The Early Minoan Colonization of Spain
Los Millares Reconstruction
Santa Fe de Mondújar, Almeria, Andalusia, Spain
before 9000 B.C.
A raft is a device that relies on the floatation of the material (typically wood) used to construct it. For any given carrying capacity a raft is much heavier and more unwieldy when compared to its boat equivalent. This makes them extremely difficult to directionally navigate in the current and winds of the open sea. A typical boat relies on its shape to provide buoyancy from the water it displaces and minimize the lateral forces of the current and wind on its hull as it moves through the water. This allows its crew to more effectively control and maintain a predetermined course. If you want to reliably paddle or row a craft to a destination and return, you need the control that some form of a boat provides.
The early maritime explorers of Cyprus may have used boats constructed with a skeleton of wood covered with sewn animal skins, but boats of this kind are much more vulnerable to the rough and stormy conditions of the open sea than well-built wooden ones. Skin boats work well enough in rivers and near land along the coast, but one split seam can be deadly when out at sea far from land. It is possible that strong sea-worthy wooden boats sculpted with stone tools and fire and stitched together with the fibers of hemp or yew wood were navigating the eastern Mediterranean Sea well over 11,000 years.
11000 B.C. to 6000 B.C.
In about 10200 B.C. houses were being built in Hallan Çemi Tepesi in eastern Anatolia where they used stone incised bowls and made extensive use of wild plants and animals. The site has some of the earliest evidence of possible pig domestication. The settlement of Cayönü was formed in 8500 B.C. in southeastern Anatolia and developed elaborate buildings with terrazzo floors. They used awls and fishhooks of cold-hammered native copper, and show the earliest evidence of the possible use of flax to weave linen textiles. At about this same time Nevali Cori built monumental stone structures that were probably shrines. After 8000 B.C. Asikli Höyük became a real town surrounded by a city wall with a large obsidian industry. Over the next 2,000 years these trends toward urbanization culminated in the settlements of Çatal Höyük and Can Hasan in Anatolia.
Çatal Höyük Reconstruction
Çatal Höyük Interior Reconstruction
Credit: Béla Stipich
7000 B.C. to 6000 B.C.
The Aegean Sea has over 1,400 islands and islets, many of which are within sight of one other. This makes it a natural incubator for naval and maritime technological development. The strong north winds and uncompromising gales of the Aegean are well known and must have been quite a challenge for any ancient boat builder. Given the rigors of the Aegean and the abundance of huge Cypress trees, human innovation, over the next 1,000 years, must have transformed the vessels of the initial colonization into large rugged sea-going stitched wooden ships that were capable of transporting their newly domesticated cattle in wooden pens.
7000 B.C. to 6000 B.C.
6600 B.C. to 6000 B.C.
The northern Danubian expansion of the Aegean Neolithic is mainly represented initially by the Karanovo culture and then by the almost simultaneous appearance in about 5600 B.C. of the Vinca, Cucuteni, and Linear Pottery cultures in southeastern Europe. All four of these cultures were based on the Aegean Neolithic package and directly linked to it. While the Karanovo, Vinca, and Cucuteni generally remained in the southeast, the Linear Pottery culture led the advance up the Danube into central Europe. Mysteriously, after a rapid advance over the next few hundred years the Aegean Neolithic's march to the northern coast of Europe was suddenly halted and the southern route's advance also stopped after reaching the Atlantic coast of Iberia (Portugal). The only viable explanation for this is that there must have been large populations of Mesolithic people inhabiting the coastal regions of northern and western Europe that actively resisted any further colonization, assimilation, or acculturation (Price 2000).
