Category Archives: SPAIN

Scenes of Warriors from 6th Century BC on a Slate Plaque Discovered at Tartessian Site in Spain

Scenes of Warriors from 6th Century BC on a Slate Plaque Discovered at Tartessian Site in Spain

Scenes of Warriors from 6th Century BC on a Slate Plaque Discovered at Tartessian Site in Spain

Archaeologists representing Spain’s National Research Council (CSIC) excavating at the archaeological site of Casas del Turunuelo have uncovered a slate plaque about 20 centimeters engraved on both sides where various motifs can be identified.

The slate plaque includes drawing exercises, a battle scene involving three characters, and repeated depictions of faces or geometric figures.  According to early indications, this rare find in Guareña (Badajoz, Spain) may have supported the engraver as they carved designs into pieces of wood, ivory, or gold.

Three digitally silhouetted figures on the front face of the plate.

The new campaign has also made it possible to discover the location of the east door that gives access to the Stepped Room, excavated in 2023 and known for the discovery of the first figured reliefs of Tartessos.

The Tartessians, who are thought to have lived in southern Iberia (modern-day Andalusia and Extremadura), are regarded as one of the earliest Western European civilizations.

The Late Bronze Age saw the emergence of the Tartessos culture in the southwest of the Iberian Peninsula in Spain.

The culture is characterized by the use of the now-extinct Tartessian language, which is combined with local Phoenician and Paleo-Hispanic characteristics. The Tartessos people were skilled in metallurgy and metalworking, creating ornate objects and decorative items.

The team from the Institute of Archaeology of Mérida (IAM), a joint center of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) and the Junta de Extremadura, directed by Esther Rodríguez González and Sebastián Celestino Pérez, is responsible for these archaeological excavations.

At a press conference, the team of CSIC experts highlighted the importance of the discovered slate plaque, which shows four individuals identified as warriors, given their decorated clothing and the weapons they carry.

Initial indications, though they require further investigation, point to the piece being a jeweler’s slate, a material that would have supported the artist while they engraved the motifs on pieces of wood, ivory, or gold.

“This discovery is a unique example in peninsular archaeology and brings us closer to understanding the artisanal processes in Tartessos, previously invisible, while also allowing us to complete our knowledge of the clothing, weaponry, or headdresses of the depicted characters, as they proliferate with details,” says Esther Rodríguez.

This documentation complements the finding made in the previous campaign, where the documentation of several faces allowed, for the first time, admiration of how the society of the 6th-5th centuries BC wore their  jewelry.

The researchers also worked on the eastern gate, which they identified in 2023. Based on the nature of the documented architectural remains and the discovery of the building’s east door in the center of a monumental facade more than three meters high, the research team believes that this door confirms the main access to the building on its eastern end, which retains its two constructive floors.

The door links the Stepped Room to a large slate-paved courtyard, which has a cobblestone corridor in front of it. This corridor separates the main body of the building from a set of rooms where interesting material lots have been recovered.

Additionally, the archaeological materials recovered from the adjoining rooms located in front of said access suggest that it is the production or artisanal area of the building.

The finding of the outside rooms devoted to various artisanal activities is also noteworthy since it sheds light on societal issues that were unknown during this time period and strengthens Tartessos’ artisanal identity.

“Our efforts will now focus on studying the recovered remains, both from the face reliefs and the ivories. As for the archaeological work at the site, our goal for the next campaign is to delineate these production areas that seem to extend, at least, along the entire eastern side of the site. In parallel, we will begin to open the rooms flanking the main space, which have an excellent degree of preservation and can help us define the functionality of the building,” said Sebastián Celestino.

Unique ‘Excalibur’ Sword Found Upright in Ground Unearthed in Spain Holds Islamic Origins

Unique ‘Excalibur’ Sword Found Upright in Ground Unearthed in Spain Holds Islamic Origins

Unique ‘Excalibur’ Sword Found Upright in Ground Unearthed in Spain Holds Islamic Origins

Researchers have finally unraveled the mysteries of the historical sword discovered in Spain 30 years ago, which they named ‘Excalibur’ because of its location, which evokes similarities with the legendary sword of King Arthur.

