The excavations at Tartessos have won the Palarq award, the most valuable prize in Spanish archaeology. Andrew Selkirk, the Editor-in-chief of CWA, who was one of the judging panel, says that the award, of €80,000, established by Spanish philanthropist Antonio Gallardo Ballart, will enable the excavation of the new site of Turuñuelo to explore the whole site, of which less than 20% has so far been uncovered.
An aerial view of Cancho Roano, a Tartessic palace-sanctuary. Though the quadrangular layout is typical of Tartessic sites along the Guadiana River valley, different sites fulfilled different and specific functions, while maintaining a similar design (Photo: Tartessos Project).
The discovery of Tartessos has been one of the most important recent discoveries in Mediterranean archaeology, showing that the Tartessians were in many ways the equivalent of the Etruscans in Italy. So far they have only been known from a couple of obscure reference in Herodotos, but now archaeology is uncovering this remarkable civilisation. A good account can be found here, comparing Tartessos with the Etruscans and the Phoenicians.
The excavations of Turuñuelo have already been covered by CWA in issue 83, reporting on the work of Sebastián Celestino Pérez, Director of the Institute of Archaeology of Mérida, and Esther Rodríguez González, from the Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM), who are discovering more and more sites that belong to this little-known civilisation, both in the Tartessic heartland and beyond. Recently, they have been working at Casas del Turuñuelo, at Guareña on the Guadiana river. At its peak about 2,500 years ago, this vast settlement wielded significant political influence across the region.
Aerial view of excavations at the Tartessic site of Casas del Turuñuelo in the Guadiana valley of the Iberian Peninsula (Photo: Tartessos Project).
Who are the Tartessians?
The kingdom of Tartessos emerged in the Guadalquivir River valley in the early part of the 9th century BC, and enjoyed a period of splendour that endured at least 300 years. Then, in the mid 6th century BC, the civilisation suddenly collapsed. The reasons for this abrupt end are obscure. Perhaps the Tartessians suffered repercussions from the conflict between the Phoenicians and the Greeks, who struggled for supremacy over maritime trade across the Mediterranean. Or perhaps they were overwhelmed by adverse environmental changes: recent studies have shown that an earthquake and tsunami devastated the Atlantic coast in the 6th century BC. The consequences of such a disastrous event would have affected the natural resources in the Guadalquivir valley basin, the heartland of the Tartessos people, which, in turn, would have amplified any political instability that already existed.
Whether fleeing environmental catastrophe, conflict, or both, the population migrated further inland, into the Guadiana region in, according to the archaeological evidence, the late 6th century BC. Here, they encountered communities already familiar with the Tartessic culture for at least a century, as evidenced by the presence of the so-called ‘Warrior Stelae’.
What happened as the Tartessians moved along the Guadiana River valley basin? Click here to find out more.