Neolithic Cardium Pottery, La Sarsa Cave
8500 B.C. to 4000 B.C.
Several isolated finds of copper objects have been discovered from before the 6th Millennia B.C. The earliest artifact of pure copper known to me is a 2.3 cm pendant found in the Shanidar Cave located in northeastern Iraq that is dated to 9500 B.C. (Hummel 2004). The pendant was shaped by cold-hammering native copper and could have been carved with stone tools. Many objects of cold-hammered copper have been found in Cayönü in southeastern Anatolia including awls and fishhooks dated to about 8500 B.C. A single copper bead was discovered in Nevali Cori that has been dated from 8500 to 8000 B.C. Asikli Höyük produced several copper beads (8000 - 7500 B.C.) made from rolled thin sheets of native copper (Yalçin 2000). Several copper beads like those at Asikli have been unearthed at Çatal Höyük dated to about 6750 B.C. (Mellaart 1967). A 14.3 cm long copper awl was found in Balomir, Romania in a context dated before 6000 B.C. (Mulhy 1996). All of this culminated in the discovery (6000 - 5900 B.C.) of a large mace head of cast native copper in the Anatolian settlement of Can Hasan (Yalçin 1998).
Evidence of extensive copper working in a fully developed form has recently appeared in the Neolithic Vinca settlement of Prokuplje in southern Serbia. The unpublished site has been dated to 5500 B.C. by archaeologist Julka Kuzmanovic-Cvetkovic from the Prokuplje Museum and Dusan Sljivar of Serbia’s National Museum. This was not just the cold-hammering of native copper. It included the extraction of copper oxide ores from a mine located on the nearby Mlava river. The ores were transported to a local copper smelting workshop and melted for casting. The tools found included a chisel, a two-headed hammer, and an axe. By comparison the copper artifacts found at Hacilar in southwestern Anatolia in 5300 B.C. were nothing more than a few beads and pieces of pins. It appears that the origin of organized metallurgy may have taken place in the Neolithic Balkans. Between 4500 and 4000 B.C. Balkan metal workers were mining copper ores in underground shafts and galleries and they had discovered how to smelt the sulfide ores of copper as well. They were producing hundreds of axes and adzes (Betancourt 2006). The Balkans looms large over the entire Aegean Neolithic period with respect to the development of metallurgy.
Many objects of gold and silver have been unearthed in the Aegean from 4500 to 3500 B.C. This was the period when gold and silver metallurgy emerged to robustly develop throughout the region. The evidence includes gold pendants from Theopetra cave, Anavissos, and Platomagnoulia on the mainland of Greece. Silver pendants appear in Alepotrypa cave in the Mani peninsula, Amnisos cave on Crete, and the cave of Euripides on Salamis. A hoard of silver jewelry was discovered in Gournes in Central Crete in an Early Minoan I cemetery that included bracelets and 168 beads.
4000 B.C. to 2500 B.C.
Standard with Two Long-Horned Bulls
Arsenical Copper, 2400 – 2000 BC, Early Bronze Age III, North Central Anatolia
H. 6 1/4 in. (15.9 cm)
In Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
2000–. (October 2006)
Since the 1980's the Skouries foundry site on the Cycladic island of Kythnos was associated by pottery and radiocarbon dated charcoal found in the slag to the first half of 3rd Millennia B.C. The lead isotope analysis of the ores and slag done at that time suggested that the "fingerprint" matched many objects found in the Cyclades and the copper based artifacts found in the Minoan Mesara tombs (Platanos, Marathokephalo, Hagia Traidha, Koumasa, Kalathiana, Hagios Onouphrios, Porti) (Gale 1990) and those at Hagia Photia (Stos-Gale 1999). But this came into serious question in the 1990s by the Laboratory of Archaeometry at Demokritos in Greece when it was established that the results of Gale could not be repeated by succeeding investigations. Therefore the location of the source(s) of the mineral ores used in "any" of these copper artifacts is presently unknown (Betancourt 2006). It appears that all the copper ores smelted at Kythnos were not mined on the island.