The iron sword was first discovered stuck in the ground upright in 1994 at an archaeological site in Valencia’s old town, a city on the eastern coast of Spain. This location, which is north of the old Roman Forum, has seen the rise and fall of many cultures over Valencia’s turbulent history.

For the past 30 years, the sword’s origin and age have remained a point of confusion — until now.

Valencia’s archaeology department decided to catalog and review the artifacts in its collection ahead of its 75th anniversary, the City Council of Valencia said in an April 22 news release. One of those artifacts was the Excalibur sword.

Since its unearthing, the sword’s true age has eluded scholars. However, recent efforts by the Archaeology Service (SIAM) of the Valencia City Council have shed light on its origins, reports Horta Noticias.

Through meticulous dating techniques, they have determined that the sword hails from the 10th century, firmly establishing its antiquity at over a millennium old.

A close-up shot of the hilt Warrior Sword from Valencia.

SIAM’s analysis indicates that this sword represents the first discovery of its kind from the Islamic era in Valencia. Swords from this period are generally scarce in Spain, particularly in Valencia, where the soil’s composition poses challenges to preservation efforts.

Archeologist José Miguel Osuna, who led the research project on “Excalibur” earlier this year, found that the 18 inch-blade was from the Islamic period because of its hilt, decorated with bronze plates and notches for handling.

The sword’s curved metal tip caused confusion among researchers, who thought it might have belonged to the Visigoths, but Osuna later disproved this idea.

An expert is measuring the Islamic-era sword discovered in Valencia in 1994, known as Excalibur, has been dated back to the 10th century.

The sword’s size and the fact that it doesn’t have a hand guard suggest that a mounted warrior may have used it in the Andalusian caliphal era.

Municipal technicians are clear that its origins are in the Islamic era of Balansiya, even though it may display evolutionary traits from Visigothic models.

Only one comparable specimen has surfaced thus far, unearthed amidst the excavations of Medina Azahara, the illustrious caliphal city commissioned by Abderramán III in Córdoba. The Islamic period in Spain began in A.D. 711 and ended in A.D. 1492.

“Thanks to the archaeology scholarship convened by the Valencia City Council, the archaeologist José Miguel Osuna is carrying out a detailed study of analysis of metallic objects that go from Roman times to the late medieval period and where a new and exceptional find has come to light, which we have called the Excalibur de Roc Chabàs to be very similar to the legendary sword of King Arthur.” José Luis Moreno, Valencia councilor for cultural action, heritage, and cultural resources, said in a press release.

City council cultural representative José Luis Moreno noted in the release that the sword was just one of many artifacts — from the Roman era to the late medieval period — being studied in the city’s archeological collection for the department’s 75th anniversary.

Well-preserved 7,300-Year-Old Wooden Cabins Discovered In La Draga

Well-preserved 7,300-Year-Old Wooden Cabins Discovered In La Draga

Archaeologists excavating at La Draga de Banyoles, an early Neolithic lakeshore site in Spain, have uncovered well-preserved 7,300-year-old wooden cabins. The ancient structures are in excellent condition and make it possible to gain knowledge about farming communities that settled in L’Estany at the beginning of the Neolithic, about 7,200 years ago.

Well-preserved 7,300-Year-Old Wooden Cabins Discovered In La Draga
Credit: IPHES – Catalan Institute of Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution

Archaeological discoveries in other parts show wood can survive much longer than most think. For example, the world’s oldest wooden structure discovered recently in Zambia is worth mentioning.

Excavation of well-preserved wood at the archaeological site of Kalambo Falls dating back at least 476,000 years and predates the evolution of our species, Homo sapiens.

Looking in another direction, we learn that the Boxford Timber discovered in Berkshire is Britain’s oldest carved wood.

Wood has archaeological value and has been a vital resource to past human societies.

At La Draga, scientists from several universities have worked together and focused on the northernmost area of the site, the so-called sector B, which has the particularity of having better conditions for the conservation of organic matter.

