Elephant’s Tomb a Former Mithraeum?

Interesting item first appearing in English at Science Daily:

The so-called Elephant’s Tomb in the Roman necropolis of Carmona (Seville, Spain) was not always used for burials. The original structure of the building and a window through which the sun shines directly in the equinoxes suggest that it was a temple of Mithraism, an unofficial religion in the Roman Empire. The position of Taurus and Scorpio during the equinoxes gives force to the theory.

The Carmona necropolis (Spain) is a collection of funeral structures from between the 1st century B.C. and the 2nd century A.D. One of these is known as the Elephant’s Tomb because a statue in the shape of an elephant was found in the interior of the structure.

The origin and function of the construction have been the subject of much debate. Archaeologists from the University of Pablo de Olavide (Seville, Spain) have conducted a detailed analysis of the structure and now suggest that it may originally not have been used for burials but for worshipping the God Mithras. Mithraism was an unofficial religion that was widespread throughout the Roman Empire in the early centuries of our era.

Researchers have identified four stages in which the building was renovated, giving it different uses.

“In some stages, it was used for burial purposes, but its shape and an archaeoastronomical analysis suggest that it was originally designed and built to contain a Mithraeum [temple to Mithras],” as explained by Inmaculada Carrasco, one of the authors of the study.

Carrasco and her colleague Alejandro Jiménez focus their studies on a window in the main chamber built during the first stage. Earlier studies had already suggested that the purpose of the window was not to provide light, but that rather it may have served a symbolic and spiritual purpose.

The Sun, the Moon and the stars

“From our analysis of the window, we have deduced that it was positioned so that the rays of the sun reached the centre of the chamber during the equinoxes, in the spring and autumn, three hours after sunrise” explains Carrasco.

The authors believe that at that moment a statue of the tauroctony, the statue of Mithras slaying the bull (which has been lost), would have been illuminated.

In addition, during the winter and summer solstice, the sun would light up the north and south walls respectively.

Moreover, the position of the heavenly bodies at that time in the 2nd century reinforces the theory that the building was constructed for Mithraic worship, a religion that gave considerable importance to the constellations.

As the sun shines through the window during the spring equinox, Taurus rises to the East and Scorpio hides to the West. The opposite occurred during the autumn equinox.

Taurus and Scorpio were of special significance to the Mithraics. The main image of the cult is that of the God Mithras slaying a bull, and in the majority of these images there is also a scorpion stinging the animal’s testicles.

Other constellations such as Aquarius, Orion or Leo, which were also of significance in this religion, appear in the path of the sun in the equinoxes and solstices at that time.

Moreover, according to the authors, the Moon, although having a secondary role, may have lit up the face of Mithras with a full moon on nights near to the equinoxes.

Four stages of renovation

Apart from the window, the architecture of the original building has similarities to other Mithraic constructions.

Carrasco explained that it is “an underground structure, with a room divided into three chambers, with a shrine or altar illuminated by the window at the head. The presence of a fountain is also highly significant as these are commonly found in the Mithraeums.”

According to the authors, after its period as a Mithraic temple, the building was renovated three times, giving it new functions more in line with the functions of a necropolis. A burial chamber was built and at a later date, the roof was removed, leaving open courtyards. Lastly, it was filled with rubble and used as an area for burials.

However, there are some objections to the theory that it was a Mithraic temple as it is in a necropolis, an uncommon site for buildings used for this cult which were more often found in domestic, urban or rural environments.

“A similar case is that of Sutri (Italy) where the Mithraeum is on the outskirts of the town. The structure in Carmona is in a multi-purpose space, next to the Via Augusta which connected Cadiz to Rome, close to the amphitheatre and the circus, and consequently its position should not be considered an objection,” says Jiménez.

The Spanish source for the above (La Tumba del Elefante de Carmona pudo ser un templo al dios Mitra) includes a short Spanish-language video showing the alignments and the like rather effectively.

That said, it’s worth noting Vermaseren in Corpus cultus Cybelae attidisque (CCCA) 3 notes associations with the Cult of Cybele by other scholars …

Finding the site of the Battle of Baecula

Tip o’ the pileus to @PunicOctopus on twitter who alerted us (and the world) to this rather important study in Spain … from El Pais:

Año 208 aC. Los ejércitos romano y cartaginés, a las órdenes de Escipión el Africano y Asdrúbal Barca (hermano de Aníbal), están a punto de entablar batalla. Asdrúbal domina un cerro estratégico en el que se ha instalado ante la llegada de su enemigo. Las tropas de Escipión, que han acampado a unos cuatro kilómetros, atacan a los cartagineses: primero con la infantería ligera y luego con el grueso de su ejército, desplegando una maniobra de tenaza para rodear al ejército enemigo. Asdrúbal pierde el combate y huye, llevándose, eso sí, el tesoro y los elefantes. “Es la batalla de Baécula, una de las importantes de la Segunda Guerra Púnica, que enfrenta a las dos potencias del momento por el dominio del Mediterráneo, casi una guerra mundial”, apunta el arqueólogo Arturo Ruiz.

