge is it possible to value the traces left by the old generations.

Most relevant scientific output derived from the project:

Organization of scientific meetings:

  • VI Jornadas Cordobesas de Arqueología Andaluza (celebradas entre los días 28 y 31 de marzo de 2006 como culminación del Proyecto Funus II) bajo el título Espacio y Usos funerarios en la ciudad histórica).


  • Los resultados de las anteriores Jornadas están publicados en un número monográfico, concretamente el 17 (2006), de la revista Anales de Arqueología Cordobesa, editado por el Área de Arqueología y la Excma. Diputación Provincial de Córdoba.
  • SÁNCHEZ RAMOS, I. (2003): Un sector tardorromano de la necrópolis septentrional de Corduba, Arqueología Cordobesa 7, Córdoba.
  • CASAL GARCÍA, Mª T. (2003): Los cementerios musulmanes de Qurtuba, Arqueología Cordobesa 9, Córdoba.
  • VAQUERIZO GIL, D. (2004): Immaturi et innupti : terracotas figuradas en ambiente funerario de Corduba, Colonia Patricia, Barcelona.
  • VAQUERIZO, D.; GARRIGUET, J. A.; VARGAS, S. (2005): “La Constancia”. Una contribución al conocimiento de la topografía y los usos funerarios en la Colonia Patricia de los siglos iniciales del Imperio, Arqueología Cordobesa 11, Córdoba.
  • MORENO ROMERO, L. (2007): “Santa Rosa” un sector de la Necrópolis Septentrional de Colonia Patricia, Arqueología Cordobesa 15, Córdoba.
  • RUIZ OSUNA, A. B. (2010): Colonia Patricia, centro difusor de modelos: Topografía y monumentalización funerarias en Baetica. MgAC 17, Córdoba.


  • “La cristianización de la topografía funeraria en las provincias occidentales del Imperio: exemplum cordubense”, a cargo de Dña Isabel María Sánchez Ramos.
  • “Topografía y monumentalización funeraria en Baetica: Conventus Cordubensis y Astigitanus” a cargo de Dña Ana Belén Ruiz Osuna.