So far, it is in this sector where the most apparent architectural evidence of the wooden cabins of the ancient settlers of La Draga has appeared and where a more significant number of tools and utensils made of wood and plant fibers have also been found.

“The work at the La Draga site has made it possible to document structural elements of wooden constructions in a very good state of conservation. They are mainly large wooden planks over three meters long that occupy practically the entire surface of the excavated area.

The excavation process should allow us to make very precise interpretations of the shape of these huts, the construction techniques and the time of their construction, and their relationship with areas excavated in previous campaigns,” the co-directors of the research project Toni Palomo and Raquel Piqué (UAB) and Xavier Terradas (CSIC-IMF Barcelona) said in a press release.

At the same time, the campaign has carried out two archaeological and paleological prospecting actions on the western shore of the Lake, both terrestrial and underwater.

On the one hand, soundings have been made on the west shore of Banyoles Lake, within the municipality of Porqueres.

In this case, the objective is to obtain new sedimentological and paleoenvironmental data that should allow the La Draga team of researchers to reconstruct the environmental dynamics of Banyoles Lake during the Holocene and verify the possible presence of other prehistoric occupations in this place.

Credit: IPHES – Catalan Institute of Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution

“The soundings carried out have allowed us to document signs of great interest to reconstruct what the environment was like in prehistoric times,” comments Dr. Jordi Revelles, Juan de la Cierva postdoctoral researcher at IPHES-CERCA.

The current study also helped to “contextualize findings made in previous surveys when signs of use of the space were documented around 5,000 years ago, more than 2,000 years later than the town of La Draga”, he adds.

Scientists emphasize underwater surveys have also been carried out on the lake’s western shore, in the area between Punta Freixenet and Punta Cuaranya.

The work has made it possible to document large areas of peaty sediment with a significant presence of preserved organic matter such as, for example, wood remains. The analysis of the samples carried out allows us to understand better the dynamics of the prehistoric and historical settlement of the Lake.

Unique 2,000-Year-Old Decorated Roman Sandal Lost By Well-Cleaner Found In Spain

Unique 2,000-Year-Old Decorated Roman Sandal Lost By Well-Cleaner Found In Spain

About 2,000 years ago, a Roman man tried to clean a well and lost a sandal.

The well-preserved ancient shoe was discovered during archaeological excavations at Lucus Asturum (modern-day Lugo de Llanera in Asturias, northern Spain).

Mentioned by astronomer, mathematician, and geographer Ptolemy in his work Geography Lucus Asturum was a Roman settlement that served as an administrative center and communications hub in the north of the Iberian Peninsula between the first and fourth centuries A.D. between the first and fourth centuries A.D.

Unique 2,000-Year-Old Decorated Roman Sandal Lost By Well-Cleaner Found In Spain
The Roman sandal discovered in Lugo de Llanera, Asturias. Credit: Esperanza Martín

Over the years, archaeologists have unearthed Roman thermal baths, buildings, and intriguing artifacts at the site.

Two years ago, in 2021, “a team led by archaeologist Esperanza Martín located a large house with a central courtyard and a well. This summer, excavations at the site were resumed and the archaeologists decided to descend, using a system of pulleys to avoid damaging the remains, to the bottom of the well.

Inside, among many other Roman pieces, they found a sandal lost by a man who tried to clean the well 2,000 years ago. Despite the humbleness of the object, it is a unicum — an archaeological object without equal — because it is decorated with circles, ovals, and falciform figures.

There are no more than 20 Roman sandals preserved in Hispania and this is the only one that is decorated. It is in a good state of preservation, as the silt at the bottom of the well generated an anaerobic system that prevented the reproduction of microorganisms,” El Pais reports.

“The remains we found, due to the anoxia generated by the high water table in the area, are in an exceptional state,” says Martín.

Archeologist Esperanza Martín descends into the well discovered in Lugo de Llanera. Credit: Esperanza Martín

“The silts have created an anaerobic environment thanks to the plasticity of the clays that compose them, so the organic materials have been perfectly preserved.”

