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15 May 2015
Iron Age artifacts found in a megalithic site in Spain

Discovered among the remains of a megalithic funerary structure on a hill in the Andalusia region of southern Spain, an exotic assemblage of Iron Age artifacts dated to between 1044 and 538 BCE has long raised questions for archaeologists regarding its origin and meaning.
     The unusual, exotic characteristics of the objects and their spatial association suggest a single, one-time undisturbed deposit; it has been studied by Mercedes Murillo-Barroso of the University College London and colleagues.
     "This hoard, found under the fallen orthostat of a megalithic structure built at least 2,000 years earlier, throws new light on long-distance exchange networks and the effect they could have had on the cultural identities and social relations of local Iberian Early Iron Age communities," stated Barroso and colleagues in their report.
     At least some of the objects of the hoard, which consists of three silver rings, one of them a signet ring, three exotic quartz objects, a necklace of amber beads, a pendant, fine wires of silver, a bronze needle, two spindle whorls and two small iron bars, were made of materials that were sourced from locations as distant and diverse as the Baltic, western Mediterranean, and the Middle East.
     The megalithic structure is the oldest of three structures found at what has been called the 'Palacio III' funerary complex. Each structure was built at a different time during the course of several millennia. The other two are described as a Chalcolithic period tholos featuring a corridor that connects to a circular chamber; and an Iron Age grave with cremated remains sealed with large horizontal stone slabs and covered with a tumulus of stones.
     The researchers analyzed the objects found beneath the megalithic structure, which was dated to the Late Neolithic or Copper Age. "Various strands of evidence suggest that the Palacio III artefacts were made and used in the Early Iron Age (9th to 6th centuries BCE)," stated Barroso, "From a chronological point of view, the deposition of the hoard in what appears to be the oldest structure of the Palacio III funerary complex is clear evidence of the reuse of this structure many centuries after its original construction."
     Given the placement and characteristics of the hoard, the researchers theorize that the assemblage was either deposited as an 'emergency hoard' by someone or a group attempting to secure or hide it temporarily under adverse circumstances for safekeeping until it could be later retrieved; or that it was deposited as a votive offering during ritualistic activity.
     "This assemblage straddles several millennia, and references communities and resources of northern Europe, the western Mediterranean and the Near East. Its complexity is representative of the fluctuations in trade, power and identity across the Mediterranean in the 1st millennium BCE, and illustrative of the power of archaeological science to help us disentangle them," concluded Barroso.

Edited from Popular Archaeology (13 May 2015)

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