Return to Los Millares (Santa Fe de Mondújar, Almería). Bone industry in the world of the chalcolithic dead
A necropolis necessarily shows a partial vision of society. In their grave goods, we cannot expect to find the same elements that would exist in the domestic evolution of the living, but we do find many elements that allow us to get closer to the characteristics of the cultures that created and defined themselves from them.
The Museo Arqueológico Nacional preserves the most complete collection of funeral grave goods from the Almería site of Los Millares (Santa Fe de Mondújar). This site continues to be a benchmark for the study of Chalcolithic in the Iberian Peninsula. More than 10,000 objects were recovered there in the excavations carried out by Pedro Flores for Luis Siret in the late s. XIX, although, as Flores himself admitted, not all were collected.
In this assemblage, the bone industry stands out for its quality and the number of pieces conserved, which accounts for around 30% of the total materials of the necropolis, which, despite Flores’ preselections, gives us an idea of the importance that the bone industry had for the millaerense society.
In the tombs of Los Millares ornamental objects seem to predominate as well as those to which we attribute a symbolic character, as opposed to practical tools, which is not unusual in a funerary space. Despite this, and although all funeral grave goods can be considered an offering of a symbolic nature, since it is deposited where no one is going to be able to give it a real use, we have been defending the demystify of some of these cultural elements, proposing functional or even recreational uses in the first conception of the object.
Among the funeral grave goods of the Los Millares necropolis, there are very simple ornaments, such as necklace beads on diaphyses, as opposed to exotic objects of foreign origin and of complex elaboration, such as the tomb comb 12, for example. These differences mark possible dissimilarities in the social organization of these populations, but they also tell us about the technological development of their creators, their aesthetic tastes or the existence of long-distance distribution networks for products and raw materials. After an overview of the bone industry in Los Millares, we will focus here on the study of those objects that we consider to be detached, at least partially, from the two main attributions of grave goods (ornament and beliefs), proposing other readings.
Through the objects made of bone, ivory, horn or shell preserved in our collections and with the support of the documentary archive of Luis Siret, we will try to approach the role that the bone industry played for those who deposited it to accompany the inhabitants of the city of the dead on their last journey.