At a depth of about three meters, the specialists extracted part of the wooden cover of the well, a tiled floor for the decantation of silts, several jars, seeds, chestnuts, pine nuts, mollusks, the remains of domestic and wild fauna, an acetre, or bronze, cauldron, a small metal ring and the sandal, among other objects.

A house was uncovered during excavations at Lucus Asturum. Credit: Esperanza Martín

“It is almost complete and retains the cutting notches to hold it in the upper leg area. It is more than likely that it was lost by someone who came in to clean [the well] when it got caught in the silt. It is a unique object as it is decorated.”

The ancient sandal lost by the Roman well-cleaner “is currently refrigerated to avoid degradation until it can be restored and exhibited in the Archaeological Museum of Asturias,” El Pais reports.

Romans produced excellent shoes that were meant to last. A similar find was made in the small village of Thérouanne, France, where archaeologists discovered 1,700-year-old Roman shoes and an exceptional glass workshop.

66-Million-Year-Old Dinosaur Skin Impression Discovered In Spain

66-Million-Year-Old Dinosaur Skin Impression Discovered In Spain

In Spain, detailed skin impressions of a giant dinosaur discovered 66 million years ago in a muddy riverbank have been discovered. The fossil was created over centuries by sand petrifying into sedimentary rock, and it clearly shows the pattern of massive scales that once lined the creature’s hide.

66-Million-Year-Old Dinosaur Skin Impression Discovered In Spain
Detailed skin impressions of a massive dinosaur that rested in a muddy river bank some 66 million years ago have been uncovered in Spain. The fossil was formed by sand petrifying into sedimentary rock over millennia and distinctively shows the pattern of large scales that once lined the creatures hide

The prints are thought to have been left by a titanosaur that lived during the Late Cretaceous period, just before dinosaurs went extinct.

‘This is the only registry of dinosaur skin from this period in all of Europe, and it corresponds to one of the most recent specimens, closer to the extinction event, in all of the world,’ said lead researcher Victor Fodevilla, from the Autonomous University of Barcelona.

‘There are very few samples of fossilized skin registered, and the only sites with similar characteristics can be found in the United States and Asia.’

Instead, the team envisions the creature that made the impressions with a huge four-footed sauropod, possibly a titanosaurus – one of the biggest animals ever to walk the Earth.

And researchers found footprints near the site that support the titanosaur theory.

‘The fossil probably belongs to a large herbivore sauropod, maybe a titanosaur, since we discovered footprints from the same species very close to the rock with the skin fossil,’ said Fodevilla.

A titanosaur, a silhouette representing the size of a hatchling titanosaur, relationship to a human at birth, tiny titanosaur babies weigh about as much as average human babies, 6 to 8 pounds. But in just a few weeks, they’re shedding the tiny descriptor and are at least the size of golden retrievers, weighing 70 pounds, knee-high to a person. And by age 20 or so, they’re bigger than school buses

The discovery was made in the village of Vallcebre, near Barcelona, in an area that was once the bank of an ancient river. It is thought the dinosaur left an imprint of its scales when it laid down in the mud to rest. Over time, the region where the animal left its prints was eventually covered with sand.

And over the course of thousands of years, the area petrified to form sandstone, preserving the astonishing impressions recently discovered by the researchers. 

Since the sand acted as a mold, what is seen on the rock is a relief of the animal’s original skin. 

How the process happened is unique, as the Late Cretaceous period corresponds to the moment shortly before dinosaurs became extinct, there are few places on Earth containing sandstone from this period.

Characterizing these dinosaurs is very important in order to understand how and why they disappeared. 

Two skin impressions were found, one about 20 centimeters across and the other five centimeters, separated by a distance of 1.5 meters.

And experts believe they were made by the same animal.

The ‘rose’ pattern of the scales is characteristic of certain dinosaurs, said the researchers, who describe their find in the journal Geological Magazine.  

‘The fact that they are impression fossils is evidence that the animal is from the sedimentary rock period, one of the last dinosaurs to live on the planet,’ said Fondevilla.

