A carved relief of the face, cornucopia and phallus was discovered at the archaeological site of Tossal de la Cala in present-day Benidorm on the southeastern Mediterranean coast of Spain. The relief, dating from the 1st century BC, is unique and has no analogues in any of the territories occupied by Rome in the Republican era.
The three relief elements occupy a small area of 57×42 cm (22×16.5 inches). The part at the top right appears to be missing, suggesting that it may have originally been larger.
The relief was discovered in January 2020 when it was accidentally exposed by heavy rains. The archaeologists reported this to the city authorities, emphasizing its “extraordinary historical significance” and the urgent need to keep the find secret for its own protection. Since then, they have been working to figure out how best to present this archaeological treasure in a safe way without taking it out of context. There is now a plan to put it on site in a safe and accessible environment over the next few months.
Tossal de la Cala was a Roman castle (military fort) built on a hilltop overlooking the coast by the renegade Roman general Quintus Sertorius in 77 BC. Sertorius and his Iberian allies rebelled against Rome in the Sertorian War (80–72 BC). It was one of a network of forts built by Sertorius on steep cliffs and in inaccessible bays along the coastline of the Alicante region. These were more lookout points than heavily garrisoned forts designed to monitor the movements of the enemy fleet.
The foundations and floor plan of the castle are today the only visible remains of the headland fort.