Tuesday, January 26, 2021

The Iberian Prince and His Crystal Dagger


A team excavating the megalithic tomb of Montelirio tholos (PP4-Montelirio Structure 10.049) in southwestern Spain found a 5000-year dagger formed from rock crystal. Experts say it is the "most technically sophisticated" ever to be uncovered in Prehistoric Iberia and would have taken enormous skill to carve. In addition to the dagger, they found arrowheads and cores for making the weapons. The tomb was the burial site of 25 persons, mostly females between the ages of 20 and 30 (likely to serve him in the next life). Grave goods included elephant tusks, jewelry, gold, clay pots, and an ostrich egg.

The exquisite dagger and other grave goods indicate that this is the burial site of a ruler whose wealth compares to that of the ruler buried at Varna. Grave 43 from the Varna cemetery contained more gold than has been found at any other archaeological site from that epoch.

Biblical populations often placed ostrich eggs in graves. Some were painted. This 7th-century BC painted ostrich egg was found on Cyprus.The ostrich egg among the grave goods indicates the hope for life after death. 

The incised ostrich eggs (shown below) were found at a 3000 BC Etruscan burial site in Vulci, Italy. They are said to be devoted to Hathor (later called Isis). This burial site dates to the same time as the elite tomb where the crystal dagger was found.

British Museum

Painted or incised ostrich eggs have been found at ancient settlements in Africa, including El-Badari, Nubia and Nekhen, especially in the graves of children. At a Naqada burial site, a decorated ostrich egg replaced the owner's missing head. That egg is in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, England.

Evidence of hope for life after death is expressed also by the highly valued allochthonous red pigments
on the walls of the tomb. The red pigments consisted of imported cinnabar mixed with small amounts of iron oxides. Humans have been burying chiefs and other elite persons with pigments such as red ochre, a symbolic blood covering, for at least 100,000 years.

The elephant tusks and ostrich egg were brought from Africa. Clearly, people of the Levant were making and trading diverse goods across great distances during the Chacolithic period. The ruler was probably part of the Bell Beaker phenomenon, a huge multicultural trade network. It is associated with the diffusion of haplogroup R1b-L11 (and subclades) across central and western Europe and shares genetic ancestry with Prehistoric African populations. The dispersion is shown on this map.

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