The Spanish Excalibur? Archaeologists pull ‘incredibly well-preserved’ 3,200-year-old sword from a rock near megalith site in Majorca
- The sword was discovered accidentally near a stone megalith known as talaiot
- Mysterious Tailiotic culture flourished on Majorca and Menorca 1000-6000 BC
- The stunning find provides rare context and insight into this ancient culture
Archaeologists working on the Spanish holiday island of Majorca (Mallorca) have accidentally stumbled across a 3,200-year-old sword, one of only few weapons from the Bronze Age found on the island better known for its sunny beaches.
The sword was found near a stone megalith known locally as a talayot (or talaiot), which were built by the mysterious Tailiotic culture that flourished on the islands of Majorca and Menorca some 1000-6000 BC.
The team was preparing the location for a museum site when two archaeologists picked up a rock and saw something protruding from the ground. To their amazement, a sword emerged after they carefully removed mud and earth from the item.
‘It was a huge surprise. We did not expect to find anything like this because the area had already been excavated,’ Jaume Deya one of the head archaeologists told CEN.
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Archaeologists were surprised to dig out the well-preserved sword from the ancient Tailiotic culture from underneath a rock and mud
The sword is in pretty good shape with only one break in in, despite being 3,200 old
The sword is expected to be on display soon at the Museum of Majorca
The megalith had been looted in the ancient past, by Romans and others, and has been thoroughly excavated since the 1950s, so no one expected to find any further remains.
Apart from a broken tip, the sword is in good condition despite being over 3000 years. The team thinks it dates to around 1200 BC.
They believe the sword was deliberately left at the site, possibly buried as an offering from a noble or an aristocratic family at the megalith which is thought to had been an important religious and ceremonial site.
Ruins of a talayot in Majorca, similar to the ones where the sword was found
Talayot megalith structures, like the one seen in the distance, were probably used as places of religious worship
What was Talayotic culture?
The prehistoric Talayotic civilization existed in the Balearic island in the Bronze age
It is a prime example of a pre-Roman culture from this time, comprising building sites, pottery, ands weaponry
The word ‘talayotic’ is related to one of the most typical elements of this culture, buildings in the form of a tower and known by the island’s inhabitants as ‘TALAYOT’
Talayotic Culture of Minorca, which is is made up of 25 archaeological sites, has been proposed for inclusion in the tentative List of World Heritage of the Spanish State
Talayots in nearby Majorca and Minorca are similar, but also differ in technical building solutions: for example, the Minorcan ones had inner chambers crowned with a false dome, something not present in Majorca
The sword could have also been left there for defence; experts believe that the weapon was buried was made when the Talaiotic culture was in serious decline.
Only around ten such weapons from the Talaiotic culture have been found before, mostly by farmers and builders who typically unearthed them by accident and then handed over to authorities. This meant that experts were unable to properly research the artefacts as they did not know where and how they had been found’.
The fact that the sword was found at an archaeological site, researchers now know the context in which it was found, which is essential to understand the origin of the sword and its possible symbolic role in the Talaiotic civilization.
For example, the find seems to demonstrate that weapons were used as offerings and it also underscores the role of the talaiots as places of religious worship rather than as signaling towers or defensive strongholds as some have suggested.
The sword is expected to be on display soon at the Museum of Majorca.
WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT BRONZE AGE BRITAIN?
The Bronze Age in Britain began around 2,000 BC and lasted for nearly 1,500 years.
It was a time when sophisticated bronze tools, pots and weapons were brought over from continental Europe.
Skulls uncovered from this period are vastly different from Stone Age skulls, which suggests this period of migration brought new ideas and new blood from overseas.
Bronze is made from 10 per cent tin and 90 per cent copper, both of which were in abundance at the time.
Crete appears to be a centre of expansion for the bronze trade in Europe and weapons first came over from the Mycenaeans in southern Russia.
It is widely believed bronze first came to Britain with the Beaker people who lived about 4,500 years ago in the temperate zones of Europe.
They received their name from their distinctive bell-shaped beakers, decorated in horizontal zones by finely toothed stamps.
The decorated pots are almost ubiquitous across Europe, and could have been used as drinking vessels or ceremonious urns.
Believed to be originally from Spain, the Beaker folk soon spread into central and western Europe in their search for metals.
Textile production was also under way at the time and people wore wrap-around skirts, tunics and cloaks. Men were generally clean-shaven and had long hair.
The dead were cremated or buried in small cemeteries near settlements.
This period was followed by the Iron Age which started around 650 BC and finished around 43 AD.
WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT EUROPEAN MIGRATIONS DURING THE BRONZE AGE?
Experts combine data from data from archaeology, anthropology, genetics and linguistics to determine likely migration patterns.
According to the Kurgan hypothesis, pictured below, people living on the Pontic steppe north of the Black Sea were the most likely speakers of a Proto-Indo-European language.
Experts combine data from data from archaeology, anthropology, genetics and linguistics to determine likely migration patterns. A map of the hypothesised Indo–European migrations from 4000–1000 BC
Most modern Europeans are descendants of a mixture of European hunter-gatherers, Anatolian early farmers and Steppe herders.
However, the DNA of ancient Siberians can also be found in European speakers of Uralic languages, like Estonian and Finnish.
A 2015 study in Nature suggested that there was a large migration of people from north of the Black Sea into Eastern, Central and Western Europe that started at around 2,800 BC.