The gold of the Carambolo Treasure: New data on its origin by elemental (LA-ICP-MS) and lead isotope (MC-ICP-MS) analysis

Publication date: April 2018Source:Journal of Archaeological Science, Volume 92
Author(s): F. Nocete, R. Sáez, A.D. Navarro, C. San Martin, J.I. Gil-Ibarguchi
The Carambolo Treasure (Seville, Spain), is a key collection of materials from the 1st Millennium BC Mediterranean. Besides the uniqueness, technical complexity and beauty of this assemblage of gold associated with the mythical name of Tartessos, the treasure has been at the epicentre of debates over the last 50 years regarding the Phoenician presence in the west and the origin of the first great western civilization. However, the absence of a precise archaeological context and systematic analyses aimed at identifying the source of the supply of gold have led to diverse and conflicting interpretations in terms of its functionality (ritual from a Phoenician temple versus ostentation of a palatial royalty), and origin (Atlantic vs Eastern Mediterranean).New chemical (by LA-ICP-MS) and isotopic data (Pb by MC-ICP-MS) are presented in this work, which provide an alternative interpretation. The results suggest that the origins of the gold may not be thousands of kilometres away, in the Atlantic or the Mediterranean, but rather in the same region. We highlight geochemical similarities with the gold of the preceding 3rd Millennium BC civilization, with its main political and economic hub at Valencina de la Concepción, located just 2000 m from the Carambolo itself.