Beginning of the Minoan Mediterranean Empire
In the beginning they were probably stitching the planks together with yew or hemp, but in time they invented or adopted the use of the bow drill and lathe so they could more securely mate the plank edges of their hulls with locked mortise and tenon joinery. They would have to cut the round holes for the binding pegs using a drill and cut the smoothly rounded sides of the pegs on the lathe to fit them snugly into the locking holes. This very strong wood joinery technique is still widely used today. These large, much lighter ships capable of long distance travel would have placed greater importance on the use of the sail as a supplementary source of power to increase their efficiency.
Great distances can be traveled by rowing ships primarily powered by human muscle if their average speed is sustained over time. If you assume that such a ship could maintain an average velocity of eight kilometers per hour, which is a brisk walking pace for most humans, and maintain it constantly around the clock by rotating the work at the oars in shifts among the available men on board, the ship would travel 192 kilometers in 24 hours. The rowing distance between Kommos, Crete and the southeastern coast of Spain is approximately 2,400 kilometers. This distance could be traveled in 12.5 days using these parameters. The manpower requirements of such a ship would be, at least, double the number of oars to be worked. A ship with 40 oars would probably need to be manned by something like 100 crewmen to maintain a good constant rowing pace.
Minoan Miniature Frieze Admirals Flotilla Fresco Shipping Scene
Late Bronze Age (LBA), Neo-Palatial Period
Akrotiri, Santorini (Thera), Greece.
First Minoan Settlements in Southeastern Iberia
3800 B.C. to 3200 B.C.
The new Cypress ships must have been a source of amazement wherever they were sighted by the coastal Neolithic peoples. During the time since the completion of the spread of the Aegean (Cardial) Neolithic package, local and regional coastal maritime trading was active as well as the influx of new settlers every year from the eastern Mediterranean. The Minoans probably began exploring the shores of the Mediterranean for mineral ores between 3900 and 3700 B.C. and arrived on the eastern coast of Iberia during this time. At least one person on these ships of exploration would have been keenly observing the beaches and rivers along the coast for the glittering signs of alluvial gold in the sands and sediments. If gold was found at the mouth of a river they would know that somewhere up that river would be the quartz-bearing ores that produced it. The same would be true for silver with its mineral ores of Argentite and Acanthite and the brightly colored ores of copper (Azurite, Cuprite, and Malachite).
Aside from their ships, the use of metals, and their Mesaran Crete funerary practices they would have used the same Neolithic agro-pastoral technological package as the indigenous Iberians. When they surveyed the river basins of Almeria in southeastern Spain they found everything they were looking for. For several centuries they probably would have been satisfied to sift the alluvial sediments for metals and established settlements in the river basin areas. Eventually, they would have moved up to the inland sources of the alluvial metals to form permanent mining settlements and that's exactly what they did. By 3200 B.C. many of the fortified towns of the Aegean Minoan colony (Los Millares culture) had been founded and all of them were directly linked to mining operations or their defense (Almizaraque - Silver, El Barranquete - Gold, El Tarajal - Gold and Silver, Los Millares - Copper, Los Pilas - Gold, etc.).
Besides the obvious selection of settlement sites directly associated with the Eastern Mediterranean prestige metals of gold and silver, there appears to be no discernible period for the exclusive use of purified copper by the Millarens as seen in the east where it truly did originate. In about 3200 B.C. Otzi the Iceman was still using the old technology of pure copper (axe head - 99.7 % pure copper) while the Millarens were working with the advanced Aegean alloy technology of arsenical copper. This does not speak well for the indigenous origination of Iberian metallurgy. While artifacts of relatively pure copper are found among the Millarens they appear to be contemporaneous with those of arsenical copper. The Millarens seem to have bypassed the "Age of Pure Copper" and began with, at least, a basic understanding of the alloy technology of arsenical copper from the beginning. Twenty-seven copper artifacts from the Los Millares site have been found to contain an average of 2.3% arsenic and sixteen objects from El Malagon had a concentration of 1.7% arsenic (Lambert 1997). The most probable conclusion from this evidence is that there was no indigenous origination of metallurgy in Iberia. It was the direct result of Minoan maritime exploration and pioneer colonization.