‘When bones are discovered, dating is more complicated because they could have moved from the original sediment during all these millions of years.’ 

This discovery also verifies the excellent fossil registry of the Pyrenees in terms of dinosaurs living in Europe shortly before they became extinct. 

‘The sites in Berguedà, Pallars Jussà, Alt Urgell and La Noguera, in Catalonia, have provided proof of five different groups of: titanosaurs, ankylosaurids, theropods, hadrosaurs and rhabdodontids,’ said Àngel Galobart, head of the Mesozoic research group at the ICP and director of the Museum of Conca Dellà in Isona. 

‘The sites in the Pyrenees are very relevant from a scientific point of view, since they allow us to study the cause of their extinction in a geographic point far away from the impact of the meteorite.’ 

Paleolithic ‘art sanctuary’ in Spain contains more than 110 prehistoric cave paintings

Paleolithic ‘art sanctuary’ in Spain contains more than 110 prehistoric cave paintings

Archaeologists have discovered more than 110 prehistoric cave paintings and engravings dating to at least 24,000 years ago near Valencia, Spain.

Paleolithic 'art sanctuary' in Spain contains more than 110 prehistoric cave paintings
An archeologist illuminates a part of the cave in Spain that’s rich with artistic motifs.

The Paleolithic, or Stone Age, rock art is “arguably the most important found on the Eastern Iberian Coast in Europe,” the team said in a statement about the finding.

Locals and hikers have long known about Cova Dones (also spelled Cueva Dones), a 1,640-foot-long (500 meters) cave in the municipality of Millares. Although Iron Age finds were known from the cave, the Paleolithic artwork wasn’t documented until researchers discovered it in 2021.

At first, the team found four painted motifs, including the head of an aurochs (Bos primigenius), an extinct cattle species. Additional work in 2023 revealed the site as a “major Palaeolithic art sanctuary,” the researchers wrote in a study published Sept. 8 in the journal Antiquity.

“When we saw the first painted auroch[s], we immediately acknowledged it was important,” Aitor Ruiz-Redondo, a senior lecturer of prehistory at the University of Zaragoza in Spain and a research affiliate at the University of Southampton in the U.K., said in the statement.

Spain has the most Paleolithic cave-art sites in the world, including the up to 36,000-year-old cave art at La Cueva de Altamira, but most are found in the northern part of the country, making the location of the new find unique. “Eastern Iberia is an area where few of these sites have been documented so far,” Ruiz-Redondo said.

An engraved hind (female red deer) etched into the wall of the cave.

The Paleolithic compositions stand out due to the sheer number of motifs and techniques used to make them.

The cave may even exhibit the most Stone Age motifs of any cave in Europe; the last big discovery of this kind was the finding of at least 70 cave paintings from up to 14,500 years ago at Atxurra in Spain’s northern Basque Country, in 2015.

In the new study, the researchers documented at least 19 depictions of animals, including horses, hinds (female red deer), aurochs and a stag.

The other art includes signs like rectangles, isolated lines and “macaroni” shallow-groove lines made by dragging fingers or tools across a soft surface. Many of the motifs were made using red, iron-rich clay — a technique rarely seen in Paleolithic art, the researchers said.

“Animals and signs were depicted simply by dragging the fingers and palms covered with clay on the walls,” Ruiz-Redondo said.

The cave’s humid environment helped the paintings dry slowly, “preventing parts of the clay from falling down rapidly, while other parts were covered by calcite layers, which preserved them until today,” he said.

Some of the engravings were crafted by scraping limestone on the cave’s walls, the team added.

The investigations of the “rich graphic assemblage” are still in the early stages, as there are still more areas of the cave to survey and panels to document, the researchers wrote in the study.

Dazzling Treasures Unearthed in Bronze Age Grave Possible Belonged to a Queen

Dazzling Treasures Unearthed in Bronze Age Grave Possible Belonged to a Queen

The burial of a woman who lived and died thousands of years ago may change our perceptions of the El Argar, one of Europe’s most sophisticated Bronze Age civilizations.

