Guide of the archaeological collection of the Regional Museum of Artà

The pos-talayotic culture (550 - 123 a. C.)

Majorcan timeline:

 

 

1- Introduction

 

The post-talayotic is the last stage of the Balearic prehistory. It took place between the 6th century and year 123 BC, when the Romans conquered the Balearic Islands. This period was marked by changes in the funerary, social and economic practices.

 

2- The Post-Talayotic Period

 

During the post-talayotic period more significant changes were observed than in previous periods:

Firstly, villages were reorganised and hence old structures were abandoned, new architectural techniques introduced and a new spatial concept was born.

Secondly, a broad diversity of funerary and ritual practices contributed to building up sanctuaries.

Finally, an increasing relationship with other civilisations such as the Punic and Phoenician caused relevant economic and social changes which would play an important role.

 

3- Funerals and Post-Talayotic Religiosity

 

Funerary and religious activities in prehistoric communities of that period underwent several changes. There is evidence of new ways to face up to the death and new material expressions of the religiosity. The funerary culture of this last stage reveals the complexity of these communities, whose funerary practices take place in several types of necropolis and according to a whole range of rites. Different sorts of religions coexisted, showing the existence of very rich cultural traditions in the face of death, probably because of the influence of other cultures.

 

4- Necropolises

 

Large necropolises used during the talayotic period, such as the one from Son Matge, were still used, despite significant changes. During the post-talayotic the use of lime in burials was introduced. For instance, in Son Real tombs for upper classes stopped being erected and building of rectangular tombs gained strength. This way lower classes gained access to highly recognised necropolises.

During this period, the inhabitants of the island of Majorca used several places to bury their deceased: natural caves and small rocky caves, artificial caves and hypogea, and other funerary structures.

 

5- Rituals

 

Individual and collective cremations have been identified in Son Real and s’Illot des Porros. The collective burials were performed in naviform artificial hypogea, with architectural structures like those in Son Ferrer, or on the necropolis exterior. Individual funerary containers, used in children’s burials, have been found in natural caves or artificial hypogea. There is evidence of individual and collective burials in outdoor cemeteries or in reused talayotic structures, like the one from Ses Païsses, Son Oms or Son Oleza.

This diversity, referred to repeatedly, is also shown in funerals and in the variety of beliefs as revealed by grave objects.

Several rites consisted of collective burials where lime was used. Evidence of this ritual has been found in natural caves, small rocky caves, artificial hypogea and some architectural structures. Individual and collective burials in funerary containers have also been confirmed.

Hypogea are again used during this period for collective burials. During centuries 6th-2nd BC funerary chambers included columns, as seen in Son Maimó (Petra) and in Sa Cova des Forn (Ses Salines) in Majorca. Other structures are even more complex, including several chambers. Such is the case of Cova Monja and Son Taixaquet.

Individual funerals are an example of the wide diversity of the post-talayotic funerary rites. In some of them they used containers similar to sarcophagus and others were made of trunks, like those from Son Boronat (Calvià) or Cometa des Morts (Escorca). Also, some bull-shaped sepulchres have been found, such as those in the cave of Punta. Burials in ceramic containers were reserved for premature babies. One of the most peculiar necropolises was built in s’Illot des Porros and consisted of architectural chambers intended for collective burials. Tombs were horseshoe-shaped and were used between the year 550 BC and the 1st century BC.

 

6- Funerary Artefacts

 

Prehistoric deceased were buried together with grave possessions and belongings that had been part of their lives. These grave objects provide information that gives insight about this period. These could be made of ceramic ware, personal ornament goods, weapons and devices of a religious nature.

Firstly, ceramic ware was handmade or wheel thrown to make small containers. This pottery is the evidence of rites held during the burial of the deceased. Because of their shape, most of them are designed to hold liquids.

The second group is made up of personal ornate goods, among which we should point out coil bracelets, rings, glass paste necklaces, reflecting the strong ties with the Phoenician and Punic civilisations.

The third group includes weapons, the most outstanding among them being swords (both antennae swords and falcatas) and knifes.

Finally, the last group is the one including devices used during rituals, such as small bells, votive double-edged axes, discs and sticks.

 

7- The Religiosity

 

Knowledge about the prehistory comes from religion and rituals practiced by these communities throughout their existence. During prehistory worship of the dead was the main focus of ceremonies and so structures on which to place mortal remains were built. During this period sanctuaries were raised as specific places where funerary rites took place. Based on the archeological remains found inside these sacred places, it is suspected that rites for animal sacrifice, pyres, cremations, offerings, libations and funeral feasts were held.

 

8- The Sanctuaries

 

From 700-600 BC construction of talayots and other cyclopean buildings ceased despite this, architecture for social and religious purposes did not disappear from the prehistoric landscape, although it underwent a radical transformation in terms of forms and especially concept.

