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Assembling the dead, gathering the living: radiocarbon dating and Bayesian modelling for Copper Age Valencina de la Concepción (Sevilla, Spain)

Assembling the dead, gathering the living: radiocarbon dating and Bayesian modelling for Copper Age Valencina de la Concepción (Sevilla, Spain)
Assembling the dead, gathering the living: radiocarbon dating and Bayesian modelling for Copper Age Valencina de la Concepción (Sevilla, Spain)
The great site of Valencina de la Concepción, near Seville in the lower Guadalquivir valley of south-west Spain, is presented in the context of debate about the nature of Copper Age society in southern Iberia as a whole. Many aspects of the layout, use, character and development of Valencina remain unclear, just as there are major unresolved questions about the kind of society represented there and in southern Iberia, from the late fourth to the late third millennia cal BC. This paper discusses 178 radiocarbon dates, from 17 excavated sectors within the 450ha site, making it the best dated in later Iberian prehistory as a whole. Dates are formally modelled in a Bayesian statistical framework. The bulk of samples were chosen from the varied mortuary contexts, from pits and artificial caves to megalithic tholos tombs, which constitute a major part of the archaeology of Copper Age Valencina. The resulting formal date estimates provide the basis for both a new epistemological approach to the site as well as a much more detailed narrative of its development than previously available. Beginning in the 32nd century cal BC, a long-lasting tradition of simple, mainly collective and often successive burial was established at the site. There is plenty of evidence for a wide range of other activity, but no clear sign of permanent, large-scale residence or public buildings or spaces. Probably by the 30th or 29th century cal BC, a new form of mortuary practice had emerged alongside older traditions, in the shape of the distinctive megalithic tholos tombs, some of which contained exotic and abundant goods accompanying the dead. Though the models lack precision, this phase of showy funerals and social display, perhaps aimed at establishing new forms of descent and social hierarchisation partly based on the manipulation of the past, may not have lasted much beyond the 28th century cal BC. It is possible that activity as a whole had declined before the middle of the third millennium cal BC, and around 2500 cal BC, dated sectors indicate further changes in mortuary practice, with possible single events, containing in one instance signs of defleshing (perhaps associated with violence); by this date, Bell Beaker pottery was present on the site. Major monuments, such as La Pastora and Matarrubilla were probably also late constructions. At least some of the ditches known at the site probably also belong late in the sequence. Overall, a pattern is indicated of initial establishment and consolidation of mortuary tradition, followed by the emergence of the more elaborate tholos architecture and the sometimes exotic contents. Funerary activity probably declined in intensity in the second quarter of the third millennium cal BC but was followed by a resurgence including the construction of the grand tholos of La Pastora in the generations around 2500 cal BC. This resurgence was relatively brief and the intensive funerary activity probably ended during the 24th century cal BC. Results in general support a model of increasingly competitive but ultimately unstable social relations.
Southern Iberia, Copper Age, settlement, mortuary practice, radiocarbon dating, formal chronological modelling, social change
179-313
García Sanjuán, Leonardo
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Vargas Jiménez, Juan Manuel
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Cáceres Puro, Luis
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Costa Caramé, Manuel Eleazar
e1ebd9a0-815e-481c-98ea-eb6fd1301793
Diaz-Guardamino Uribe, Marta
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Díaz-Zorita Bonilla, Marta
bd185c2a-3281-43f7-99d2-49878d2de6ea
Fernández Flores, Álvaro
aea2936b-5b6b-4b24-8122-acc96faa656b
Hurtado Pérez, Víctor
139d58a7-a273-45d0-adf4-3eb201d75489
López Aldana, Pedro M
f346b1b6-0be6-4b48-87f9-334c3aeee692
Méndez Izquierdo, Elena
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Pajuelo Pando, Ana
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Rodríguez Vidal, Joaquín
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Wheatley, David W.
58266ad0-4ea1-4b1b-a8c3-9fd902931828
Bronk Ramsey, Christopher
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Delgado-Huertas, Antonio
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Dunbar, Elaine
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Mora González, Adrián
54e33554-d25b-449c-a963-7742fd5d5a77
Bayliss, Alex
a1e1fde7-2fdf-4b6a-b19c-bdb437a2c46f
Hamilton, Derek
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Whittle, Alasdair
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García Sanjuán, Leonardo
174dbd15-6e39-411a-a1cf-255b528af14c
Vargas Jiménez, Juan Manuel
c4ca0a30-6582-4478-bede-8828a2d9294d
Cáceres Puro, Luis
d192f64a-36a8-45a3-bce4-43760569cf84
Costa Caramé, Manuel Eleazar
e1ebd9a0-815e-481c-98ea-eb6fd1301793
Diaz-Guardamino Uribe, Marta
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Díaz-Zorita Bonilla, Marta
bd185c2a-3281-43f7-99d2-49878d2de6ea
Fernández Flores, Álvaro
aea2936b-5b6b-4b24-8122-acc96faa656b
Hurtado Pérez, Víctor
139d58a7-a273-45d0-adf4-3eb201d75489
López Aldana, Pedro M
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Méndez Izquierdo, Elena
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Pajuelo Pando, Ana
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Rodríguez Vidal, Joaquín
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Wheatley, David W.
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Bronk Ramsey, Christopher
1e2f9787-ad18-4f88-9299-11eac6d86470
Delgado-Huertas, Antonio
2402e58a-4437-4b32-a6a6-e50ebf293f7c
Dunbar, Elaine
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Mora González, Adrián
54e33554-d25b-449c-a963-7742fd5d5a77
Bayliss, Alex
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Hamilton, Derek
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Whittle, Alasdair
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García Sanjuán, Leonardo, Vargas Jiménez, Juan Manuel, Cáceres Puro, Luis, Costa Caramé, Manuel Eleazar, Diaz-Guardamino Uribe, Marta, Díaz-Zorita Bonilla, Marta, Fernández Flores, Álvaro, Hurtado Pérez, Víctor, López Aldana, Pedro M, Méndez Izquierdo, Elena, Pajuelo Pando, Ana, Rodríguez Vidal, Joaquín, Wheatley, David W., Bronk Ramsey, Christopher, Delgado-Huertas, Antonio, Dunbar, Elaine, Mora González, Adrián, Bayliss, Alex, Hamilton, Derek and Whittle, Alasdair (2018) Assembling the dead, gathering the living: radiocarbon dating and Bayesian modelling for Copper Age Valencina de la Concepción (Sevilla, Spain). Journal of World Prehistory, 31 (2), 179-313. (doi:10.1007/s10963-018-9114-2).

