TechDiscovery in Villena treasure holds rare meteoric iron from the Bronze Age

Discovery in Villena treasure holds rare meteoric iron from the Bronze Age

Treasure - illustrative photo
Treasure - illustrative photo
Images source: © Unsplash

9:49 PM EDT, May 31, 2024

Among the golden treasures from the Iberian Bronze Age in the treasury in the Spanish city of Villena, scientists came across two exceptional specimens. A hollow hemisphere and a once-bracelet caused quite a surprise. As researchers explain in the scientific journal Trabajos de Prehistoria, both items were made of meteoric iron, as confirmed by their analyses.

According to scientists, the Villena treasure (comprising around 66 items), discovered by José M. Soler at the end of 1963 at Rambla del Panadero and deposited in the Villena Museum, is one of the most critical gold collections from the Bronze Age on the Iberian Peninsula. However, researchers encountered challenges determining its chronology within the Bronze Age, particularly with the two iron objects—a minor hollow hemisphere covered with an openwork sheet of gold that might have adorned a wand or sword handle and the bracelet.

Items of "otherworldly" origin

In 2007, Prof. Concepción Blasco Bosqued suggested testing the objects to determine if they were made of "earthly" or meteoric iron. Scientists took samples from the hemisphere and the bracelet and subjected them to detailed analyses, examining their composition and viewing them under a metallographic microscope. The research indicated that the items were likely made of meteoric iron, making them the first such items found on the Iberian Peninsula.

"The available data suggest that the cap and bracelet are the first two pieces attributable to meteoritic iron in the Iberian Peninsula, which is compatible with a chronology from the Late Bronze Age prior to the start of widespread terrestrial iron production," the article states.

The items from the Villena treasure are heavily eroded. For this reason, experts emphasize the need for further research to resolve remaining doubts. They mention non-invasive methods such as gamma spectrometry, CT scanning, and muon radiography, which could finally confirm the extraterrestrial origin of the iron used to make the hemisphere and bracelet.

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