First human representations from the Bronze Age found in Spain

Five anthropomorphic reliefs from the fifth century B.C. have been discovered thanks to investigations by the Institute of Archeology of Mérida.
Nergis Firtina
Figured reliefs found at the Casas del Turuñuelo.
Figured reliefs found at the Casas del Turuñuelo.


Archaeologists in Spain have discovered five life-size busts of human figures that may be the first-known human portrayals of the Tartessos, an ancient society that vanished more than 2,500 years ago.

As said in the statement and translated by LiveScience, the stone carvings, which date to the fifth century B.C., were discovered concealed inside a sealed hole in an adobe temple at Casas del Turuñuelo, a historic Tartessian site in southern Spain. The bones, which were largely those of horses and likely came from a mass sacrifice, were spread among the pieces.

"The unusual thing about the new finding is that the representations correspond to human faces," Erika López, a spokesperson for the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), said in the statement. 

This ancient civilization, which existed from roughly the eighth to the fourth centuries B.C., was long thought to be an aniconic culture in which divinity was represented through animal or plant motifs rather than idolized humans. The archaeologists from the CSIC called this discovery "a profound paradigm shift in the interpretation of [Tartessos]," according to the statement.

Portraying female divinities

Two of the figurative reliefs are almost finished, and they appear to show female divinities wearing earrings, which may be a reference to the Bronze Age peoples' mastery of goldsmithing. According to the statement, archaeologists only discovered parts of the other three reliefs, although one was identified as a warrior wearing a helmet.

Although the Tartessos left little in the way of archeological evidence, goldsmithing evidence has been found at two nearby Tartessian sites, Cancho Roano and La Mata, which indicates that they were accomplished goldsmiths.

"The finding only further influences both the importance of the site and the importance of the Tartessian culture in the Guadiana valley during its last moments," López said in the translated statement.

The Institute of Archeology of Mérida

The IAM is a joint initiative of the CSIC and the Junta de Extremadura, managed by the Ministry of Economy, Science, and Digital Agenda. It operates on a regional scale, in various regions of the country and outside our borders, extending its research to numerous deposits in North Africa, Europe, and America. At the moment, the IAM's presence in Extremadura stands out, where it is developing research initiatives in various sections of the Autonomous Community, such as the archaeological site of Mérida or historic cities like Botija, Contribute Iulia, and Metellinum, among others.

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