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Tartessos (also Tartessus) was a harbor city on the south coast of Spain, at the mouth of the Guadalquivir. It probably existed already before 1000 BC, and its inhabitants were traders, who seem to have been the ones to discover the route to the Tin Islands (Britain or more precisely the Scilly Islands). Tin was a much-wanted product in those days, as it was necessary for the production of bronze, and the people from Tartessos became important trading partners of the Phoenicians, who nearby built a harbor of their own, Gades (current-day Cádiz). In the 6th century BC, Tartessos disappears rather suddenly from history. The Romans called the wide bay the Tartessius Sinus though the city was no more.

One theory is that the city had been destroyed by the Carthaginians who wanted to take over the Tartessans' trading routes. Another is that it had been refounded, under obscure conditions, as Carpia. When the traveller Pausanias visited Greece in the 2nd century AD (Paus. Desc. 6.XIX.3) he saw two bronze chambers in one of the sanctuaries at Olympia, which the people of Elis claimed was Tartessian bronze:

"They say that Tartessus is a river in the land of the Iberians, running down into the sea by two mouths, and that between these two mouths lies a city of the same name. The river, which is the largest in Iberia, and tidal, those of a later day called Baetis, and there are some who think that Tartessus was the ancient name of Carpia, a city of the Iberians."

The site of Tartessos is lost and buried in the shifting wetlands that have replaced former estuaries behind dunes at the modern single mouth of the Guadalquivir, where the river delta has gradually been blocked off by a huge sandbar that stretches from the mouth of the Rio Tinto, near Palos de Moguer, to the riverbank opposite Sanlúcar de Barrameda. The area is now protected as the ''Parque Nacional de Doņana (see link)

Tartessian enthusiasts imagine it trading with Atlantis and link obscure finds with the highly problematic Lady of Elche.

The name El Carpio survives, transferred to a site in a bend of the Guadalquivir, but the origin of its name has been associated with its imposing oldest feature, a Moorish tower erected in 1325 by the engineer responsible for the alcazar of Seville.

In the Bible, Tartessos is known under the name of Tarshish. Although several finds have been made in southern Spain that are ascribed to the Tartessan culture, the city itself has not been recovered by professional archeologists.

The Tartessian society had a hierarchy more developed than its predecessors.

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