Origin of ancient gold treasure revealed

The Carambolo treasure Photo by Regional Council of Culture. Granted by the museum of Seville. Author: J. MorĂ³n, Journal of Archaeological Science.

A group of Spanish archaeologists ran a chemical and isotopic analysis to examine gold fragments that had broken off from one of the artifacts that make up the Carambolo Treasure, a 2,700-year-old cache whose origin has been a source of debate.

According to National Geographic, some experts say the pieces were created by Tartessos, a wealthy civilization that thrived in southern Spain between the ninth and sixth centuries B.C. Others, the magazine adds, are convinced the jewels belonged to the Phoenicians, who arrived in the western Mediterranean in the eighth century B.C.

To get a clearer answer, a team led by Francisco Nocete, professor of prehistory at the University of Huelva, decided to run the lab test. They didn’t get a straightforward result but a pretty good lead.

In their findings, which were just published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, the scientists explain that the gold used to carve the 21 pieces was not imported by anyone but extracted from same mines associated with the ancient tombs located at Valencina de la Concepcion, near Seville.

However, taking into account the fact that the bracelets, necklaces and chest decorations were carved using Phoenician techniques and that a Phoenician temple was likely located near the place where the treasure was found in 1958, the researchers arrived at a Solomonic conclusion: that the artifacts must be the product of a mixed culture of Near-Eastern Phoenicians and local Tartessians.

A second, perhaps more unexpected conclusion was drawn from the study. “All in all, as regards the Carambolo Treasure, we would find ourselves not at the beginning, but rather at the end of a gold processing tradition that began in the Lower Guadalquivir Basin during the 3rd Millennium BC and to which ornamental techniques such as filigree or soldering were added at the turn of the 1st Millennium BC,” the paper reads.