It’s one of the most lavish burials from the European Bronze Age, and despite the fact that the woman was buried with a man, the majority of the expensive grave goods belonged to her, indicating that she was of much higher social status.

Dazzling Treasures Unearthed in Bronze Age Grave Possible Belonged to a Queen

Researchers led by archaeologist Vicente Lull of the Autonomous University of Barcelona in Spain concluded that women in this culture may have played a more significant political role than previously assumed by comparing her grave to that of other El Argar women.

The grave itself, a large ceramic jar named Grave 38, was discovered in 2014, at the La Almoloya archaeological site on the Iberian Peninsula, Spain.

It was found beneath the floor of what seems to be the governing hall filled with benches in a palace, an interpretation bolstered by the richness of the grave contents.

“The general lack of artifacts on the floor of [the hall] H9, combined with the structural prominence of the benches, indicate that social gatherings of up to 50 individuals could be held in this large room,” the researchers wrote in their paper.

“We can only speculate as to whether such meetings were intended for discussion and participation in shared decision-making or, rather, for the transmission of orders within a hierarchical chain of command.

That the grave offerings of grave 38 far exceed those from any other contemporaneous tomb in La Almoloya, and in many other sites, suggests the second option.”

The jar contained the remains of two individuals – a man, who died between the ages of 35 and 40, and a woman, who died between the ages of 25 and 30.

Genetic analyses confirmed that they were unrelated, but radiocarbon dating shows they died at the same time or very close together, around 1730 BCE. Remains found not far from the grave were related to both – their daughter.

The man’s bones showed signs of wear and tear consistent with long-term physical activity, perhaps horse-riding, and a healed traumatic injury to the front of his head.

The woman’s bones showed signs of congenital abnormalities, including a missing rib, only six cervical vertebrae, and fused sacral vertebrae. Markings on her ribs could have been produced by a lung infection when she died.

Nevertheless, she seemed to have been wealthy. The pair was buried with 29 items, most of which were made of silver, and most of which seemed to belong to the woman – necklaces, bracelets on her arms, an awl with a silver-coated handle, and silver-coated ceramic pots, the latter two of which would have required a great deal of skill in silversmithing.

The man wasn’t without ornaments: his arm was adorned with a copper bracelet; he wore a necklace of seven large, colored beads; a dagger with silver rivets lay alongside him; and two gold ear tunnels were likely his, too.

But it was what the woman wore on her head that really excited the research team: a silver circlet, or diadem, placed with a silver disc that would have extended down to her forehead or the bridge of her nose. It’s similar to four other diadems found in the 19th century in richly appointed women’s graves.

“The singularity of these diadems is extraordinary. They were symbolic objects made for these women, thus transforming them into emblematic subjects of the dominant ruling class,” said archaeologist Cristina Rihuete-Herrada of the Autonomous University of Barcelona in Spain.

“Each piece is unique, comparable to funerary objects pertaining to the ruling class of other regions, such as Brittany, Wessex and Unetice, or in the eastern Mediterranean of the 17th century BCE, contemporary to our Grave 38.”

The silver in the grave goods had a combined weight of around 230 grams (8 ounces). This is a staggering amount of wealth to bury: in Babylon at this time, the daily wages for a laborer were around 0.23 to 0.26 grams of silver. These two people were buried with 938 days’ worth of Babylonian wages.

Previous analyses had proposed that the women buried in such rich graves were either sovereigns, or the wives of sovereigns. It’s still impossible to tell, but the research team believes that the evidence points towards the former.

“In the Argaric society, women of the dominant classes were buried with diadems, while the men were buried with a sword and dagger,” they explained.

“The funerary goods buried with these men were of lesser quantity and quality. As swords represent the most effective instrument for reinforcing political decisions, El Argar dominant men might have played an executive role, even though the ideological legitimation as well as, perhaps, the government, had lain in some women’s hands.”

As women have wielded political power often throughout history, would that really be such a surprise? The research has been published in Antiquity.

