A Bronze Age palace with the tomb of a prince has been discovered in the Iberian Peninsula.
Archaeologists from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) found a palace audience hall at the site, believed to be one of the first to be built in continental Europe.
In the tomb they found some of the largest grave goods from the Bronze Age, with gold and silver ear dilators.
The site where the palace was discovered was in the cradle of the El Argar civilisation, which lived in the area in the Bronze Age. It was occupied between 2220 BCE to 1550 BCE because of its strategically strong position.
In total 50 tombs were excavated from beneath the buildings. One, however, stood out. It was placed in a privileged area next to the main hall and contained the bodies of a man and a woman, their bodies placed in a "flexed position" with about 30 precious and semiprecious objects.
The woman had a silver diadem encircling her skull – which would have been of huge patrimonial value.
Researchers believe the plateau, located in the La Almoloya site in Murcia, was about 3,800sq m. It was densely populated, with several large residential complexes with eight to 12 rooms in each. Buildings were made from stones and grout, which were then covered in layers of mortar.
The audience hall was wide with high ceilings, with a capacity for up to 64 people seated on the benches that lined the walls. It had a ceremonial fireplace and a podium of a symbolic character. It is thought the building was used for political purposes such as hearings and government meetings.
The hall and adjoining rooms are believed to be a palace, with archaeologists arguing only the most important civilisations from the time had similar constructions.
"La Almoloya contains many unknown answers and offers many promising perspectives for future digs. The completion of the urban tissue and revealing the details of the first political structure of the West are some of the challenges remaining," the team said in a statement.