Los Millares Tholos Tombs
Santa Fe de Mondújar, Almeria, Andalusia, Spain
Los Millares Tholoi - Sectional
The appearance of Minoan tholoi among the Millarens is certainly more than just a curiosity. The idea of the spontaneous origination of this very unique style of funerary structure in Spain at the same time they were being built and commonly used by the Aegean Minoans on Crete is highly improbable. This is additional strong evidence for the colonization of southeastern Iberia by Minoan maritime pioneers in search of wealth.
Apparently they found no metallic ores of interest south of the Pillars of Hercules along the northwestern African coast. But the sediments of the northern coastlines of western Europe would have yielded the alluvial evidence of abundant metal ores. They may have discovered the gold, silver, and tin in Brittany in northwestern France before making the discovery of gold, tin, and other metals in southwestern Britain and Wales. Even though the superior alloying properties of tin with copper were unknown at this time its availability should have noted by the explorers. Also, there were deposits of gold, silver, and copper in Ireland. The explorers may have discovered the Canary, Madeira, and Azore islands and traveled far beyond, but I know of no archaeological evidence to support this. How far the Minoan voyages of discovery went north from the Pillars of Hercules along the coastlines of Europe can only await future archaeological evidence.
3200 B.C to 2600 B.C.
Los Millares Fortifications
Santa Fe de Mondújar, Almeria, Andalusia, Spain
Los Millares Reconstruction
Santa Fe de Mondújar, Almeria, Andalusia, Spain
Fall of the Millarens
2600 B.C. to 2200 B.C.
During the period of 2600 B.C. to 2400 B.C. there were signs of stress beginning to appear in the Millaren culture. Their fortifications were reinforced and enlarged to their maximum extent indicating violent encounters or war with the neighboring peoples from the west and north of them. It was in this period that the first Maritime Bell Beaker pottery appeared among the Millarens. The pottery spread quickly throughout the region on the existing maritime trade networks. By 2400 B.C. the social stress facing the Millarens began to worsen into a crisis and the large settlements began to depopulate. The graves of the elites were increasingly accompanied with weapons indicating the violent nature of the time. By 2200 B.C. the town of Los Millares was abandoned after a sequence of catastrophes (probably large-scale warfare). There is evidence of widespread fires and damage to the fortifications. But amid the destruction, the first settlements of the El Argar arose to take their place. The period began with the use of bronze in the Aegean in 2600 B.C. and ended in 2200 B.C. with it being used by the Beaker people in Britain.
The earliest known copper mining in the British Isles was in Ireland at Ross Island in Killarney in about 2400 B.C. It is interesting to note that the three small knife blades found in the grave of the Amesbury Archer near Stonehenge in southern Britain dated to about 2300 B.C. were cast with purified copper that came from France and Spain. This is the same technology used in Otzi the Iceman's axe head almost 1,000 years earlier. Britain was still in the "Age of Pure Copper" in 2300 B.C., but by 2200 B.C. bronze was available and in use. There was, essentially, no "Age of Arsenical Copper" in Britain and by 2000 B.C. bronze was being used in Brittany and Ireland. A short time later the huge deposits of copper ore at Great Orme near Llandudno in northern Wales began to be seriously mined in about 1860 B.C.
Atlantic Tin Trade with Britain
The nearest tin ores available to the Millarens in 2600 B.C. in Iberia were in the areas of Cardenas and Madrid in central Spain (mindat.org). The stress that began to build in the Millaren society at that time may have been due to their attempts to gain access to these resources of tin. The Beaker groups affected by this policy may have been highly resistant to any incursions into what they considered their lands. Rather than have the Millaren colony fall to its complete destruction in 2200 B.C. and be faced with the inevitable loss of Iberia's vast mineral wealth the Aegean Minoans may have come to their aid militarily to sustain the flow of metals. An influx of settlers from the burgeoning populations of the east may have reinforced the surviving Millarens to found the new settlements of the El Argar and advanced to secure the sources of tin in the Iberian interior by military force.
