LIMESTONE burial vaults dating back 2,500 years have been discovered during building works in the Andalucian town of Osuna.

The rare archeological find was uncovered during building work to upgrade water supplies in the town which lies 90km east of Sevilla on the way to Antequera.

The hidden burial vaults date back to the fourth or fifth century BC when the Iberian peninsula was occupied by the Phoenicians long before the Romans settled the town which they named Urso.

Archaeologists have so far uncovered eight burial vaults linked by staircases and atriums which they described as similar to necropolis discovered in the ancient cite of Tharros on Corsica and in the Tunisian sites of Kerkouan and Sahel. However, such a find is ‘unprecedented in inland Andalucia’.

Similar burial grounds have been discovered along the coast but are rare so far in land and suggested Osuna may have been a settlement of high standing long before the Romans arrived.

Mario Delgado, who is leading the team of archaeologists at the site said the find had been ‘completely unexpected’ and due to the age and state of conservation unlike any other archaeological find in the region.

Archaeologists show Osuna’s mayor around the ruins. Photo: Ayuntamiento de Osuna

“To find a necropolis from the Phoenician and Carthaginian era with these characteristics – with eight well tombs, atriums and staircase access – you’d have to look to Sardinia or even Carthage itself,” he said.

 “We thought we might find remains from the imperial Roman age, which would be more in keeping with the surroundings, so we were surprised when we found these structures carved from the rock – hypogea – perfectly preserved beneath the Roman levels.”

Osuna’s mayor hailed it as an important discovery for the town, which is already famed for its Roman ruins. “It changes what we know about the history of Osuna,” said Rosario Andujar, who was given a tour of the site by the archaeological team last week.

“Both the graves and the ritual spaces suggest this wasn’t any old burial site… but to serve the highest level of society,” she said. 


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