The archaeological work carried out during the VI Excavation Campaign at the archaeological site of Casas del Turuñuelo, in Guareña (Badajoz, Spain), has revealed, among the numerous recovered materials, a slate plaque about 20 centimeters engraved on both sides where various motifs can be identified. It combines drawing exercises with the repeated depiction of faces or geometric figures and a combat scene involving three characters.

Initial indications suggest that this unique piece in peninsular archaeology would have served as support for the artisan when engraving motifs on pieces of gold, ivory, or wood. 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 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 that were already news for the discovery of the largest animal sacrifice in the western Mediterranean and the discovery of the first human representations of Tartessos. At a press conference the team of CSIC experts, an organization dependent on the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities (MICIU), highlighted the importance of the discovered slate plaque, which shows four individuals identified as warriors, given their decorated clothing and the weapons they carry.

Three digitally silhouetted figures on the front face of the plate
Three digitally silhouetted figures on the front face of the plate. Credit: E. Rodríguez / M. Luque / CSIC

Although the piece must be studied, initial indications suggest it is a jeweler’s slate, a material that would have served as support for the artisan when engraving the motifs designed on pieces of gold, ivory, or wood. 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 East Door

The discovery of the east door of the building, located in the center of a monumental facade more than three meters high, confirms, according to the research team and based on the nature of the documented architectural remains, the main access to the building on its eastern end, which preserves its two constructive floors. The door connects the Stepped Room with an extensive slate-paved courtyard in front of which is located a cobbled corridor. 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. This unique context will allow for an in-depth understanding of the productive processes of the First Iron Age in the southwestern peninsula.

Four Excavated Spaces

A total of four spaces have been individualized and excavated, where lots of ceramics have been recovered, distinguishing miniature ceramic containers, ceramics with incised decoration, various iron tools, a lot of ivories, and a set of loom weights in the process of being manufactured, which once again highlight the existence of textile craftsmanship at this site. This evidence was already highlighted after the documentation of textile remains, such as fragments of linen and wool documented in previous campaigns, which are unique examples of peninsular archaeology.

The discovery of the door allows the closure of one of the milestones that this research group had set to better understand the spatial organization of the monument and its true function. Equally significant is the discovery of the exterior rooms dedicated to different artisanal tasks, allowing entry into very unknown social issues for this era and deepening the figure of the artisan in Tartessos. Each new revelation represents a step forward in the interpretation of this culture, further consolidating its importance in the Guadiana Valley during its final moments.

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, concludes Sebastián Celestino.

Aerial view of the site of Casas del Turuñuelo.
Aerial view of the site of Casas del Turuñuelo. Credit: Esther Rodríguez González et al.

Constructing Tartessos

Constructing Tartessos is a project of the State Research Agency within the State R&D Plan of MICIU. Its main objective is to characterize Tartessian material culture through the architectural analysis of large adobe buildings excavated in recent decades and introduce the concept of architecture as an integrated element in the territory.

The site of Casas del Turuñuelo is located in the region of Vegas Altas del Guadiana, near the mouth of the Búrdalo River. Its first excavation campaign began in 2015, and currently, the research staff is immersed in the sixth, which includes the discovery of the building’s east door. Its uniqueness is especially based on its excellent state of conservation, which allows documenting construction techniques and architectural solutions that, to date, had not been documented in a Tartessian site.

The Constructing Tartessos project belongs to the Institute of Archaeology of Mérida (IAM), a research center that began its journey in 2000. The main objective of IAM is to promote scientific research on archaeological heritage, from the regional scope of the Autonomous Community of Extremadura to the international level.

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