As we mentioned in the Introduction, the history of Frigiliana stretches back thousands of years, although obviously it did not look as it does today.
Settlement as early as Neolithic times had been suggested, and this has now been confirmed by the many archeological discoveries made in the caves which border the river Higherón, although undoubtedly the most important discoveries have been found in the area know as Cerillo de las Sombras.
This area offered a fleeting glimpse of the settlement of the place from Neolithic times right through to the present day.
Without a doubt the most exciting period belongs to the Arab or Moorish era who together with the last Moors from the Alpujarras witnessed the most important moments in our history, the Battle of the Rock “ La Batalla del Peñon”
From Pre-history to the present day
Around 3,000 years before the birth of Christ, as the Neolithic age drew towards a close, primitive man lived in the caves and rocky shelters in these places where he later settled.Two caves a few metres from the river Higuerón - the Dark Cave, and the Cave of the Bats - were inhabited at this time, and the occupants may truly be called the first Frigilianians.
Examples of the tools and other articles in daily use by these people can be seen in the museum of the Cultural Centre. A stratographic study of the Cave of the Bats from the present floor level, down to the cave floor associated with the Copper or Bronze Age reveals that the cave was in occupation throughout the millenia, demonstrated by the abundance of ceramics, bones and stone tools, which can be dated back to 2,000 years ago.
The Phoenician settlres ahve left us a stone age burial ground and tumuli dating from the VIIth century B.C.. It is located at the site once known as Cerillo del Tejar, and today known as Cerillo de la Sombras.The necropolis contained Phoenician cremation urns with ashes but very little in the way of grave goods, apart from an occasional metal object, most often a belt buckle. An interesting feature of these burials is that they resemble Tartessian interments, leading archeologists to wonder whether the cemetery occupies an earlier Tartessian burial ground or whether the Phoenicians were following the Tartessian practice.These graves consist of small pits dug in the ground in which was placed an urn containing remains of the body which had previously been cremated in the oven which was also discovered within the necropolis, and alongside which were usually buried the persoanl effects of the deceased person, double-clasp garment fasteners, rings, bracelets, and the like.
Almost all of the metal objects were of bronze, althou a few items in silver, iron and copper have been found, as well as a scarab brooch of glass.
The graves were covered with a plain stone slab, on top of which was constructed a cairn of stones in the form of a tumulus. The necropolis dates from the end of the VIIth century B.C. or beginning of the VIth century B.C., and only two other examples of this kind are to be found in the whole of Europe; other Phoenician burial grounds found in the Province of Málaga differ from Frigiliana’s in using large chambers and deep pits which was the usual Phoenician practice and makes the Frigiliana necropolis a very unusual example. The items excavated are displayed in the museum of the Cultural Centre on Cuesta del Apero.
Although there is little evidence of settlement of the Frigiliana area before the arrival of the Romans in 214 B.C., what has been found suggests that groups of native Iberian people were here, probably living alongside Carthaginians remaining after the Punic Wars which affected this zone of the Mediterranean.
Outside these areas finds have been made of Phoenician and Roman coins, such as those unearthed at Cerillo del Tejar in 1965
It was probably the Roman occupation whcih gave the town its name, which is believed to derive from two elements, Frexinus (a Roman citizen, of whose existence it must be admitted there is no evidence) and ana (which, used a suffix to a proper name could signify The Villa/Estate/Place of Frexinus.)
In the early Vth century A.D. the Roman fort of Frigiliana was partially destroyed by Vandal invaders. It is probably from this time, according to Pliny that local agriculture was centred on viniculture, a crop which has been replaced in modern times by the cultivation of tropical fruits.