Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Tartessos: a myth? Perhaps not...

New influences seem to have reached the Peninsula by about 3000 BCE and began to spread slowly through the next couple of centuries. This culture seems to have come from the Eastern Mediterranean to present day Almeria where mineral deposits were found in plenty. Some of this new wave of people appear to have come directly by sea, possibly via Sicily; others from North Africa, possibly via the region which would later become Carthage. These people may have originated in the regions around Syria and preceded the Phoenicians in their voyages in search of metals. They were called the Hiberi, and again, we shall return to them later. Others likely came via the Danube Valley, but much later. The first split had begun.

Spreading eastward along what is now the Andalucian coastline, by the middle of the second millenium these people may well have founded the legendary civilization of Tartessos - known in the bible as Tarshish. It was likely in the south west of the peninsula in what stretches towards Cadíz from Huelva and into the area now occupied by Portugal. The area was, and still is, rich in mineral deposits, especially copper and silver, and some tin and some gold. True Bronze Age technology began to emerge about this time.

Tartessos was long believed to have been a myth, another of the Atlantean-type until a German archaeologist named Adolf Schulten published a book on the subject in the 1920's. A major find appeared during routine dredging at the mouth of the Rio Tinto, near Huelva. (Tinto means "red", and the river runs with a clear copper colour. Smelting still takes place there.) An ancient wreck was found revealing more than 400 bronze weapons, needles, buttons and other artifacts.

The map I have shown above suggests that Tartessos was very close to the city of Cádiz (Gádir), probably one of Spain's oldest cities known to the Phoenicians. The wide bay shows a basin where the Guadalquivir and Guadalete rivers would have met. This may have stretched towards modern day Sevilla and would have encompassed the Doñana, Europe's largest national park in area and today a mostly wetland sanctuary for many rare species of wildlfe.

This area has even been suggested recently as the site of "Atlantis"! See
for an interesting paper on this particular subject.

More soon


  1. Hi again, Tracy!
    A bit off topic (perhaps?), but trying “35°E55' N and 5°E58' W” as stated in Mr Kühne’s ‘location for "Atlantis"?‘ didn’t work, while eliminating the obviously extra E to “35°55' N 5°58' W” did!
    A large tanker steaming full speed East towards the Strait of Gibraltar over ‘Spartel Island’.
    The first tall ship I ever discovered on this globe! Fascinating!
    Keep going, Tracy! So many wonderful mysteries… but so little time…
    Ons Verwonderen Rondom Ommen

  2. Lots of time. Did you never hear the expression I must make time to do that. That way time is highly extendable! Thanks for your comment. I'll check the coordinates.

  3. My search machine found the Iberians only once in The Way of Saint James by Georgiana Goddard King (VolumeII page 179):
    'Leon was a frontier post, a garrison town. Legio VII Gemina was recruited in the Cantabrian hills, and was for the most part quartered here. During the summer of 68, when Galba rose against Nero and was proclaimed in Clunia, the legion was raised in Iberia amongst Iberians, and some of them were odd lads.'