2,600-Year-Old Stone Reliefs in Spain Reveal Early Depictions of an Obscure Ancient Civilization

The figures represented may have been deities of significant members of Tartessian society.

Figurative reliefs found in the site of Casas del Turuñuelo (Badajoz). Photo: Samuel Sánchez (El País).

Archaeologists in Spain have unearthed five 5th-century stone reliefs of human faces belonging to the ancient Tartessian culture of the 8th–4th centuries B.C.E.

The two most complete of these artifacts each depict women wearing jewelry. This decoration and the technical skill employed to produce the faces has led researchers to speculate that they may represent female divinities from the Tartessian pantheon. Alternatively, the women may have been prominent figures in Tartessian society. Another of the figures is thought to represent a warrior.

The Tartessos civilization inhabited the southern Iberian Peninsula and is known to us only from archaeological discoveries. It was previously thought to have been an aniconic culture that only represented deities indirectly via animal, vegetable motifs, or baetylus (sacred stones). This new finding could therefore bring about a major shift in historians’ understanding of this obscure ancient period.

The discovery was made at the Iron Age site of Casas del Turuñuelo in the province of Badajoz, which comprises a large, two-story building made of adobe walls on stone foundations. Though it has been known about since the 1990s, it was first explored in 2015 as part of “Building Tartesos,” a project that analyzes the culture’s surviving materials, architectural plans, and construction techniques. The building was found to be exceptionally well-preserved and researchers have even been able to walk on the intact upper floor.

This latest effort, the fifth excavation of the site, saw archaeologists focus their efforts on an area to the east of the complex as they tried to locate the structure’s facade and the entranceway to a courtyard where animals were ritually slaughtered.

The research has been carried out since 2015 by the Institute of Archaeology of Mérida, an organization that combines Spain’s National Council for Scientific Research and the local government of Extremadura.


More Trending Stories:  

A British Couple Bought Two Vases for $10 at a Thrift Sale. They Turned Out to Be Art Nouveau Collectibles Worth 150 Times That 

A Museum Has Renamed a Vegetable Still Life by Van Gogh After a Chef Spotted Something Was Off About the Onions 

An X-Ray Scan of a 16th-Century Bronzino Painting of Duke Cosimo de’ Medici Has Revealed a Mysterious Underlying Portrait 

‘He Was Hungry’: A Korean Art Student Untaped Maurizio Cattelan’s Infamous $150,000 Banana From a Museum Wall and Ate It 

Art Industry News: A Rare Blue Diamond Priyanka Chopra Jonas Showed Off at the Met Gala Could Fetch $25 Million at Auction + Other Stories 

A Low-Key Collector Kept 230 Classic Cars Hidden Away in a Dusty Old Church. The Astonishing Trove Could Fetch Millions at Auction 

Christie’s Neglected to Reveal the Ugly History Behind Its Sensational Planned Jewelry Auction. Then a Billionaire’s Wife Complained 

See the Rare Keith Haring Drawing—Measuring a Massive 125 Feet—That Is Going on View in Amsterdam for the First Time in 30 Years 

How Lavinia Fontana Broke Renaissance Tradition to Become the First Woman Artist Known to Depict Female Nudes—and Earn Equal Pay as Men 

Follow Artnet News on Facebook:

Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.