|The revolutionary ivory hoard
It has been reported today that workshops in the Chalcolithic (and Megalithic) site of Valencina de la Concepción
(near Seville, Andalusia) used ivory imported from West Asia, belonging to tusks of the extinct Syrian (or also Assyrian) elephant
(the westernmost variant of the Asian elephant, Elephas maximus).
Until today it was generally believed (by default) that the ivory used in Chalcolithic crafting was from North Africa, however the (also extinct) North African elephant
was a variant of the African species Loxodonta africana.
While trade with Northern Europe (amber) was acknowledged as a matter of fact but was strongly supported by cultural elements (Megalithism), as well as by the unmistakably Nordic amber which washes to the beaches of the Baltic and German Sea, trade and cultural connections with the Eastern Mediterranean were considered speculative at best.
This discovery, which traces the first (indirect?) trade with West Asia to some 4800 years ago appears to demolish almost single-handedly the usual notions about Western European Chalcolithic (c. 3000-1800 BCE) by which contacts with the Eastern Mediterranean were considered speculative or even unlikely. There seems to be a glass bead in Eastern Iberia but nothing else that could support consistently contacts with anywhere East of Italy or Lybia. Only nearing the Bronze Age (which may begin c. 1850 BCE in the most developed parts of Iberia) such connections could be taken for granted (and yet mostly because of cultural rather than material imports).
However the late Megalithic burial types of the Chalcolithic (tholos, artificial caves, etc.) which partly replace the classical dolmen in the areas we could well call more civilized (parts of Southern Iberia and Languedoc), has been argued in the past to be conceptual imports from the Eastern Mediterranean (places like Kurdistan and Cyprus, where tholoi were used first for housing apparently). But a time gap of a whole millennium (or more) made it all a bit hard to accept and the competing theory of the architectural concept of false dome (tholos) being invented twice became rather mainstream.
The finding has been reported in the Acts of the Congress on Ivory and Elephants, which took place in Alicante and it’s also said to be published in the Journal of Archaeological Science
(but I can’t find it so it may well be awaiting publication). The research has been carried by academics from the University of Huelva, the German Archaeological Institute and the Valencina Museum.