Ancient lost city was Europe’s ‘El Dorado’, swallowed up by marshland

Tartessos, a historic city lost to the mists of time was once famed within Europe for possessing a tremendous richness and was frequently compared to El Dorado, the legendary “City of Gold”.

Located in the Andalusia region of southern Spain, Tartessos has long piqued the interest of scholars, leading to different hypotheses concerning the city’s true nature.

The Greek historian Herodotus, who lived in the fifth century BCE, mentioned a harbour city beyond the Pillars of Hercules – the ancient name for the straights of Gibraltar – which has sparked numerous theories about Tartessos.

There have also been theories, influenced by Aristotle’s teachings, that Tartessos is the mythological Atlantis, though this concept has been largely rejected by the scientific community.

Tartessos is widely regarded as a civilization that arose from the merging of local inhabitants with Greek and Phoenician settlers on the Iberian Peninsula.

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Its wealth was attributable mostly to the presence of substantial metal resources and a vibrant trade-based economy. Earlier historical records placed Tartessos primarily in Andalusia’s Guadalquivir Valley.

Recent archaeological discoveries in the Guadiana Valley, located further west towards the boundary between Spain and Portugal, have forced experts to reassess Tartessos’s scope.

More than 20 Tartessos sites have been discovered in Spain, including three of them- Cancho Roano, Casas de Turuuelo, and La Mata – in the Guadiana Valley, where substantial excavations have taken place.

Archaeologists made a remarkable discovery when they excavated Cancho Roano in 1978, uncovering the ruins of three Tartessian temples, each built on the foundations of the one before.

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Of particular interest to archaeologists was the fact all of these temples were oriented towards the rising sun.

The most recent temple, built around the end of the sixth century BCE, had adobe walls that outlined 11 rooms and covered an area of around 500 square metres.

However, archaeologists have failed to solve the mystery of an incident that occurred near the end of the 5th century BCE.

During this time, the occupants of the site performed a ceremony that included the consumption of animals.

They then disposed of the remains in a central pit, set fire to the temple, sealed it with mud, and abandoned it entirely.

This mysterious act left a slew of objects behind, including iron tools and gold jewellery, to be burned by the flames within.

To add to the mystery, it is speculated that Tartessos may have perished in the marshlands of the Guadalquivir River, located southwest of Seville.

Previously, this river was a navigable estuary that linked inland communities to the Atlantic Ocean.

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