In the Larraganena farmhouse, located in the centre of Gorliz, a discoid funerary stele was found which has never been found before. The stele was half-buried in the garden of the property, and had been considered by the neighbours to be an ancient sundi.
Material and state of preservation
The material in which it was carved is greyish sandstone. It is 92 cm in diameter and 21.5 cm thick.
It is in fairly good condition, with the decoration clearly visible on the obverse side, while the reverse side and the edge are the most damaged parts. The edge has suffered a lot because the villagers used it to sharpen knives and scythes.
The ornamental motif is similar on both sides. The decoration on the obverse is based on a small central circle 8 cm in diameter in relief, and concentric to it, three bands also in relief. Between the two outer bands is a border composed of 34 isosceles triangles. The decoration on the reverse is identical to that on the obverse, but lacks the border of triangles. The decoration has been made using a low-relief technique, gently marked, applied to certain rings in order to make them stand out from the rest. The circles, of increasing diameter, were drawn from a central point using a device whose fulcrum left its imprint in the centre of the stele. The rings on both sides are very perfectly drawn and their diameters are practically the same.
The difference between the two sides is that the reverse side has only plain or plain rings, while the obverse side has them inscribed in a border with serrated geometric decoration. This decoration, although rather deteriorated, has also been executed using the technique of low relief, which is not very marked. However, not all of the thirty-three isosceles triangles that make up the border have been cut, but six of them show little or no evidence of this technique.
Where can we find similar steles?
Stelae with similar decoration have been found in other parts of the Basque Country and Cantabria.
• Stele from Sansolo (Lruña), slightly smaller in diameter and rather thinner. The decoration is similar on the front considered reverse, except that the border of triangles is double and these contain four radii that converge in the centre.
• Stela from Emerando (Meñaka), almost identical to the previous one with a triscella inside. The diameter is similar to the one we are studying and the thickness is somewhat greater.
• Stele from San Salvador de Larrabetzu (Galdakao), half as thick and less in diameter, also decorated with a band of isosceles triangles in which a cross is inscribed.
• Stela from Barros (Barros), decorated with three concentric rings, the two inner ones plain and the outer one with triangles, and in the centre there is a disc with four lunar crescents.
All these examples have been chronologically dated to the Iron Age. This type of decoration of triangles and concentric bands appears from the Bronze Age onwards and continues until the Middle Ages, both on stelae and on all types of objects and furniture, hence the difficulty in dating them.
What do they symbolise?
Almost all authors agree in attributing to them a symbolic significance of an astral type. The Indo-European peoples, mainly the Celts, tirelessly repeated depictions of the sun in their artistic manifestations, and the motifs that decorate the Larraganena stele seem to reflect this.