Record type: Article

Abstract

The great site of Valencina de la Concepción, near Seville in the lower Guadalquivir valley of south-west Spain, is presented in the context of debate about the nature of Copper Age society in southern Iberia as a whole. Many aspects of the layout, use, character and development of Valencina remain unclear, just as there are major unresolved questions about the kind of society represented there and in southern Iberia, from the late fourth to the late third millennia cal BC. This paper discusses 178 radiocarbon dates, from 17 excavated sectors within the 450ha site, making it the best dated in later Iberian prehistory as a whole. Dates are formally modelled in a Bayesian statistical framework. The bulk of samples were chosen from the varied mortuary contexts, from pits and artificial caves to megalithic tholos tombs, which constitute a major part of the archaeology of Copper Age Valencina. The resulting formal date estimates provide the basis for both a new epistemological approach to the site as well as a much more detailed narrative of its development than previously available. Beginning in the 32nd century cal BC, a long-lasting tradition of simple, mainly collective and often successive burial was established at the site. There is plenty of evidence for a wide range of other activity, but no clear sign of permanent, large-scale residence or public buildings or spaces. Probably by the 30th or 29th century cal BC, a new form of mortuary practice had emerged alongside older traditions, in the shape of the distinctive megalithic tholos tombs, some of which contained exotic and abundant goods accompanying the dead. Though the models lack precision, this phase of showy funerals and social display, perhaps aimed at establishing new forms of descent and social hierarchisation partly based on the manipulation of the past, may not have lasted much beyond the 28th century cal BC. It is possible that activity as a whole had declined before the middle of the third millennium cal BC, and around 2500 cal BC, dated sectors indicate further changes in mortuary practice, with possible single events, containing in one instance signs of defleshing (perhaps associated with violence); by this date, Bell Beaker pottery was present on the site. Major monuments, such as La Pastora and Matarrubilla were probably also late constructions. At least some of the ditches known at the site probably also belong late in the sequence. Overall, a pattern is indicated of initial establishment and consolidation of mortuary tradition, followed by the emergence of the more elaborate tholos architecture and the sometimes exotic contents. Funerary activity probably declined in intensity in the second quarter of the third millennium cal BC but was followed by a resurgence including the construction of the grand tholos of La Pastora in the generations around 2500 cal BC. This resurgence was relatively brief and the intensive funerary activity probably ended during the 24th century cal BC. Results in general support a model of increasingly competitive but ultimately unstable social relations.

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Accepted/In Press date: 27 April 2017
e-pub ahead of print date: 19 May 2018
Published date: June 2018
Keywords: Southern Iberia, Copper Age, settlement, mortuary practice, radiocarbon dating, formal chronological modelling, social change

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 421224
URI: https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/421224
PURE UUID: fd745be0-ec88-40ca-9def-e9c6f71e424e

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Date deposited: 24 May 2018 16:33
Last modified: 12 Jun 2018 16:32

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Contributors

Author: Leonardo García Sanjuán
Author: Juan Manuel Vargas Jiménez
Author: Luis Cáceres Puro
Author: Manuel Eleazar Costa Caramé
Author: Marta Díaz-Zorita Bonilla
Author: Álvaro Fernández Flores
Author: Víctor Hurtado Pérez
Author: Pedro M López Aldana
Author: Elena Méndez Izquierdo
Author: Ana Pajuelo Pando
Author: Joaquín Rodríguez Vidal
Author: Christopher Bronk Ramsey
Author: Antonio Delgado-Huertas
Author: Elaine Dunbar
Author: Adrián Mora González
Author: Alex Bayliss
Author: Derek Hamilton
Author: Alasdair Whittle

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