The fashion capital of the prehistoric world has been revealed | Fashion

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Archaeologists have been unearthing what appears to have been the fashion capital of the prehistoric world.

Dating back some 5,000 years, the site, a Copper Age settlement in what is now southern Spain, has produced the largest concentration of luxury prehistoric fashion items ever found.

So far, literally hundreds of spectacularly beautiful artifacts of gold, ivory, rock crystal, amber, greenstone, seashells, ostrich eggshells, flint, and copper have been unearthed, despite the fact that only about 1 percent of the site has been discovered so far. been excavated.

(ATLAS Research Group, University of Seville)

Detailed excavations, which have been carried out over the last two decades, suggest that the site was an important center of international trade, attracting goods from literally thousands of miles away. Scientific tests have revealed that the most exotic raw materials for the most exclusive fashion accessories came from as far away as Western Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, Sicily and northern Spain.

So far, archaeologists, from the Spanish universities of Seville and Huelva and from Germany, have found dozens of complete and fragmentary ivory figurines, ornamental goblets and combs, as well as jewelery and luxury furniture and garment decorations buried deep. Most of the ivory is from African elephants, but some is from Asian elephants, which at the time still roamed the grasslands of western Asia. Archaeologists and other scientists from five UK universities and other research institutions have helped date and analyze many of the key finds.

Gold, probably from southwestern Spain, was used to produce eye-shaped solar religious symbols made of gold foil. So far, the site has produced two of these highly prized artifacts, the only ones to have been found in Western Europe.

Beautifully crafted eye-shaped sun symbols etched in gold foil, found in Valencina

(ATLAS Research Group, University of Seville)

Archaeologists have also unearthed dozens of beautiful amber beads, probably imported from Sicily. It is believed that they were used for jewelry and as decoration on luxury garments.

Other beads were made from rare green variscite (aluminum phosphate) gemstones, imported from northern Spain.

Excavations have also turned up other spectacular artifacts – ceremonial arrowheads, miniature blades and a dagger – made of pure rock crystal, potentially imported from central Spain.

The large shells of deep-sea scallops were also highly prized by the inhabitants of the prehistoric settlement, and were almost certainly imported from what is now the Atlantic coast of Spain or Portugal.

So far, archaeologists have unearthed more than 100 very fine copper knives, axes, awls and spearheads. Although they are mostly made from local copper from southwestern Spain, some of the most spectacular copper items (the spearheads) were made in the Eastern Mediterranean style. Most spearheads are unusually long (20-27 cm), and in a style previously only known in what is now Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, and Israel.

Scientific research at the site, located between the towns of Castilleja de Guzmán and Valencina de la Concepción, near Seville, is also revealing the composition of the settlement’s population. Not only did the high-end fashion raw materials come from many different areas, but around 33 percent of the settlement’s population was also non-local. This has been revealed through an isotopic study of skeletons, buried in the ancient settlement, but it is not yet known if they came from other places in Spain or from overseas.

Gold, probably from southwestern Spain, was used to produce eye-shaped solar religious symbols made of gold foil.

(ATLAS Research Group, University of Seville)

Archaeologists even discovered that, both in death and in life, the inhabitants of the prehistoric settlement resorted to exotic fashion statements, by painting their corpses with a valuable bright red pigment (cinnabar), specially imported from central Spain. The interiors of religious buildings in the settlement were also adorned with this same high-status red paint.

At its height, some 4,500 years ago, the ancient settlement covered more than 400 hectares (1.5 square miles) and may have had a permanent or fluctuating population of up to several thousand. It is almost certain that it had multiple functions: religious, ceremonial, commercial and political. In terms of physical size, it appears to have been the largest settlement of its time in Western Europe.

However, only four hectares have been fully excavated so far, but that small area has yielded extraordinarily large amounts of information and artifacts (tens of thousands of fragments and whole items). Thousands of ritual and storage pits, several miles of massive ditches, hundreds of tombs and other features have been discovered so far. The excavations have been complex, in part because all the archaeological material is buried very deeply, more than two meters below the modern ground surface.

The settlement first arose in the late Neolithic (around 3200 BC). After rapid growth, it was of cultural, economic, and political importance for much of the third millennium BC. C., but it had a relatively abrupt end around 2350 a.

In its heyday, it flourished around the same time Stonehenge was being built.

Its collapse is a mystery that only future archaeological investigations will be able to solve.

However, it is almost certain that climatic changes (and their economic, political and other consequences) played some role in the demise of the settlement.

Artisans of the time also mined fossilized ivory from elephants that had lived in Spain hundreds of thousands of years earlier.

(Courtesy of the ATLAS Research Group, University of Seville.)

“Valencina is one of the most important prehistoric sites in Europe for helping us understand the emergence of socially complex societies on our continent. It is providing crucial evidence on the relationship between monumental buildings, ritual practices and exotic wealth that will allow us to better understand some of Europe’s oldest political and religious systems,” said lead archaeologist currently studying the site, Professor Leonardo Garcia Sanjuan of the University. of Sevilla.

Ongoing scientific research into the site’s findings is now beginning to shed new light on prehistoric social systems, especially whether they were patriarchal or matriarchal. The researchers also investigate whether, in addition to importing ivory from overseas, the Copper Age artisans of Valencina also exploited fossilized ivory from elephants that lived in Spain hundreds of thousands of years earlier.

In the UK, archaeologists from the universities of Cardiff, Southampton and Durham have carried out research on material from the site, and the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Center near Glasgow and the Archeology Research Laboratory at the University of Oxford have carried out dating work on key finds. .

Research at Valencina is also helping scholars better understand a much broader prehistoric civilization that flourished in southern Spain some 4,000 to 6,000 years ago, whose spectacular remains can still be seen today. In addition to a notable subterranean ritual monument (the Dolmen de La Pastora) in Valencina, visitors can also explore the great funerary Dolmen de Soto near Huelva, the ruins of the Copper Age city of Los Millares (near Almería) and the UNESCO World Heritage prehistoric complex near Antequera, 30 miles north of Malaga.

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