The excavation of Tartessos

Las excavaciones de Tartessos (situacion 2005)

by Karl Juergen Hepke

English translation from spanish text on the excavation site. The original spanish text is at the end.
Remarks of TOLOS in italic.

The town at the castle Dona Blanca

The town at the castle Dona Blanca is positioned on an artificial hill 34 m above sea level and extends over nearly five hectare. This hill laid at the time of foundation direct at the coast line. The alluvial sedimentations have caused the progressing distance from the sea.

The town was founded at the beginning of the VIII century B.C. and was surrounded by a big wall with moat. Its inhabitants were living here until the III century B.C. , when it was left in course of the second punic war.
Its here found archaeological features, its position and especially the fact, that we have here a complete phoenician town without later rebuilding make of Dona Blanca an excellent key for the knowledge of the phoenician world.

The direct transition of the inclination of the hill into the flat plain shows clearly, that we have here no coast line, but a by sedimentation of the river or other filled up depression.

General Dates of History

The first settlement in the area of Dona Blanca comes from groups of men in a later phase of chalkolithicum at the end of the third millennium B.C. This period is documented in soils and traces of scattered laying huts, with position adapted to the original topography. In follow there is a time of no settlement until the time of the middle of the VIII century B.C., the time in which was the first phoenician settlement. Shortly after that was built the first town wall .

The settlement was used than in unbroken succession until the arrival of the romans in the course of the second punic war (206 B.C.). During these 600 years were built two new fortified town walls (in VI and III century B.C.) and made several new arrangements of the town. After that comes a new time of no settlement until the middle age, which changes only in IX and XIII century A.C. In later time in the XV century A.C. was built the tower or eremitage in form of a greek cross, in which places the legend the captivity until murder of Dona Blanca, the wife of Peter I , the cruel.

Chronological archaeological sequence of settlement at castle Dona Blanca

Phase------Chronology-----------------------historic period
I------------2000-1800 B.C.----------------end of copper time
--------------1880-800 B.C.-----------------no settlement found
II------------- 800-775 B.C.-----------------phoenician foundation
III--middle of VIII until VII century B.C.---old phoenician period
IV----------VI-III century B.C.--------------- turdetanian period
V----------middle of III century B.C.--------karthagian period
------------206 B.C.-XIII century A.C.-----no settlement found
VI----------VIII-XIII century A.C.-----------spanish-musulman period
VII----------XV-XVI century A.C.-----------after middle age period

The here given dates are based on a small area excavated until the rock, positioned at the northern side , which is turned away from the sea. By that it is absolutely possible, that at more convenient places there are rests from the time of bronze. From this time may come the remarkable walls and foundations, which are similar to the walls of Troja VI (1700-1250 B.C.)and found predominantly at the east-side of the town hill outside of the town wall. These can be the first real original rests of buildings from the time of Atlantis-Tharsis in the time of bronze ( before 1250 B.C.) (See also the comparing photos from Troja and Lixus in Morocco)

The Organization of the early Town

From the early period we know complete blocks of houses and some flats. They have three or four rectangular or square living rooms. Their walls show a base of strong plastered stone work and the rest is made from clay or air dried brick up to the roof, which was surely covered by parts of plants. The doors to the street have a large plate of stone, which served as threshold and bench. The floor is made from tamped clay according to Phoenician tradition. Often one can see in the corners of rooms frames, serving for the reception of amphoras- Recently we know further architectural elements of the town. An oven at the street and a circular basin made impermeable for water by lime. Also remarkable is a winepress with two cemented basins (ancient concrete) in which were stepped the grapes. The juice flew through two canals in another deeper basin with a floor of an water impermeable mix from lime, sand and crushed ceramic.(ancient concrete "opus signinum")

It is remarkable, that in the most used simple stonework, made from stones found on the ground and put together with mortar, sometimes are used, without special reason, big exactly hewn stones made from granit. They look like recycled stones from an earlier period, possibly from Atlantis-Tharsis ,now put into the wall indiscriminately. (see foto)

The Necropolis, the Cult for the Dead

The necropolis of the town is situated in the area called "Las Cumbres" of the Sierra de San Cristobal and covers an area of 100 hectare.

In it we find a distribution in centers or cemeteries of certain epochs reaching from Middle Bronze until Turdetanian times.
The types of burials and the matter of burying which we can find are different. They are reaching from graves hewn into the rock to structures of artificially placed hills or "tumulus", covering graves of burned dead.

