With an estimated area of over 400 hectares, Valencina de la Concepción (Seville), on the right bank of the Guadalquivir River, is one of the largest Copper Age sites of western Europe (c. 3200-2100 cal BC). It includes some of the most remarkable megalithic monuments of Iberia, such as La Pastora, Montelirio and Matarrubilla. The prehistoric community that frequented Valencina in the third millennium cal BC lived in a physical environment characterised above all by the richness and diversity of natural resources provided by the great marine gulf into which the Guadalquivir flowed, the complex network of river channels and marshes that occupied the mouth of the river, and the fertile lands of the El Aljarafe plateau on which the site lies, as well as the abundance of lithic, ore and other resources available in the Sierra Morena mountains 30 km away.
Research on Valencina dates back to the 1860s. The list of scholars involved includes some of the most famous across several generations of Spanish prehistorians: Francisco María Tubino, Hugo Obermaier, Juan de Mata Carriazo y Arroquia, Francisco Collantes de Terán, Martín Almagro Basch, and others. Since the 1980s, because of its position within Seville’s fast-growing metropolitan area, Valencina has been subject to numerous rescue excavations that make it one of the most intensely investigated prehistoric sites in Spain.
The inclusion of Valencina de la Concepción in The Times of their Lives is a promising opportunity to expand the radiocarbon chronology already achieved and to model all results formally. The principal target is the long series of highly diverse mortuary deposits that have been recorded at Valencina, including some of its outstanding megalithic monuments, but also other, non-megalithic features, such as pit-and-passage features, ‘artificial caves’ and various pits. A better chronology also has the potential to enable new interpretations of how Valencina became integrated in supra-regional trading networks that involved not only the whole Iberian peninsula, but also adjacent North Africa, and the central and eastern shores of the Mediterranean. Such networks brought among other things variscite, amber, cinnabar, copper, gold and ivory to the site. Was this a major settlement with attendant necropolis or mortuary domain, or mainly a focus for mortuary ritual and periodic gatherings, in either case standing out in its regional context? Does the diversity of mortuary practice, including the deposition of novel and exotic objects, some from far away, speak for a more hierarchical situation than in the fourth millennium cal BC? Valencina poses many questions, and we hope that more refined chronologies will contribute new understanding of its development and significance.
Local Partners: Leonardo García Sanjuán, David Wheatley, Marta Díaz-Zorita Bonilla, Manuel Eleazar Costa Caramé, Marta Díaz-Guardamino Uribe, Coronada Mora Molina, Miriam Luciañez Triviño, Pedro López Aldana, Ana Pajuelo Pando, Álvaro Fernández Flores, Juan Manuel Vargas Jiménez, Elena Méndez Izquierdo, Virginia Fuentes Mateo (see Valencina Prehistórica and Grupo de Investigación Atlas (HUM-694), Universidad de Sevilla)
UK Team: Derek Hamilton, Penny Bickle, Seren Griffiths, Alex Bayliss, and Alasdair Whittle
A selection of recent publications
Costa Caramé, M.E., Díaz-Zorita Bonilla, M., García Sanjuán, L. and Wheatley, D.W. 2010. The Copper Age settlement of Valencina de la Concepción (Seville, Spain): demography, metallurgy and spatial organization. Trabajos de Prehistoria 67, 87–118.
García Sanjuán, L. and Murillo-Barroso, M. 2013. Social complexity in Copper Age Southern Iberia (c. 3200–2200 cal BC): reviewing the ‘state’ hypothesis at Valencina de la Concepción (Seville, Spain). In M. Cruz Berrocal, L. García Sanjuán and A. Gilman (eds), The prehistory of Iberia: debating early social stratification and the state. New York: Routledge, 119–40.
Nocete Calvo, F., Queipo de Llano, G., Sáez, R., Nieto Liñán, J.M., Inácio, N., Rodríguez Bayona, M.R., Páramo, A., Vargas Jiménez, J.M., Cruz-Auñón Briones, R., Gil-Ibarguchi, J.I. and Santos, J.F. 2008. The smelting quarter of Valencina de la Concepción (Seville, Spain): the specialised copper industry in a political centre of the Guadalquivir valley during the third millennium BC (2750–2500 BC). Journal of Archaeological Science 35, 717–32.
Nocete Calvo, F., Vargas Jiménez, M.A., Schuhmacher, TH. X., Banerjee, A. and Dindorf, W. 2013. The ivory workshop of Valencia de la Concepción (Seville, Spain) and the identification of ivory from Asian elephant on the Iberian Peninsula in the first half of the 3rd millennium BC. Journal of Archaeological Science 40, 1579–92.
Rogerio-Candelera, M.A., Karen Herrera, L., Millar, A.Z, García Sanjuán, L., Mora Molina, C., Wheatley, D.W, Justo, A. and Saiz-Jiménez, C. 2013. Red pigments used in burial practices at the Copper Age site of Valencina de la Concepción (Sevilla, Spain): characterisation and social dimension. Journal of Archaeological Science 40, 279–90.