            Henceforth, most of the talayotic communities were organised around sanctuaries. They were usually buildings with square-shaped floor plans, whose façade was slightly concave and the opposite wall apsidal in shape. Inside, they used to have several monoliths in an upright position. From the archeological record where they are sourced, several elements have been identified

  • The floor was covered by a thick layer of ashes, coal and bones of sacrificed animals (bulls, goats, pigs and sheep)
  • Manufacture of specific pottery for rituals to contain liquids: crested glasses, small containers and imported porcelain
  • There is evidence of the existence of bronze sculptures in the shape of a bird, a bull or a warrior

 

9- Two Examples

 

SON FAVAR

 

The Son Favar settlement is located in the road which joins Capdepera with Artà and dates back to centuries 4th-3rd BC. Inside a room attached to the conical tower or talayot of this settlement some statuettes were found. They were nude warriors armed with a helmet, spear and shield, and with a threatening posture. This place might have been related to a renowned individual or someone with a privileged position in the community, as toiletries (an ointment flask, glass paste necklaces and one made of ivory), objects of worship, sumptuary goods (a bird-shaped brooch), luxurious bronze recipients (small pitchers with figures) and a ceramic dinner service were found.

 

SON MARÍ

 

The Son Marí sanctuary is located in the road which joins Alcúdia with Artà and dates back to centuries 5th-1st BC. It has an apsidal plan with pillar bases attached to walls. It includes a set of Greek, Punic, Roman and native ceramic ware, among which a feline head is the most outstanding. Bone remains that might have been cooked and consumed in the sanctuary were also found. It could possibly have been an open area.

 

10- Commercial exchanges

 

In the town Puig de Sa Morisca (Calvià) there is evidence of these exchanges. Arrowheads with harpoon, scarabs (popular amulets in ancient Egypt) and glass paste necklaces were discovered. Later on, especially since century 4th BC, further evidence also appeared in other talayotic settlements such as those from Ses Païses (Artà), Turó de les Abolles (Calvià), Son Fornés (Montuïri), Hospitalet (Manacor), etc.

 

CommercialeExchanges with the punics

 

Since 9th century BC, Phoenicians founded important settlements along the Mediterranean coast, which subsequently became outstanding urban centres such as Abul, Gadir, Lixus, Malaka or Ebusus. For this reason, Phoenicians were the only traders through the Mediterranean. During the post-talayotic period, foreign trade strengthened, especially in the Punic-Phoenician colony of Ebusus, responsible for introducing exotic products to the Islands.

 

Commercial exchanges with Punics entailed several transformations in the native community. The relationship between settlers and natives changed since Balearic slingers were recruited. They were warriors armed with slings leading Carthaginian troops as mercenaries against Greeks in Sicily and also forming part of the Punic army during the Second Punic War against Romans.

 

Nevertheless, the relationship with the Punic culture caused social changes: It speed up, for instance, the organisation of the society into a hierarchy; it had influence on the inclusion of wheel thrown ceramics and its interaction with handmade ceramics produced by natives; and it had an impact on ideology and symbolism of post-talayotic communities.

 

11- Territory and domestic houses

 

Post-talayotic settlements were usually based near a torrent, close to a spring and lands available for livestock grazing and farming. They were placed on a hill, for instance, to enable a commanding view of the surrounding countryside. However, important changes in management and distribution of the territory by communities were experienced during the post-talayotic. High settlements, where towers played a key role in controlling the territory, are abandoned. This fact may well show a change in spatial perception: houses for domestic use and new populated areas outside the perimeter wall appeared.

 

With regard to types of housing, square- and rectangular-shaped house plans, divided into 2 or 3 rooms continued.

 

The talayotic settlement of Ses Païsses (Artà)

 

The talayotic settlement of Ses Païses (Artà) was first inhabited towards 850 BC. The talayot, in the centre of the village and higher than the rest of structures, was the first building. This must have had social and symbolic functions. The rest of structures were built and attached to the tower over time. Some calculations point that talayotic settlements were inhabited by several families making up a group of approximately 300 people, who controlled and cultivated the surrounding areas. Structures had different functions and did not meet the regular network of streets and buildings, but were disorganised. These enclosures were distributed following the same rules: a cylindrical talayot and a sanctuary nearby.

 

One of the key elements of talayotic culture is cyclopean perimeter walls. This architectural technique owes its name to Cyclops, Greek mythology giants. Villages could have several entrance doors. Ses Païsses has three doors of the same style. The rest of structures were built in different periods. The oldest were the hypostole room and the structures attached to the central tower. Towards 700-600 BC rectangular houses and straight walls were built.

 

12- The postalayotic society

 

The concentration of society in villages favoured the appearance of leaders, who organised life within the settlement. Their leading position was consolidated gradually over the rest. It’s possible that large monuments were erected to express their power over the territory.

The Talayotic population grazed sheep and goats through the surrounding fertile lands, and made the most of their meat, milk and leathers. Hunting played a minor role and communities settled by the coast benefited from fishing for a diversified diet.

During the post-talayotic period (centuries 6th-2nd BC), agriculture gathered strength -which may have driven a demographic growth - as it enabled generation of a surplus to be stored and to centralize production. This facilitated long-distance commercial exchanges.

Domestic living spaces and pottery were used to manage cereals and legumes and store the harvest.

The Talayotic population stood out due to metal manufacturing: they used copper, bronze (to make statues and axes), iron (daily tools) and lead (worship tools). Personal ornamental goods and others used during rituals were also found.

Mills for grinding grain were made of stone and could be rotary hand mills or swinging mills. The latter consisted of a fixed portion called a meta upon which a funnel is placed or mobile portion called a catillus, where the grain was poured into.

 

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