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22 June 2017
Ancient history

World Current Archaeology 83 (June 2017) www.world-archaeology.com has an article on Tartessos, the city recorded by Herodotus, just beyond the Pillars of Herakles. It flourished in the first millennium BC, at the mouth of the Guadalquivir River in SE Spain. It was at its peak 2500 years ago, trading extensively with the Phoenicians. However, its origins go back to the 9th century BC – which I suppose relies on mainstream dating chronology. Without knowing if that date relies on Phoenician objects from Iron Age II levels one cannot know if the city existed prior to the arrival of these traders – but it probably did. Tartessos itself only lasted 300 years, 9th to 6th century BC. It is thought it might have been the target of the Greeks, big rivals of the Phoenicians, but there is also the possibility it succumbed to a tsunami wave as a result of a big earthquake in the 6th century. I suppose the comparison is made with the Lisbon earthquake in the 18th century. Whatever, the culture survived – but people appear to have moved further inland, either to get away from Greek attacks or to avoid future tsunami waves.

Of interest here are some carved stones. In particular, one known as the Warrior Stelae – which appears to be a representation of the stick man figure. Underneath is a concentric ring system, four circles within circles (as if to depict rotation) with some dots or cup marks as a pattern. It is on display at the National Archaeological Museum in Madrid.

Settlements upstream were themselves abandoned in the late 5th/ early 4th centuries BC – again for unknown reasons. One of the sites was religious in natureand was ritually set alight after a massive feast event (involving the sacrifice and consumption of at least 60 animals). The burn t remains were carefully buried, suggesting ritual closure of the site. The Romans arrived in Iberia a couple of centuries later – so what happened around 400BC. Do we have any clues from elsewhere?

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