The group of professor Diego Ruiz Mata carried out a campagne of digging up in the years 1984-85. The tumulus I of Las Cumbres, the only one excavated until now, contained five burials of to 80 persons, placed in circular structure. The center had here an "Ustrinum", that means a place ,where were burnt the dead. In its surrounding were placed according to their status the burned rests of the dead in that way, that the richest were buried next to the ritual place of burning.

At the end of the VIII century is pointed out a still stronger respect to the status in a tumulus, which is included in an earlier one and in the center of which is positioned the burning place of an individuum with rich equipment and in his surrounding a certain number of much simpler burials.

Common Life, the Phoenician Influence

The arrival of Phoenician people at our peninsula results from the intense business relationship, mainly referring to the trade with metals.
Some authors mean, that they were also searching fertile country for cultivation. The most important is, that their presence caused deep structural changes in the local population.

1.Ceramic: The potter's wheel appears, causing a better quality of the product and making production more effective.
2. Metallurgy: The processing of iron is introduced.
3.Settlement: There are fundamental changes. The oval or circular buildings of the end of Bronze Time are changing into straight walls of square or rectangular typ. With that is possible the construction of inner town streets. The accumulation of huts, more or less dispersed , is changing into an urban organized structure.
4. Alphabet: Although the tartessian script has a complex syllable structure, the signs are coming from the Phoenician alphabet. (It is also possible ,that the Phoenicians used the Iberian signs, which had a tradition of thousands of years)
5. Society: One estimates religious customs and a new form of burials as a stronger marked social structuring.
The head of the tribe takes part in product merchandising and luxury, the difference can be seen clearly in the burials. There is a stronger specialization of work and a more important role of commerce.

The Temple of Melquart

The temple of Melquart, who is later on equaled to Hercules, in Gadir is one of the greatest hits in the ancient world. In it is estimated the Iberian peninsula. Its fame extended over the whole mediterranean area and many classical authors wrote about it, described the rite and cult, its treasures, its famous visitors and gave dates about its architecture. Strabon is telling in the first century about the foundation of Cadiz:" the inhabitants of Tyrus founded Gades and built the sanctuary in the eastern part of the island and the town in the western part...". The temple lays today in the water of the mouth of Cano de San Pedro, in front of the island of today.

Melquart is the god of the town. The existence of Gadir, the later Gades, is always in extended context to the temple. This point is very important, for some authors mean, that the foundation of Gadir was directly managed by the
temple of Tyrus. At the other side the temple is the great patron of the big maritime actions and the trade of early times. The temple of Melquart-Hercules was the crucial point of all life in Gadir, especially of trade. The god played the role of guarantor and superviser of commerce and assured the realization of the trade agreements. This shows the trade orientated character of Phoenician life and the skilful integration of religious and economic matters.

The long way to Gadir

The Phoenicians, great traders and searchers for new ways of shipping, were skilled in coast shipping. Short voyages along the coast at day and passing the night on land. The necessity of wider spreading of trade forced them to find new routes over the sea from the harbours they knew, to areas every time more distant. This forced them at least, to cross the open sea.

To cross the whole Mediterranean Sea required not only big sea experience, it was also necessary , to have a complete system of orientation. At day it was the observation of the land, which was known, in the night allowed the Pole Star and the knowledge of firmament the crossing.

To go from
Phoenicia to the West, it was not possible to use the southern route along the coast of Africa, because there is a constant current against. The best way was to go to Cyprus, than near to the coast of Asia Minor, to the Ionian Islands, further on to Sicily, the Balears, to the eastern coast of the Iberian Peninsula. To reach the straight of Gibraltar, the ships had to go to land, and that sometimes for several days. That mainly in times, when the wind came from the West. Than it was better to wait for a soft wind from the East which lead them to Gadir.

The way back was easier and without great difficulties. One could follow the African coast and use the currents of the sea. The western winds of the summer helped additionally at the voyage to Tyrus.

These natural conditions are a proof for the fact, that the eastern shores of Kanaan , Egypt and Phoenicia were easier and earlier to reach from the West, as in opposite direction. For the voyage from East to West required, as described here, a high developed art of shipping, and with that a high level of civilization.

The Phoenician Script and the Alphabet

Phoenician people were the first, who changed the script of hieroglyphs, which were signs, derived from natural or artificial created things, by creating an alphabet consisting of 22 simple signs and containing no vocals. There were only consonants and it was written from right to left. This discovery is the key and one of the greatest achievements, they have brought to us. It flew into all languages, bordering to the Mediterranean Sea. Essentially it consists in discovery of a serie of graphical signs, which contain completely the simple forming of sounds of a language by reporting it in a simple sign. The first attempts in that direction used still the systems of than existing scripts.

