|10 October 2014
Bronze Age palace and grave goods discovered in Spain
Archaeologists from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) shed light on the rich historical and archaeological heritage of the site of La Almoloya, located in Murcia (Spain). A silver diadem discovered in the royal tomb is the only one from that era conserved in Spain.
An excavation conducted in August by the researchers of the UAB's Department of Prehistory Vicente Lull, Cristina Huete, Rafael Micó y Roberto Risch has made evident the unique archaeological wealth of the site, cradle of the 'El Argar' civilisation which lived in the south-eastern part of the Iberian Peninsula during the Bronze Age.
The findings indicate that La Almoloya was a primary centre of politics and wealth within the political territory of El Argar and sheds new light on the politics and gender relations in one of the first urban societies of the West.
The discoveries made by the archaeological team include an urban tissue made up of fully equipped buildings, as well as dozens of tombs, most of them including grave goods. The excavations indicate that the La Almoloya plateau, of 3,800 metres square, was densely populated and included several residential complexes of some 300 square metres, with eight to twelve rooms in each residence. The buildings' walls were constructed with stones and argamasa, and covered with layers of mortar. Some parts contain stucco decorated with geometric and naturalistic motifs, a novelty which represents the discovery of an Argaric artistic style.
Among the discoveries made is a wide hall with high ceilings measuring some 70 square metres, with capacity for 64 people seated on the benches lining the walls. The hall includes a ceremonial fireplace and a podium of symbolic character. Archaeologists consider that this unique building must have been used to celebrate hearings or government meetings. It is the first time a building specifically dedicated to governing purposes has been discovered in Western Europe. The hall and adjoining rooms make up a large building which the archaeologists have classified as a palace. They highlight the fact that only the most important of Oriental civilisations had similar constructions during the Bronze Age, with comparable structures and functions.
Of the fifty tombs excavated from under the La Almoloya buildings, one stands out in particular. Located in a privileged area, next to the main wall of the hall, the tomb reveals the remains of a man and woman buried with their bodies in a flexed position and accompanied by some thirty objects containing precious metals and semi-precious stones.
One of the most outstanding pieces is a silver diadem which encircled the skull of the woman. Four ear dilators, which are unusual objects for the Bronze Age, were also discovered; two are made of solid gold and two of silver. One of the most admirable items is nonetheless a small ceramic cup with the rim and outer part covered in fine layers of silver and which constitutes a pioneering example of silverwork on vessels. The last item worth mentioning is a metallic punch with a bronze tip and a handle forged in silver.
The team in charge of the archaeological dig at La Almoloya is led by Vicente Lull, Rafael Micó, Cristina Rihuete and Roberto Risch, professors of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. The same team had previously made important discoveries at the La Bastida site, another dig site in Murcia from the Bronze Age.
Edited from Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (8 October 2010)
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