Main points of a talk presented by Ximo Bolufer (Municipal Archaeologist) at the San Joan Ermita - Oct 31st 2012
1. The earliest dated human remains were found in the Cova Foradada (perforated cave - this is located on the Denia side of the Cap de San Antoni). Among fragments of foodstuffs were found bones of two people, one adult and one immature. They date from around 30,000 year ago.
Several other caves contain burials from the end of the Stone Age (Neolithic).
Cova del Barranc de la Rabosa - skull of a young man - probably copper (Chalcolithic) or bronze age (2000BC)
Caves on the sunny side of the Montgó:
a) Montgó cave (the Eye) - badly excavated in the 1930's - multiple burials probably from the copper age and the remains of a minimum of nine individuals.
An ivory pot - possibly a funeral reliquary, was also found. (dated around 2000-1000 BC)
b) Cova del Barrance del Migdía - recently excavated. Multiple, and successive burials i.e the bodies were first buried elsewhere, then some of their bones combined with the bones of others with grave goods and buried in the cave in "packets"
For details see:
2. Iberian (Iron Age) culture.
The Iberians cremated their dead. Fragments of a ceramic urn - possibly for holding ashes were found among Iberian remains on the Plana Justa (Montgó) 7th-5th Centuries BC
For details of the Plana Justa settlement see:
Details of the Plana Justa excavations (in Castellano) can be found on.
3. Roman Period
a) A sarcophagus : on the canal de la Fontana point (Arenal) - in the Minister's House near the Parador
b) Tombstone inscriptions
c) The Muntanyar Necropolis - 900 tombs in 6000m2 (now underneath buildings near the Sol y Mar hotel) In use during the 1st-7th Centuries AD.
For details see: http://xabia-museum-project.wikidot.com/wiki:case-no-8-the-necropolis-of-muntayar
4. Islamic (Moorish) period:
Four cemeteries known: Rebaldi, Atzúbia, Cap Marti and Cansalades.
Bodies oriented north/south, but lying on their sides facing east.
Two of the 45 funeral arabic inscriptions known in the Comunidad Valenciana are from Xàbia (10th or early 11th Centuries AD)
For details see: http://xabia-museum-project.wikidot.com/wiki:first-floor-andalusian-cemeteries-in-xabia
5. The Feudal (Christian) conquest
Heralded a change in rituals. In the villages and near churches burials were oriented east/west, with the head to the west. Bodies were in a supine position with arms across the abdomen.
Cemeteries: (The town square and hospital); Churches: (Sant Bartomeu and Loreto) and convents.
Town square: near and under Tourism office: 29 graves, in a space delimited by a wall. Parts still visible under glass in the Tourism office. Dated: 14th-15th Century
6. Cemetery of San Joan
Established after 1776 when Valencia prohibited burials within Town walls.
(English version of text from:
28/10/10 - Las excavaciones en la ermita de Sant Joan sacan a la luz 30 tumbas del siglo XIX )
Excavations at the hermitage of Sant Joan bring to light 30 nineteenth century graves
The Municipal Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography (Soler Blasco) of Xàbia has conducted an archaeological dig inside the hermitage of Sant Joan, adjacent to the old cemetery. The construction of the nearby cemetery in 1817, converted the chapel into a funeral chapel, a function which it held until the 1980's
The excavation aimed to study the possible structures preserved in the subsurface of the chapel and to try to determine its date, in addition to recovering this interesting municipally owned building so that it could be known and visited in the future. The archaeological works documented an important set of 30 more or less rectangular tombs, carved into the natural "gleba"soil. Twenty-seven kept an east-west orientation (with head pointing east, except for two, which were located west), and only three were oriented north-south.
Most burials were performed in coffins, with bodies in a supine position, and arms folded over the chest or abdomen, except for some of the children, whose arms were bent with the hands beneath the face, in a sleeping position.
Of the thirty graves found, nineteen belonged to adults, and the remaining eleven burials were children. Six were empty, while the rest belonged to four adult males aged between 40 and 70, six women between 20 and 65, and three individuals for whom it was not possible to determine the sex because of the poor state of preservation. The children buried have been identified as being between 1 and 2 months and 5 or 6 years old. Most were buried between 1817 and 1849, when the cemetery was expanded becoming about the current size.
Archaeological intervention has affected virtually the entire inner surface of the rectangular building which is 14 meters long and 7.30 meters wide, with a single nave divided into three regular sections about 4.25 meters long.
The hermitage of Sant Joan was originally a building for religious use on the outskirts of Javea, at the junction of the roads leading out of the village towards Pedreguer, Denia, Gata and Poblenou. This building is a clear and interesting example of those known as "chapels of conquest", buildings with a single nave supported by diaphragm arches. In this case, there are two arches (one covered and re-converted into an arch in the middle of the nineteenth century) that divide the rectangular space of the chapel into three regular sections.
There is not much documentation about Sant Joan and the oldest known story is from the mid-seventeenth century, when it seems that it was used as an auction room, or "Almudí" of the town.
Thanks to the Book of Sacristan of Xàbia Parish, written in 1769, we know it was used for religious purposes at least on the day of Saint John the Evangelist (December 27), "... ..Finished high Mass the Clergy will sing a Mass at the Hermitage of San Juan ... ", and the day of Saint John the Baptist (June 24)" ... John the Baptist Day, this day Clergy to sing a Mass at his hermitage ...... "
This excavation has been possible thanks to the participation of the EMCORP program which enabled the hiring of an archaeologist. Also participating were the municipal works and the local topogrpahica department. The anthropological study was conducted by Dr. Francisco Gómez Bellard.
From 2010 Press Release.
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