In the Sinai was found a first Alphabet with nearly 30 signs, derived from simplified hieroglyphs. In Biblos were used the Egyptian forms to develop a script, which was also a syllable and letter script. In Ugarit were texts made, the signs of which were cuneiform , for they were pressed into damp clay with a triangular pencil, but it had no relationship to the syllable script of Mesopotamia.

Finally the Phoenician alphabet conquered the whole mediterranean area. The alphabetical system is marked by its commodity. 22 signs serve for description of the consonants. Radiating from the Kananaean world , the alphabet was quickly accepted from other oriental people: Aramaes, Israels and Arabs, but also from residents of the mediterranean area. The Greek, who inserted vocals and gave it to the Etruscians, Latins and with that to all languages derived from Latin.

Spanish Original Text

Dona 1/pic 153

La ciudad en Castillo de Dona Blanca

La ciudad fenicia de Dona Blanca esta situada en un monticulo artificial de 34 metros sobre el nivel del mar y ocupa unas 5 hectares. Este cerro se hallaba en el momento de su fundacion en plena linea de sa costa. La sedimentacion aluvial del rio Guadalete ha ido provocando su alejamiento progresivo del mar.La ciudad se funda a principios del siglo VIII a.C. y estaba rodeada por una fuerte muralla con foso. Sus habitantes permanecieron en ella ininterrumpidamente hasta finales del siglo III a.C. cuando se abandona en el transcurso de la 2o guerra punica.
Los materiales arqueologicos localizados, su situacion y, sobre todo, el que se ponerse una ciudad fenicia completa sin edificaciones posteriores sobre ella hacen de Dona Blanca uno de los enclaves mas privilegados para el conocimiento
del mundo fenicio.

Dona 2 / pic 00142

Datos historicos generales.

El primitivo asentiamiento en la zona del Castillo de Don Blanca se origina con la presencia de grupos humanos de una fase tardia de la Edad del Cobre, al final del III milenio a. C. Este periodo esta documentado con fondos o huellas de cabanas dispersas y adaptadas a la topografia original del terreno. A continuacion hay un periodo de abandono que dura hasta la primera mitad del siglo VIII a.C., momento en el que se produce el primer asentamiento fenicio, construyendose poco tiempo despues el primer recinto amurallado de la ciudad.
El yacimiento es habitado desde etonces de forma ininterrumpida hasta la llegada de los romanos en el transcurso de la 2o. guerra punica (206 a.C.). Durante estos 600 anos se edificaron otros dos recintos fortificados (en los siglos VI y III a.C.) y se realizaron varias remodelaciones urbanisticas.
Se observa otro periodo de abandono hasta la Edad Media, que se vuelve a habitar entre los siglos IX y XII d.C.
En epoca moderna, en el siglo XV, se construye la torre o ermita de planta de cruz griega, donde la leyenda situa la prision hasta su asesinato en 1361 de Dona Blanca de Borbon, esposa de Pedro I El Cruel.

Secuenca cronologica del yacimiento Arqueologico del Castillo de Dona Blanca.
Chronologische archaeologische Folge der Besiedlung vom Castillo de Dona Blanca

Fase_____ Periodo historico___________Cronologia/Cronologie_________Historische Periode

I_______ Calcolitico final____________ 2000 -1800 a.C.___________ Ende der Kupferzeit
_________Vacio historico________________________________________ Keine Besiedlung erkennbar
II_______ Fundacion Fenicia____________800 - 775 a.C.__________ Phoenizische Stadtgruendung
III_____ Epoca Fenicia Arcaica____1/2 del s. VIII - s. VII a.C.___ Alte phoenizische Periode
IV________Epoca Turdetano_____________ s. VI - III a.C.____________ Turdetanische Periode
V_________Epoca Barcida_____________2o. mitad del s.III a.C.______ Karthagische Periode
__________Vacio historico_____________________________________Keine Besiedlung erkennbar
VI_______Periodo Hispano-Musulman____s. VIII - s.XIII d.C.______ Spanisch-Muselmanische Periode
VII______Periodo Postmedieval___________s. XV - XVI d.C._______Nachmittelalterliche Periode

