Since the discovery of Homo antecessor at the site of Atapuerca (Burgos), the history of human settlement in the Iberian Peninsula has been shown to date back some 800,000 years. The most notable early evidence is found in the Paleolithic cave paintings of Altamira and the wide range of rock art in the Mediterranean Arc.
Iberians, Celts and Romans
From the first millennium BC, the Iberian peninsula was occupied and colonised by various peoples - Celts, Iberians, Tartars, Phoenicians, Greeks and Carthaginians. Then came the Romans, whose presence was to leave a valuable historical legacy of which the city of Tárraco is the best example. After the fall of the Roman Empire, other incursions occurred - Suevi, Vandals and Alani - until the arrival of the Visigoths, who succeeded in setting up a strong Spanish monarchy with its capital in Toledo.
Al-Andalus and the Christian kingdoms
In 711 the Muslims invaded the Iberian Peninsula and, from their base in the Caliphate of Cordoba, they established Al-Andalus as a centre of cultural, scientific and artistic splendour. The Middle Ages followed, a period which saw the long process of reconquest of the territory by the Christian kingdoms. The union of Castile and Aragon through the marriage of the Catholic Monarchs Isabella and Ferdinand, led to the conquest in 1492 of Granada, the last stronghold of Muslim Spain. In the same year, the Jews were expelled, bringing an end to a long period of coexistence of the three major cultures, Jewish, Muslim and Christian, in the Peninsula.