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Iron Age stone slab engraved with ancient symbols unearthed in farmer's field in Spain


Scientists have been left baffled by an ancient stone slab covered in strange symbols called the 'stela of Montoro' after was found in a farmer's field in Spain.

Iron Age stone slab engraved with ancient symbols unearthed in farmer's field in Spain
The stela, as seen on its side. The scale bar here is 50cm [Credit: Sanjuan et al./Antiquity]
Experts believe the engravings could be the earliest monumental script in Iberia, but no one can decipher what the extinct characters mean.

The artefact is thought to date from the Iron Age and contains elements of Spanish, Greek, Iberian, Canaanite and South Arabian languages.

These cultures were all active in the Iberian Peninsula at the time.

The stela of Montoro is 1.5 metres (4.9 feet) high and 85cm (2.8 feet) wide and the engravings are believed to have been carved between 9th and 3rd century BC according to research published in Antiquity.

It was first unearthed by a farmer ploughing his field in Montoro of southern Spain in 2002 but was dumped at the side of the field.

Iron Age stone slab engraved with ancient symbols unearthed in farmer's field in Spain
The stela of Montoro is 1.5 metres high and 85cm wide and the engravings are believed to have been 
carved between 9th and 3rd century BC [Credit: Sanjuan et al./Antiquity]
Two years later, two rangers noticed the strange markings and took it to the Montoro Archaeological Museum where it stayed for another eight years, the IB Times writes.

In 2012, García Sanjuán from the University of Seville examined the rock and found the symbols came from a variety of different languages.

'It's rare to find something like this – the inscriptions on this stela cannot be read. There isn't a single script that makes sense of them,' Dr Sanjuán said.

'They seem to be an assorted collection of graphemes taken from different scripts and put together on this stone,' he said.

It is not clear why the engravings were first made and there are two main hypotheses.

Iron Age stone slab engraved with ancient symbols unearthed in farmer's field in Spain
The creation of the slab, and the additions of the engravings, over time
[Credit: Sanjuan et al. 2017/Antiquity]
'What we have here perhaps would be local people – who were very probably illiterate people – replicating on a stone the signs that they have seen of or been told about, which they probably did not understand,' Dr Sanjuán said.

'This would reflect very early contact between local people and people from outside Iberia – most likely Phoenicians coming from the eastern Mediterranean.'

Phoenicians are known as the creators of the first alphabet, and inhabited the coastal cities, Tyre, Sidon, Byblos and Arwad, in what is now Lebanon and southern Syria.

Their influence expanded across the Mediterranean and west to the Iberian Peninsula where they established settlements and trading posts.

Iron Age stone slab engraved with ancient symbols unearthed in farmer's field in Spain
The archaeologists excavated a small part of the field where the stela was found - but discovered 
no helpful artefacts to date the stela [Credit: Sanjuan et al./Antiquity]
Alternatively it could have been made during the late Iron Age during the expansion of the Roman Empire.

General Hannibal who led the Carthaginians was established in Iberia during this time and wanted to exploit the gold and silver in the region.

The Romans and Carthaginians had people from different backgrounds fighting for them which could explain why there are so many different characters on the rock.

The Carthaginians were in Iberia from 575 BC to 206 BC - when they were defeated by the Romans.

However, until more artefacts are located the stone will probably remain a mystery. 

'It must have been very important to the people who made it,' Dr Sanjuán said.

Author: Phoebe Weston | Source: Daily Mail Online [August 10, 2017]
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2 comments :

  1. My suspicion is that the stone was used by pilgrims (to a now-unknown sacred site) to leave their mark, should they wish. I've seen accumulation of markings from multiple cultures at more modern sites, such as along the path leading to Jabal Haroun (the tomb of Aaron), in present-day Jordan. I am also wondering if the stone might have been prone, rather than erect, for the greater ease of producing the engravings.

    Joseph Dantona
    Archaeologist (and so much more :)
    josephrdantona@gmail.com

    19 August 2017

    ReplyDelete
  2. Now when is no knowledge we can speculate. Different nations leave their mark to some please remarkable or possessed by some one important carried around Mediterian. Before alphabet is symbols, symbols has magical meanings, maybe all those has same meaning in some sense. Teaching tablet.

    ReplyDelete


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