Dona3 / pic 00158

El urbanismo de la ciudad tardia

De esta epoca no conocemos manzanas completas pero si algunas viviendas. Tenian tres o cuatro habitaciones rectangulares o cuadradas, sus muros presentan un zocalo de mamposteria enlucida y el resto era de tapial o adobe hasta el techo, que seguramente iria cubierto con tramas vegetales. Las puertas a la calle tienen una losa grande que servia de umbral e incluso de banco. Los suelos son de arcilia apisonada, siguendo la tradicion fenicia, y es frecuente ver en las esquinas de las habitaciones cantareras para albergar anforas contenadoras de agua.
Hoy conocemos otras estructuras arquitectonicas de la ciudad. Un horno, junto a la calle, y una pileta circular recubierta con cal y perfectamente impermeabilizada. Tambien cabe destacar la presencia de un lagar, con dos piletas de opus caementicium ( antiguo hormigon ) donde se pisaba la uva y se vertia el zumo a traves de dos canalitos a otra pileta mas profunda con un suelo de opus signinum ( cal, arena y ceramica machacada ).

Dona 4/pic156

La necropolis, el culto a las muertos

La necropolis de la ciudad se localiza en "Las Cumbres", en la Sierra de
San Cristobal, y abarca una extension de 100 hectares. Encontramos en ella una distribution en nucleos o cementerios de distintas epocas que van desde el Bronce media hasta epoca turdetana. Los tipos de tumbas y los ritos de enterramientos que se observan son variados, desde las tumbas excavadas en la roca o hipogeos de inhumacion hasta los de estructura en cerro artificiales o tumulos que cubren tumbas de incineration. El equipo del Profesor Diego Ruiz Mata realizo una campana de excavaciones arqueologicas en esta necropolis durante los anos 1984 y 1985.

El tumulo I de las cumbres, unico excavado hasta ahora cubria una incineration de hasta 80 individuos repartidos en una estructura circular. El centro lo ocupa durante el siglo VIII a.C. un "ustrinum", es decir, el lugar donde incineraba el cadaver. A su alrededor y de forma jeraquizada se dispusieron las cenicas de los quemados, con los mas ricas a menor distancia del espacio ritual de cremacion.
A finales de siglo VIII a.C. se advierte una mayor jerarquizacion con un tumulo incluido en el anterior en cuya zona central se incinera un individuo con rico ajuar y a sa alrededor un cierto numero de cremaciones mucho mas sencillas.

Dona 5 / pic 152

Convivir juntos, la influencia fenicio

La llegada de la poblacion fenicia a nuestra peninsula se debe al resultado de una intensa actividad comercial, esspecialmente centrada en la busqueda de metales. Algunos autores opinan que tambien quisieron colonizar tierras fertiles para su cultivo. Lo mas importante es que su presencia provoco en la poblacion indigena de la actual Andalucia unos profundos cambios estructurales.

1. Ceramica: Aparece el torno del alfarero, lo que supone una mayor calidad del producto y una produccion mucho mas eficaz.
2. Metalurgia: Se introduce la metalurgia
del hierro.
3. Urbanismo: Se detectan cambios fundamentales. La plantas ovales o circulares de las viviendas de las poblaciones
del Bronze final pasan a ser de muros rectos, de tipo cuadrado o rectangular . Esto favorece la planificacion de calles. La aglomeration de cabanas mas o menos dispersas deja paso a una estructura urbana organizada.
4. Alfabeto: Aunque la escritura tartesica tiene una estructura compleja, de tipo silabico, los signos proceden
del alfabetico fenicio.
5. Sociedad: Se aprecian manifestaciones religiosas y funerarias nuevas ademas de una jerarquizacion social mucho mas acentuada: Los jefes tribales acaparan buena parte de los productos manufacturados o de lujo y la diferenciacion en los enterramientos es ahora evidente. Se detecta una mayor especialacion
del trabajo, y un amplio desarollo del comercio.

Dona 6 / pic 151

El templo de Melqart

El templo de Melqart de Gadir, que luego se identifica con Hercules es uno de los grandes hitos
del mundo antiguo en lo que respecta a la peninsula iberica. Sa fama se extendo por todo el Mediterraneo y numerosos escritores clasicos nos los citan, nos describen sus ritos de culto, sus riquesas, sus visitantes ilustres, incluso nos dan datos de su architectura. Estrabon nos narra, en la siglo I la fundacion de Cadiz " los tirios fundaron Gades y alzaron el sanctuario en la parte oriental de la isla y la ciudad en la parte occidental ...". Se localiza en las aguas de la desembocadura del cano de Sancti Petri, frente al actual islote .

