A 3,000-year-old treasure in the Iberian Peninsula made of meteorite material

A 3,000-year-old treasure in the Iberian Peninsula made of meteorite material

Scientists recently discovered that some pieces in the stunning Bronze Age collection known as the Villena Treasure, found in Spain more than 60 years ago, contain iron that came from an alien meteorite that collided with Earth about a million years ago.

The Vilina Treasure contains artifacts made of precious materials such as gold, silver, amber and iron. Each piece within this collection tells the story of the culture, technology and traditions of the people who lived during the Bronze Age, between 1400 and 1200 BC.

Scientists who have delved deeper into the origins and structure of the Vilena Treasure are now revealing unexpected information. They concluded that some of the objects were made of extraterrestrial materials. Specifically, meteoric iron, a material originating in space, has been identified in some of the artifacts.

A remarkable discovery regarding this ancient treasure was made possible by recent research: two iron objects made of iron that fell to Earth from a meteorite about a million years ago. The objects, a hollow sphere covered in gold leaf and a C-shaped bracelet, were symbols of the connection between the terrestrial and celestial worlds as well as being fine examples of prehistoric craftsmanship.

A sword pendant from the Vilena Treasure, made of meteorite iron and inlaid with gold, forming the shape of a four-pointed star.  Photo: Repertory Digital CSIC
A sword pendant from the Vilena Treasure, made of meteorite iron and inlaid with gold, forming the shape of a four-pointed star. Photo: Repertory Digital CSIC

At the time of their discovery, some iron elements aroused the interest of researchers because of their distinctive appearance that evokes lead metal, shining in some places and covered with an oxide resembling iron. The research, published on December 30 in the journal Trabajos de Prehistoria, analyzed two iron objects.

The study reveals that the iron used in these artefacts actually comes from a meteorite, thanks to mass spectrometric analyzes that identified an iron-nickel alloy similar to that found in meteorite iron.

According to the findings of the research team, one of the Spanish treasures, an iron bracelet, is made of iron and nickel. This is important because meteoric iron typically contains more than 5 percent nickel.

Part of the Tesoro de Villena treasure, a bracelet made of meteorite iron.  Photo: Archaeological Museum of Vilina
Part of the Tesoro de Villena treasure, a bracelet made of meteorite iron. Photo: Archaeological Museum of Vilina

These are the first and oldest iron meteorite artifacts discovered in the Iberian Peninsula. They highlight metallurgical practices in the Late Bronze Age while showing how these cultures innovated using new technologies. As a result, these artifacts serve not only as historical treasures, but also as windows into the past, providing insight into the development of new technologies and societal evolution.

These pieces join rare artifacts of meteoric iron known from the first millennium BC, such as an arrowhead discovered in Switzerland and some pieces in Poland.

So far, data indicate that the composition of the Spanish artifacts is similar to that of the Mundrabella meteorite from Australia. However, it is currently impossible to say with certainty that ancient inhabitants used materials from this specific meteorite to create these valuable treasures. The researchers plan to conduct additional investigations in the future.

Cover image: www.turismovillena.com

(Tags for translation)Archaeology

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