The site covers an area of %u200B%u200Babout 11 hectares. For centuries, La Alcudia was used as agricultural land and as a quarry that supplied stones and ashlars for building works in Elche and its surroundings. In the late 19th century irrigation was introduced; as a result, the layout of the site changed radically, which led to the discovery of ancient remains, including the Lady of Elche.
The visible archaeological remains are spread over the entire site. An exhibition tour has been designed, with a focus on the most outstanding exhibits. The site also has two buildings: the Interpretation Centre, at the entrance, and the Monographic Museum, in the central area.
The visit begins in this building, where the reception area of the archaeological site is located. It contains an audiovisual room, an educational room and a large exhibition area, offering a conceptual overview of the evolution of Ilici and some features of its three main cultural periods (Iberian, Roman and Visigothic/Byzantine). You can see a selection of our best exhibits, in terms of their artistic and historical value. Arranged by theme, they provide a glimpse of what life was like at the site over history.
At the start of the visit, observe the Interpretation Centre from the back, where the remains of the Roman wall that marked the western boundary of the enclave can be seen. Two stretches of this wall section are preserved, consisting of a sandstone foundation, a stone plinth almost one metre thick, and an upper part made of adobe.
To the north, the slope of the site is flanked by a long masonry wall, currently undergoing consolidation and restoration works. While it has been described in traditional literature as a Late Roman wall, it has been determined that it is the outside wall of a large thermal area, known in part since the 19th century. In this area, the natatio (a large pool thought to be part of the frigidarium - or cold room - of these baths) and some of the adjacent areas have been excavated.
From the central square, visitors can access several other areas. In addition to native Mediterranean plants, in the surroundings you can see the species that once covered La Alcudia: lemon, almond, pomegranate and fig trees. These species (as well as ivy, very frequent in Iberian and late republican illustrations) have been identified in the archaeological documentation of the site. Numerous palm trees are also found here, as La Alcudia is part of the Elche Palm Grove, a World Heritage Site.
In the northern area of the site you can visit a residential complex organised around a street running from east to west. Several layers of structures corresponding to different periods can be identified, from the 8th century (the top layer) to the Iberian period.
A perfectly preserved sewer manhole can be seen; at some point in time, though, the entrance to the gallery was bricked up to create an underground room. It was probably used to redirect irrigation waters in the Modern Period.
Domus with Sailacos moisaic: From the Museum take the path that leads north, and then east, until you reach the two Roman houses (domus in Latin), which are partially excavated. The southern house contains part of a porticoed courtyard (peristyle), with a polylobed pond surrounded by the rooms, which were decorated with paintings on the walls and mosaic pavements.
Domus with impluvium: The northern house also contains a peristyle, several water storage structures and areas for domestic workers. Underneath the Roman structures that are now visible, older levels were found, where most of the large ceramic vases with figurative decoration that are displayed in the Museum’s Iberia Hall appeared. And above, walls belonging to Visigothic buildings, today removed so that the Roman remains can be seen.
On the way back to the museum, the path runs between two excavated areas. To the north is an area with remains of ancient excavations, undertaken in the year 1947. The information available about these excavations is scarce. It is an area of %u200B%u200B dwellings dating back to Late Antiquity, where a treasure chest appeared that contained gold coins of emperors Honorius and Arcadius, as well as jewels from the same period.
On the other side, you can see remains of what has traditionally been identified as the Ilici forum, although this interpretation is currently rejected. These remains date from the last period during which this crossroads of Roman streets was inhabited, with domestic and industrial facilities (presses, ovens, etc.). Along the path, reproductions of the inscriptions that appeared in the 17th century have been installed, indicating the hallmarks of the Roman city of Ilici. One of them is dedicated to Titus Statilius Taurus, the founder of the colony.
This modern building houses most of the exhibits found while excavating La Alcudia, as well as the Foundation’s work areas. The lobby is devoted to the Lady of Elche (a sculpture discovered at the site that is now exhibited in the National Archaeological Museum in Madrid). Three halls, Iberia, Hispania and Spania, showcase exhibits from Ilici’s most remarkable historical phases, from Iberian culture to Late Antiquity. The tour includes interactive spaces where you can see the work of the technical teams specialising in archaeology and restoration.
Going south, you will pass by a large underground cistern, thought to have belonged to a Roman house in which the famous sculpture of the Venus of Ilici was found. Without a doubt, it supplied water to a house that has not been excavated so far. Inside, a small marble statue representing Venus appeared, currently in the Archaeological Museum of Elche. Recent excavations in the area have revealed the extent to which this house had collapsed and how it was reused until Late Antiquity.
Head east along the fence of a private estate and you will reach the excavated part of an important thermal complex built in the 1st century. It stands out for its excellent state of conservation and dimensions, with a large natatio or pool, located in an open-air and partly porticoed room inside the frigidarium, as well as rooms such as latrines, changing rooms, entrances and other heated facilities typical of the tepidarium and the caldarium. The monument stretches east, to the other side of the perimeter fence, which demonstrates that the urban space was not limited to the upland area.
fotografía de VCrown
Further south you will reach the modern monument that commemorates the discovery of the Lady of Elche, currently in Madrid’s National Archaeological Museum. Next, you will find a stretch of the southern section of the wall.
Going back the same way, and again heading south, you will reach the area known in the literature as “house of the cult of the severed head.” What can be seen today belongs to a Roman structure, probably a dwelling with several rooms and a small cistern to collect rainwater. Below these levels, late republican and Iberian structures were discovered, made of unusual materials, which suggested that it was a place of worship. Above, the remains of a Visigothic necropolis were documented.
From here, and after retracing your steps a few metres, you will reach the path that leads west. On the left you can observe the recreation of an adobe building, whose original remains are located below the neighbouring church, which we will visit next. It has been hypothesised that this structure is an Iberian temple; some of the archaeological pieces exhibited in the Monographic Museum’s Hispania Hall are believed to be related to the temple. A proto-Aeolic capital that appeared on a wall of the adjoining church has been associated with this building and placed flanking the entrance door, like those of the Jerusalem temple, although its original location is uncertain.
Next to the recreation of the Iberian temple you will find the basilica, under a modern gable roof. It is the recreation of the remains of a Christian worship building, with an apse at one end. On the ground, a polychrome mosaic with texts in Greek can be seen. The complex was excavated in the early 20th century and has been re-excavated and restored on several occasions. It is probably one of the religious buildings of the episcopal see of Ilici, active during the Byzantine and Visigothic periods.
fotografía de Manuel Carballo Casaus