Melqart-Hercules es el "dios de la ciudad". La existencia de Gadir y la posterior Gades siempre va unida y en estrecha relacion con el templo. Hasta tal punto esto es esencial que para algunos autores, la fundacion de Gadir es una operacion directamente dirigida por el Templo de Tiro. Por otra parte, es el gran patron de la aventura maritima y comercial de los primeros tiempos.
El templo de Melqart-Hercules fue el pivote en torno al cual giro toda la vida gaditana, especialmente el comercio. Asi, el dios se erige en garante y regulador de las transacciones y aseguraba el cumplimiento
del trato comercial acordado. Indica el caracter mercantilista de la vida fenicia y una habil integracion de las facetas religiosas y economicas.

Dona 7 / pic 00150

El largo viaje hasta Gadir

Los fenicios, grandes comerciantes y experimentados navegantes dominaban la navegacion de cabotaje: pequenos viajes bordeando la costa y fondeando durante la noche. La necesidad de una mayor expansion comercial les empujaba a encontrar nuevas rutas maritimas que les llevasen a los puertos que ya conocian y tambien a nuevos territorios que cada vez estaban mas lejos. Esto les condujo a adventrarse en altamar.
Atravesar todo el Mediterraneo exigia no solo una gran pericia marinera, sino que tambien era necesario disponer un completo sistema de orientacion: durante el dia les bastaba el avistamiento de la terra firme que ya conocian; por la noche la estrella Polar y su conocimiento
del firmamento les permitia la travesia.
Para viajar desde Fenicia hasta occidente no debieron seguir la ruta meridional por la costa africana debido a la corriente continua en direccion contraria que existe en esta zona. La mejor ruta consistia en dirigirse hacia Chipre, pasar cerca de la costa de Asia Menor las islas ionicas, continuar por Sicilia, luego las Baleares y alcanzar despues la costa levantina de la peninsula.
Al llegar al estrecho, a menudo, las naves tenian que fondear en el litoral peninsular, a veces, incluso durante muchos dias. Esto ocurria en los periodos en que soplaba viento fuerte de poniente. Entonces, era mejor esperar a que un levante suave les empujara hasta Gadir.

El regreso no presentaba mayores dificultades; siempre se podia navigar cerca de la costa africana y aprovechar asi las corriente marinas. Los estivales vientos de poniente tambien ayudarian en el viaje a Tiro.

Dona 8/ pic 149

El escritura y alfabeto fenicio

Fue el pueblo fenicio el primero en modificar la escritura jeroglifica creando un alfabeto de 22 signos que no poseia vocales. Era netamente consonantico y se escribia de derecha a izquierda. Este hallazgo es clave y uno de mas grandes aportes que nos han legado pues influyo en todas las lenguas riberenas
del Mar Mediterraneo. En esencia, consiste en la invencion de una serie de signos graficos que representan la totalidad de los sonidos simples del lenguaje, cada uno indicado por un solo signo.
Los primeros ensayos se hicieron en funcion de los sistemas de escritura preexistences. En el Sinai, se invento un primer alfabeto de una treintena de signos a partir de jeroglificos que simplificaron. En Biblos, los modelos egipcios fueron seguidos hasta elaborar una escritura tanto silabica
como alfabetica. En Ugarit los textos estan realizados en una escritura alfabetica cuyos signos son cuneiformes, porque han sido trazados con un estilete triangular en la arcilla humeda, pero sin ninguna relacion con el sistema de escritura silabica de Mesopotamia.
Finalmente, el alfabeto fenicio quedo establecido en todo el entorno del Mediterraneo. El sistema alfabetico se caracterizaba por su comodidad: 22 signos sirvieron para anotar las consonantes. Fuera del mundo cananeo, el alfabeto fue muy pronto adoptado por otros pueblos orientales: arameos, israelitas o arabes, pero tambien por los riberenos del Mediterraneo: los griegos, que incluyeron las vocales, y fueron quienes lo transmitieron a los etruscos, latinos y, por tanto, a los actuales idiomas derivados
del latin.


Read to this in English: The History of Atlantis, the forgotten Origin of our Culture         By Karl Juergen Hepke

Or as a book in German language:


DIE GESCHICHTE VON ATLANTIS, der vergessene Ursprung unserer Kultur
by Karl Juergen Hepke
TRIGA - DER VERLAG, D 63584 Gruendau-Rothenbergen, Germany, 2nd Edition, Hardcover, 268 Pages, EUR 22,00, ISBN 978-3-89774-539-1 ,