Los Millares is the name of a Chalcolithic occupation site 17 km north of Almería, in the municipality of Santa Fe de Mondújar, Andalusia, Spain. The complex was in use from the end of the fourth millennium to the end of the second millennium BC and probably supported somewhere around 1000 people. It was discovered in 1891 during the course of the construction of a railway and was first excavated by Luis Siret in the succeeding years. Further excavation work continues today.
The site covers 2 hectares (4.9 acres) and consists of three concentric lines of stone walls, the outer ring the largest, running more than 650 feet with nineteen ‘bastions’ and a gate guarded by foreworks. The road to the site is guarded by four smaller outlying stone forts. There is an extensive cemetery of eighty passage grave tombs. Radiocarbon dating has established that one wall collapsed and was rebuilt around 3025 BC.
A cluster of simple dwellings lay inside the walls as well as one large building containing evidence of copper smelting. Pottery excavated from the site included plain and decorated wares including symbolkeramik bowls bearing oculus motifs. Similar designs appear on various carved stone idols found at the site.
Although primarily farmers, the inhabitants of Los Millares had crucially also learned metal working, especially the smelting and forming of copper, and the site is considered highly important in understanding the transition from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age. The Los Millares culture eventually came to dominate the Iberian peninsula, and to develop into the Bell Beaker culture.
The population of Los Millares has been estimated at approximately 1000 in the timeframe 3200–2300 BC. The labor involved in its construction, The large volume of stones used, its geometric characteristics and sophisticated design all indicate multiple functionality, including defense and power.
Los Millares participated in the continental trends of Megalithism and the Beaker culture. Analysis of occupation material and grave goods from the Los Millares cemetery of 70 tholos tombs with port-hole slabs has led archaeologists to suggest that the people who lived at Los Millares were part of a stratified, unequal society which was often at war with its neighbours.
The Los Millares civilisation was replaced circa 1800 BC, with the arrival of Bronze by the El Argar civilisation, whose successor culture is embodied in the contemporary culture of Vila Nova de São Pedro in nearby Portugal.
Similarities between Los Millares architecture and the step pyramid at Monte d’Accoddi in Sardinia have been noticed. Other Iberian settlements in this region of a similar age to Los Millares include the settlement of Los Silillos and Neolithic finds at Cabrera.
Los Silillos is the site of a Bronze Age prehistoric settlement covering an area of 180,000 square metres. The discovery was made in 2007 during excavation work in constructing the A-45 Motorway on Spain’s Iberian Peninsula. (EFE, 2007)
The site is located approximately nine kilomtres north of the town of Antequera. The discovery includes architectural elements of 52 subterranean structures, which are only a portion of the numerous circular dwellings built by prehistoric peoples here. Farming implements and copper tools found at Los Silillos have been dated to 2500 BC by researchers at Malaga University. It is thought that some of the tools found at Los Silillos may have been employed in constructing dolmen burial mounds at nearby Antequera.
Manuel Romero, the Antequera municipal archaeologist, indicated that only about two percent of the total Los Silillos site has been excavated as of October, 2007. Romero further stated that ongoing research is occurring for the site, including more precise radiocarbon dating in Switzerland. Animal relics retrieved on the site include fossilised ram horns and deer antlers. The Los Silillos site at an elevation of approximately 435 metres is situated in an agricultural valley between Antequera and Cordoba.
REGIONAL PREHISTORY. There is extensive prehistoric settlement in this region of southern Spain, probably linked to the mild climate, rich mineral resources of the Iberian Pyrite Belt (Leistel, 1997) and proximity of the Mediterranean Sea. In addition to Neanderthal presence and the Magdelanian paleolithic era cave painters, other Iberian settlements of the approximate age of Los Silillos in this region include the Chalcolithic settlement of Los Millares and Neolithic finds at Cabrera.
Somewhat to the east of Los Silillos, scientists have recently conducted core drilling to reconstruct the natural history of 1900 BC Argaric settlements. They found that rich deciduous forests once covered much of the region; however, the thriving Bronze Age Argaric peoples stripped the trees to such an extent that the ecology was transformed to an agriculturally unproductive, arid Mediterranean scrub. While climate change may have played a subordinate role, the Argaric civilisation itself appears to have caused its own demise by unwise resource management. The resulting degradation of soils and appears to have “caused the collapse of agriculture and pastoralism, the foundation of the Argaric economy”, and hence a “massive depopulation”. (BBC, 2007)