Penalosa - El Argar Fortified Town Reconstruction
Huelva, Andalucia, Spain
The shutdown of the Kestel-Göltepe mines in 1840 B.C. may have been due to the Minoans flooding the market with cheap tin from the west or the mines may have simply run out of tin. Whatever the case the Minoans controlled the price of tin in the eastern Mediterranean until something completely extraordinary occurred. In about 1630 B.C. the huge Theran (Santorini, Greece) marine volcano in the south-central Aegean Sea exploded with such colossal violence that it nearly destroyed the Minoans in the Aegean. The social dynamic constructed on economic imperatives had continued to build until the bubble was burst by the volcanic eruption that changed the world.
Several decades after the eruption the Mycenaeans from mainland Greece conquered the surviving Minoans in Crete and assumed control of the western maritime trade networks of metals from the west. The Iberian El Argar were incorporated and continued to function as an Aegean colony under the Mycenaeans. The Motillas (forts) of the Bronze of Levante culture like the Motilla del Azuer in La Mancha were probably Mycenaean era defenses for a “Tin Road” connecting the inland tin mines of Cardenas and Madrid with their ports in the southeast. The Mycenaean El Argar era lasted for about two hundred and fifty years until its catastrophic collapse in about 1350 B.C.
--This would appoximate understanding of Mediterranean diffusion as it stood at the beginning of Radiocarbon Dating, in the 1950s and 1960s. Some experts are very extremely conservative and never upodate their overall scheme of things. At that time it was commonly believed the Castros built in Iberia derived from Aegean originals as did also the tholos style of tombs being built at Los Millares and other locations.
And then in 1971 Colin Renfrew wrote an article in Scientific American entitled Carbon 14 and the Prehistory of Europe which stated that an independant adjustment of arbon dates established that the assumed pattern was in error. In particular, the supposed Aegean originals for the Castros and Tholos-type tombs were LATER than the INDIGENOUS IBERIAN forms, thefusion had effectively been REVERSED! This meant basically that the Eastern Mediterranean Megalithic (think Mycenae) had been a colonization of the Western European Megalithic originally: this includes Palestine and the Mediterranean islands, and it includes the Impresso (Cardial) pottery
The source of the Los Millares ostrind hippo tuch more in their culture had been in Northern Africa. In the area around the Sahara, this Impresso type pottery goes back easily to 10000 BC if not earlier than that, and there are very old "Pueblo" type settlements equivalent to Catal Huyuk slowly being uncovered in Saharan regions also. The simple answer is that the source of the Mediterranean Neolithic and the Megalithic were both in the Sahara, which has been a longstanding theory (Robert Graves endorses it in The Greek Myths)
As to the metallurgy and the Beaker culture: yeah, it was Indigenous-Iberian also, but much more ancient than anybody imagined and coming from an another source even then. E MM Whishaw w indicates mining and working of metals in the Rio Tinto region goes back before 10000 BC in the book Atlantis in Andalucia. Zhirov also argues for seeing that an oceanic metal-using culture-Atlantis-does indeed go back as far as the closing days of the Ice Ages. Zhirov (along with many others) actually assumes a survival of Atlantis into the days of Aegean culture, this is not directly necessary for the theory to work. What is called the Aegean culture in Greece is actually the extension of the Northern-African Neolithic in a form typically seen on Sicily and the other islands: and as a matter of fact when the colonisers first landed ships out of then-green Nortern Africa, they did indeed bring along stocks of such animals as they chose to introduce such as foxes and hedgehogs, "Mouflon"-like sheep and asses, goats and rabbits, and dogs and cats. The cats of this assemblage in particular are markers for this movement to have started out in North Africa because the domestic cats we still have are derived specifically from the North African population, Felis sylvestris libyica (as mentioned by Heuvelmans and many other authors)
Created: June 20, 2007.
Updated: December 9, 2007.
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