Phoenician Route of the Bay
3,000 years ago, the Phoenician navigators coming from Tyre and Sidon in the current Lebanon, came towards the westernmost end of the Mediterranean and passed beyond the Pillars of Hercules looking for trade links which gave them access, amongst other goods, to the precious metals in the Atlantic.
While looking for these new trade routes, they arrived at a coastal archipelago formed by three islands, known in ancient times as Erytheia (Cadiz), Kothinoussa (Cadiz - San Fernando) and Antipolis (San Fernando). The geographical layout of the three islands and their proximity to the continent made the place a privileged port between the Atlantic Europe region, the North of Africa and the Near East, and, therefore, an ideal place for the location of a colony: Gadir.
According to ancient documents, the foundation of Gadir was established “eighty years after the Trojan war” (1,104 BC) and even though this statement has generated sometimes serious doubts, the latest archaeological findings in the city of Cadiz, dated from the 9th century BC, seem to indicate that the foundation of the city would not be too far from the date specified in those documents.
The new colony got its name due to the physiognomy of the town centre, because Gadir means “enclosed area”. It followed the pattern of the Phoenician settlements of the era, with a main centre located in some island close to the coast (in this case, in the island of Eritheia) and with a series of settlements in land which provided protection and supplies, as what nowadays is the Poblado de Doña Blanca in Puerto de Santa María from a similar date and a very significant degree of preservation, or the Cerro del Castillo Site in Chiclana de la Frontera.
The temples located on both extremes of the archipelago of the Gadeiras were also of great importance to the urban planning of the colony. These do not exist anymore nowadays or have been replaced by other constructions. One of the temples was dedicated to goddess Astarte, probably located in the Punta del Nao of La Caleta in Cadiz, and the other temple was dedicated to god Melqart, located in the current islet of Sancti Petri, within the municipal boundary of San Fernando, which achieved great importance and fame in the whole ancient world.
The necropolises were also an element of notable relevance within the Phoenician world, and the best examples to discover the degree of sophistication reached by this culture. It was reflected on their grave goods, which included pieces of Egyptian inspiration of alabaster, gold, silver, glass and jewels.
But, without any doubt, the most important examples of the funerary world in Cadiz are the two male and female anthropoid sarcophagi, unique in the western Mediterranean, which can be currently visited in the Museum of Cadiz along with a large number of remains of sculptures, ceramic, goods and jewels coming from the Phoenician settlements found in the different locations of the Bay of Cadiz.