By using GIS (Geographical Information System) visibility analysis, the visual surveillance of, and ways in which people engaged and experienced, an Iberian landscape north of Barcelona during the third century BC are explored. The study of visual surveillance from the hillforts that dominated the area is understood as a means to address issues of social structure and hierarchy. How Iberian people might have viewed and rationalized their world, which is an issue that has so far not been addressed within the theoretical approaches that currently characterize this area of Mediterranean archaeology, is explored here for the first time. Emphasis is placed on people's sense of place and on hillforts' prominence. Visibility analysis indicates a highly structured society, where each hillfort might have primarily controlled given zones of the landscape and might have informed others about events taking place there through an integrated visibility network. Whilst hillforts appear to have been sited according to the view that they offered, they do not seem to have been intended to maximize their own visual impact. Social and experiential approaches compellingly coincide to suggest a subdivision of this society between mountain and coastal communities in both practical and perceptual terms. © Journal compilation © 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.