An "exceptional" prehistoric jade ax connects Seville and the Alps

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Prehistory is a period of the human being that does not stop awakening interest and fascination, at the same rate as scientific research continues to delve into the habits, relationships and ways of life of those societies, refuting certain prejudices about their dynamics.

In that sense, it is not difficult to find studies and research papers that demonstrate how those cultures had a degree of complexity and development probably superior to what the imaginary of the ordinary citizen associates with Prehistory.

This is the case with a work entitled "The polished jade ax from the Tubino collection", in which the members of the Department of Prehistory of the Hispalense University Carlos P. Odriozola and Leonardo García Sanjuán, Juan Manuel Vargas on behalf of the Municipal Museum of Valencina de la Concepción (Seville) and the member of the Institute of Materials Sciences José María Martínez-Blanes analyze a piece from the aforementioned museum center.

Although the contents of this cultural space deal with the remarkable human settlement that back in the Copper Age would have welcomed the territory currently covered by Valencina and its neighboring town of Castilleja de Guzmán, the authors of this study specify that there is no "documentary certainty" on the provenance of this “polished greenstone ax”.

As stated, the piece was donated in 2010 to the Museum of Valencina by the heirs of the "pioneer of Spanish archeology" Francisco María Tubino y Oliva (1833-1888), who does not cite this ax among the materials that he collected or inventoried from the dolmen of La Pastora, one of the main megalithic monuments of the extensive prehistoric site that lies between Valencina and Castilleja de Guzmán.

In addition, these researchers realize that among the "references" written by Tubino is the fact that during his "explorations he had collected several axes from Sierra Morena and Jerez de la Frontera" (Cádiz), giving them to the National Museum of Archeology except in the case of a “jade ax”.

The "fragment of a jade ax" from El Pedroso

It is at this point that the authors of this work point out that among the materials delivered by Tubino to the National Museum of Archeology there was "a fragment of a jade ax collected in the vicinity of El Pedroso (Seville)", which "opens the possibility ”that the greenstone ax deposited in 2010 by the archaeologist's family in the Valencina Museum is the piece that he“ decided not to donate ”to the National Museum.

"Although there is no documentary evidence of the origin of this exceptional piece, the indications of Tubino's story point to the possibility that it is a pair of the ax fragment of El Pedroso and therefore comes from an archaeological site in that area" , point out Odriozola, García Sanjuán, Juan Manuel Vargas and Martínez-Blanes.

From there, these researchers recall "the findings of large greenstone axes in the megaliths" of French Brittany, as well as the fact that "from the last decade of the 19th century and the first decade of the 20th the Alpine origin was established. of the prehistoric polished jade axes found in Western Europe ”.

In this context, and while in the archaeological field the term jade generically defines the "green rocks with which polished tools are made" and in geology it implies "a mineral species" from the group of clinopyroxenes, this research submits the aforementioned ax green stone from Tubino to X-ray diffraction and μ-raman confocal dispersive spectrometry, in search of the origin of this "exceptional" piece.

As a result of the application of the aforementioned scientific techniques, the authors of this work state that the green stone ax from the Tubino collection "has been mineralogically defined as jade-jadeite", since "it is possible to affirm that the piece must come from the Alps, since the only sources of this rock are in this region ”.

The alps as a source of 'raw material'

Considering also that by its “color and type” the Tubino ax would correspond chronologically to the middle or end of the fifth millennium before the current era, these researchers then show that from the end of the fourth millennium to the beginning of the third, “the Alps they provided the raw material for most of the polished axes made of jadeite from northern Europe ”.

“These axes circulated long distances (…), traveling from the Alps to France, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Great Britain and Ireland and occasionally to Scandinavia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Croatia, southern Italy, Spain , Denmark and Bulgaria for chronologies ranging from the Neolithic to the Copper Age, reaching up to 1,700 kilometers from the source of supply ”, is indicated in this work in relation to previous research.

In any case, Odriozola, García Sanjuán, Juan Manuel Vargas and Martínez-Blanes warn that in Spain "the record of alpine axes documented to date is extremely low", detailing that the piece from the Tubino collection would be "the fourth entry of the meager catalog of jade-jadeite axes published in the Iberian Peninsula ”, as well as“ the southernmost of them by far, as well as one of the furthest from the Alpine sources on a European scale ”, specifically about 1,900 kilometers.

"The presence of this piece in the southernmost part of the Iberian Peninsula must be seen within the framework of supra-regional circuits of exchanges of raw materials since at least the fifth and fourth millennia before our era", conclude these authors, insisting on the "meaning" of this ax "in terms of long-distance contacts in recent prehistory."

Europa Press journalist, collaborator of "Sevillanos de Guardia" in Onda Cero Radio and collaborator writer in MRN Aljarafe.


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