Radiocarbon Dating and Talayots: The Example of Son Ferrandell Oleza

By Chapman, Robert; Strydonck, Mark Van et al. | Antiquity, March 1993 | Go to article overview

Radiocarbon Dating and Talayots: The Example of Son Ferrandell Oleza


Chapman, Robert, Strydonck, Mark Van, Waldren, William, Antiquity


In a recent paper in ANTIQUITY, Webster (1991) discussed the construction and labour requirements of the dry-stone built towers known as nuraghi on the island of Sardinia. The equivalents of these monuments in the Balearic islands during the Bronze and Iron Ages were talayots (e.g. Mascaro 1968; Pericot 1972; Rossello 1973). Recent research on these monuments has focussed on settlement patterns and hierarchies (e.g. Alvaro 1983; Lewthwaite 1985; da Mota Santos 1988), as well as social and economic reconstruction (e.g. Gasull et al. 1984), but radiocarbon chronologies of monument construction, use and abandonment are still rare. In this note we publish a series of radiocarbon dates from the talayotic settlement of Son Ferrandell Oleza, in the north of Mallorca, and discuss their implications for the site and the island.

The Son Ferrandell Oleza project

Son Ferrandell Oleza is located c. 2 km to the west of Valldemossa, at the foot of a terraced, limestone ridge and overlooking a cultivated plain. A Pretalayotic Beaker settlement (beginning c. 4000 b.p.) was succeeded by an undefended, linear, Talayotic settlement in the 3rd millennium b.p. (Waldren 1984; 1986; 1987). This settlement consisted of five talayots and their associated structures (in some cases directly attached to the monuments), extending over a distance of at least 250 m. Excavations by Waldren on talayots 1, 2 and 3 (T1-3), and in some of the external structures, have yielded cultural materials, radiocarbon dates in the 3rd millennium b.p. and evidence for activities such as metal- and leather-working.

Excavations in and around talayot 4 (T4) took place mainly in 1984-5, as part of a project designed to complement Waldren's fieldwork and to study four problems: these related to the layout of the settlement as a whole (did it expand linearly from T1 to T4, as suggested initially by Waldren?), the chronology and use of talayots and their surrounding structures, and the subsistence of the talayot builders. Reports on the project and on the subsistence data are being published elsewhere (Chapman & Grant in press a and b), while an analysis of the formation processes of T4 and their implications for interpretations of talayot use is already in print (Chapman & Grant 1989).

Excavation inside T4 led us to distinguish seven alternating phases of use and disuse, from the construction of the monument until its final collapse, in a depth of 2.4 m of stratified deposits (Chapman & Grant 1989: 59; Chapman & Grant in press a). In spite of the effects of erosion and terracing, traces of two apsidal structures were uncovered in the excavations outside T4 (Chapman & Grant 1989: figure 3). Deposits were shallow, and divided into three phases relating to the construction, use and abandonment of the two structures (Chapman & Grant 1989: 62). There was no stratigraphic linkage between the deposits inside and outside T4, but the cultural materials suggest broad contemporaneity.

The dating of Talayot 4: the cultural evidence

The majority of the pottery inside T4 was of Post Talayotic type, which, according to Waldren's chronology, is divided into three phases: early (c. 2750-2550 b.p.), middle (2550-2350 b.p.) and late (c. 2350-2050 b.p.). The earliest pottery is Talayotic and is represented by a handful of sherds from phases 1, 2 and 4 and may pre-date 3000 b.p. Outside T4, the majority of the pottery was of middle and late Post Talayotic type, but again a very small number of sherds of Talayotic type were found, although they too did not necessarily occur in the earliest contexts.

Punic pottery was found inside T4 in phases 4 and 7, and in the latter it was accompanied by Samian and an Augustan lamp. Given the fact that the final collapse of the monument left the interior filled with large stones with voids in between them, then much later material such as the Roman pottery could have fallen in, or been washed in by heavy rainfall. …

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Radiocarbon Dating and Talayots: The Example of Son Ferrandell Oleza
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