Here, in 1897, when one of the most fascinating and well-known examples of Iberian art: La Dama de Elche (The Lady of Elche) was uncovered in the ground by a farmer. We can be touched with emotion in this singular archaeological space, quite close to the city, with that classical backdrop of the palm trees and that pristine light of the land that, on some winter afternoons, attains an almost apocalyptic quality. Apocalyptically beautiful…

It is also quite moving to get acquainted with a world that, thousands of years ago created such a truly magnificent piece; this is possible thanks to the various excavations, the museum, the Centro de Interpretación and the modern museum exhibition methodologies.

A major archaeological site

The archaeological excavations at La Alcudia, covering 10 hectares have become among the most important in Spain. In the period spanning the Neolithic up to the 10th Century, it was in fact the original site of the city known as Ilice, which was the capital of its corresponding territory during the Roman era. It was declared a “Colonia” by the Romans and had a considerable area of influence until its decline, after the Moorish founding of a new city in its present location.

For several centuries after, it supplied stone and masonry to new buildings in Elche and nearby thanks to the quarries and workshops that had been set up. At the end of the 19th Century, irrigation was extensively introduced in the area resulting in considerable earthworks in the area and leading to the unearthing of ancient artefacts such as La Dama de Elche. Excavations and research are still underway in the area; the latest results always seem to be interesting, both for archaeologist and any person interested in the past.

The excavations start

Since the beginning of the 15th Century, La Alcudia has been a recognised archaeological site and the subject of numerous studies that boomed with the unearthing of La Dama, en 1897. In 1935, the archaeologist Alejandro Ramos Folqués started excavations on the site which he owned and in 1948, at his own expense, set up the Museo Monográfico de La Alcudia which exhibited all the discovered artefacts. In 1971 the museum was extended and from 1996, the museum and the excavation site form part of the research entity known as La Fundación Universitaria de Investigación Arqueológica La Alcudia.

Visible vestiges of the ruins are present over the whole site; by way of an informative twenty-minute video, the first-time visitor to the Alcudia site and excavations is able to learn more thanks to the modern orientation and reception centre or Centro de Interpretación.

La tinaja del Héroe (The Hero’s Earthenware Jar)

At this centre the visitor can admire a selection of the most relevant unearthed pieces such as the warrior with the chest-guarder or the tap or vases and urns painted in the Iberian era such as the great Kalathos (known locally as la tonta del bote (the silly woman of the vase),because of the comical face depicted on it) or the tinaja del Héroe (The Hero’s Earthenware Jar). Prehistoric artefacts together with a series of Roman and Visigothic pieces complete the exhibits.

The museum shop at La Alcudia has ceramic reproductions as well as small bronze replicas and souvenirs such as key-rings, pendants and earrings.

The baths, forum and basilica

From here we enter the archaeological site where the visitor can observe in situ all of the sectors that have been excavated: the wall, western and eastern baths, Iberian houses, forum and Roman dwellings, the water reservoir known as aljibe de Venus, the Iberian temple and the Christian basilica. And of course the spot that arouses the most interest, precisely where the bust of La Dama de Elche, the most sublime expression of Iberian culture, was buried by the wall. This event is commemorated with a plaque and a copy of the bust; the original is kept at the National Archaeological Museum in Madrid.

These are the areas that are the source of the collection of pieces that gives La Alcudia its fame and some of them can be seen in the museum on site. Other fine pieces can be seen at the Museo Arqueológico y de Historia de Elche (MAHE) which bears the name of Alejandro Ramos Folqués.

Video guides

La Alcudia has been equipped with a video guide system, available in Spanish, Valencian, English, German and in Spanish Sign Language (known in Spain as LSE).

Five video guides are present and are designed to be played at different locations: at different places of the excavations, Centro de Interpretación, central space, domus, Dama and the Christian basilica.

They can be obtained in three ways:

1.- hiring an iPod with the option of Cinemizer spectacles at reception.

2.- from the Apple Store by way of a free download of an application called La Alcudia.

3.- by way of its YouTube channel.

Two companies, Pachamama Educación y Talleralia, organise dramatised visits, guided visits, games and workshops with various levels of complexity in terms of the explanations given.

There is a bicycle path connecting Elche to La Alcudia; once you are there, the whole route can be done on your pushbike. The route can also be enjoyed on horseback.