Archaeologists unearthed five figurative reliefs dating to between the fifth and fourth centuries BC, during the time of the Tartessos people, while excavating at the Tartessian site of Casas del Turuñuelo in Guareña, Badajoz.
A team from the Institute of Archaeology, a joint center of the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) and the Junta de Extremadura, announced that they unearthed the reliefs on the Iberian Peninsula, including two complete female figures adorned with outstanding earrings that represent typical pieces of the Tartessian goldsmithing.
The site is known for a huge 2,500-year-old two-floor building which is still being excavated.
This new finding is particularly significant because the representations correspond to human faces, unlike the traditional practice of representing divinity through animal or plant motifs, or through betyls (sacred stones), as in the Tartessus culture.
Other fragments of reliefs have been recovered, which belong to at least three other individuals, one of which was identified as a warrior when part of the helmet was found preserved.
"The unusual thing about the new finding is that the representations correspond to human faces," spokesperson for the Spanish National Research Council, Erika Lopez said in a statement.
The discovery marks a profound paradigm shift in the interpretation of Tartessus, which has traditionally been considered an aniconic culture. The researchers emphasize both the importance of the site and the transcendence of the Tartessian culture in the Guadiana valley during its last moments.
The Construyendo Tarteso project, a State Research Agency initiative within the State Plan R+D+i of the Ministry of Science and Innovation, aims to study the Tartessian material culture through the architectural analysis of the large adobe buildings found in recent decades.
The team began excavating in 2015
The team began its first excavation campaign in 2015 at the Casas del Turuñuelo site in Altas del Guadiana and is currently engaged in its fifth campaign.
This year, the campaign is focused on the eastern sector of the site to locate the entrance of the building, which is usually oriented towards the east, and to explore the symmetry between the patio and the entrance.
The Casas del Turuñuelo site is the best-preserved building on land in the western Mediterranean to date, with two constructive floors, allowing for the study of construction techniques and architectural solutions that had not been documented in Tartessian sites before.
The site's state of preservation is remarkable, with adobe elevations up to five meters high and a massive sacrifice of animals, the largest to be documented in the western Mediterranean.
The current campaign at the Casas del Turuñuelo site offers a rare opportunity to explore the architecture, materials and cultural practices of the Tartessian people, shedding light on their material culture and social practices.
The findings of the Construyendo Tarteso project are expected to have a significant impact on our understanding of this ancient civilization.
The project has received support from the General Secretariat of Science, Technology, Innovation and University of the Junta de Extremadura, the Diputación de Badajoz, and the Palarq Foundation.
The IAM is conducting research on various archaeological sites in the Autonomous Community of Extremadura and is involved in several other research projects throughout the region, including Mérida and ancient cities such as Botija, Contributa Iulia, and Metellinum.
The IAM's research activities are not limited to the region, extending its research to numerous sites in North Africa, Europe, and America.
The discovery of the five figurative reliefs at the Casas del Turuñuelo site is an exciting development in the study of the Tartessian material culture.
"These findings further influence both the importance of the site and the importance of the Tartessian culture in the Guadiana valley during its last moments," Lopez said.
The remarkable state of preservation of the site and the discoveries made there are expected to significantly enhance our understanding of this ancient civilization. The findings are sure to be of great interest to scholars and the public alike.