9,500-Year-Old Baskets And 6,200-Year-Old Sandals Found In Spanish Cave

9,500-Year-Old Baskets And 6,200-Year-Old Sandals Found In Spanish Cave

Scientists have discovered and analyzed the first direct evidence of basketry among hunter-gatherer societies and early farmers in southern Europe (9,500 and 6,200 years ago), in the Cueva de los Murciélagos of Albuñol (Granada, Spain).

This site is one of the most emblematic archaeological sites of prehistoric times in the Iberian Peninsula due to the unique preservation of organic materials found there.

The work analyzes 76 objects made of organic materials (wood, reed and esparto) discovered during 19th century mining activities in the Granada cave.

9,500-Year-Old Baskets And 6,200-Year-Old Sandals Found In Spanish Cave
The oldest Mesolithic baskets in southern Europe, 9,500 years old (left), and wooden mace and esparto sandals, dating back to the Neolithic 6,200 years ago (right).

The researchers studied the raw materials and technology and carried out carbon-14 dating, which revealed that the set dates to the early and middle Holocene period, between 9,500 and 6,200 years ago.

This is the first direct evidence of basketry made by Mesolithic hunter-gatherer societies in southern Europe and a unique set of other organic tools associated with early Neolithic farming communities, such as sandals and a wooden mace.

As researcher of the Prehistory Department of the University of Alcalá Francisco Martínez Sevilla explains, “the new dating of the esparto baskets from the Cueva de los Murciélagos of Albuñol opens a window of opportunity to understanding the last hunter-gatherer societies of the early Holocene.”

“The quality and technological complexity of the basketry makes us question the simplistic assumptions we have about human communities prior to the arrival of agriculture in southern Europe. This work and the project that is being developed places the Cueva de los Murciélagos as a unique site in Europe to study the organic materials of prehistoric populations.”

Cueva de los Murciélagos is located on the coast of Granada, to the south of the Sierra Nevada and 2 kilometers from the town of Albuñol. The cave opens on the right side of the Barranco de las Angosturas, at an altitude of 450 meters above sea level and about 7 kilometers from the current coastline. It is one of the most emblematic prehistoric archaeological sites of the Iberian Peninsula due to the rare preservation of organic materials, which until this study had only been attributed to the Neolithic.

The objects made of perishable materials were discovered by the mining activities of the 19th century and were documented and recovered by Manuel de Góngora y Martínez, later becoming part of the first collections of the National Archaeological Museum of Madrid.

As detailed by María Herrero Otal, co-author of the work and researcher at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, “The esparto grass objects from Cueva de los Murciélagos are the oldest and best-preserved set of plant fiber materials in southern Europe so far known.”

“The technological diversity and the treatment of the raw material documented demonstrates the ability of prehistoric communities to master this type of craftsmanship, at least since 9,500 years ago, in the Mesolithic period.

Only one type of technique related to hunter-gatherers has been identified, while the typological, technological and treatment range of esparto grass was extended during the Neolithic from 7,200 to 6,200 years before the present.”

Artistic recreation of the use of Mesolithic baskets by a group of hunter-gatherers in the Cueva de los Murciélagos de Albuñol. Credit: Drawing by Moisés Belilty Molinos, with scientific supervision of Francisco Martínez-Sevilla and Maria Herrero-Otal

The work is part of the project “De los museos al territorio: actualizando el estudio de la Cueva de los Murciélagos de Albuñol (Granada)” (MUTERMUR). The objective of this project is the holistic study of the site and its material record, applying the latest archaeometric techniques and generating quality scientific data.

The project also included the collaboration of the National Archaeological Museum, the Archaeological and Ethnological Museum of Granada, the City Council of Albuñol and the owners of the cave.

“The results of this work and the finding of the oldest basketry in southern Europe give more meaning, if possible, to the phrase written by Manuel de Góngora in his work Prehistoric Antiquities of Andalusia (1868): ‘the now forever famous Cueva de los Murciélagos’,” the authors say.

The study was conducted by a team of scientists led by researchers from the Universidad de Alcalá (UAH) and the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), and published in the journal Science Advances.