La historia, los detalles de esta batalla, la cuentan los historiadores romanos Polibio y Tito Livio. Pero, ¿dónde se libró exactamente? ¿Qué cerro era ese en el que se defendió Asdrúbal y atacó Escipión? ¿Por dónde avanzó uno y huyó el otro? Un equipo de arqueólogos de la Universidad de Jaén afirma haber descubierto el lugar del combate y encontrado el rastro de las tropas en sus movimientos sobre el terreno. Los investigadores están leyendo los vestigios directos para entender qué pasó. Lanzas, puntas de flecha y de jabalina, tachuelas de las sandalias, proyectiles de los honderos baleares que lucharon en las filas cartaginesas, broches de los ropajes, espuelas… incluso piquetas de las tiendas de acampada o los agujeros donde clavaron los de Asdrúbal la empalizada de protección, han salido a la luz en los últimos años. En total, estos arqueólogos han recuperado ya más de 6.000 objetos, dos tercios de ellos asociados al acontecimiento del 208 a C. Los ejércitos de las dos potencias, afirman, se enfrentaron en el cerro de Las Albahacas cerca de la actual localidad de Santo Tomé (Jaén), un lugar estratégico de acceso a la cuenca del Guadalquivir desde Cartago Nova (Cartagena) que Escipión había conquistado el año anterior. Asdrúbal estaba a tiro de las minas de cobre y plata de Cástulo. Una región importante para unos y para otros.

Es arqueología de una batalla, de un acontecimiento efímero, algo insólito en la tradición de unas investigaciones que suelen ocuparse de ciudades, templos, tumbas o infraestructuras que perduran durante siglos. “Hasta ahora solo se había excavado así una batalla de la antigüedad, la de Teotoburgo, en Alemania, de romanos contra los germanos, y es muy posterior, del año 9 aC.”, recalca Juan Pedro Bellón, del Instituto Universitario de Investigación en Arqueología Ibérica (Universidad de Jaén). “Hay alguna batalla excavada con una metodología similar, pero del siglo XIX, en concreto la de tropas estadounidenses contra indios en Little Big Horn, y algunos campamentos militares, pero nada más”, añade su colega Manuel Molinos. Por ejemplo, las batallas de Aníbal en Italia se sabe que fueron en Tesino, Trebia, Trasimeno y Cannas, pero no en qué sitio exactamente, dice Bellón, ni hay restos arqueológicos de ellas.

Con las detalladas descripciones de los historiadores romanos, los investigadores del Instituto de Jaén se plantearon, hace una década, encontrar los vestigios de la batalla de Baécula. “El general cartaginés recorría entonces los parajes de Cástulo, alrededor de la ciudad de Bécula, no lejos de las minas de plata. Informado de la proximidad de los romanos cambió de lugar su campamento y se procuró seguridad por un río que fluía a sus espaldas”, escribió Polibio. Y Tito Livio: “El ejército de Asdrúbal estaba cerca de la ciudad de Bécula y por la noche Asdrúbal replegó sus tropas a una altura. Por detrás había un río. La altura, que tenía una explanada en la parte más alta, por delante y por los lados ceñía todo su contorno una especie de ribazo abrupto”.

Los arqueólogos emprendieron una labor casi detectivesca para dar con el lugar de los hechos, con la ayuda de los textos clásicos y técnicas topográficas avanzadas, además de la observación directa sobre el terreno. “Schulten, en 1925, situó la batalla de Baécula al sur de Bailén, pero lo descartamos, porque la geografía no se ajustaba a las descripciones de Polibio y Tito Livio”, cuenta Arturo Ruiz, arqueólogo de la Universidad de Jaén que puso en marcha el proyecto de Baécula. También se habían propuesto otras localizaciones. Poco a poco, el equipo fue identificando posibles cerros y haciendo catas arqueológicas con detectores de metales, hasta que en el cerro de Las Albahacas empezaron a aparecer restos acordes con un enfrentamiento entre dos ejércitos. Desde 2006, realizan excavaciones en el lugar y participan en los estudios una veintena de expertos: topógrafos, numismáticos, conocedores de armamento antiguo, especialistas en paleoclima y en análisis químicos.

La investigación, financiada por el Plan Nacional de Investigación Científica, es una labor ardua y extensa. El teatro de operaciones se extiende por 400 hectáreas, aunque las prospecciones más intensas se centran en 20 hectáreas. Los arqueólogos han hecho decenas de transectos (líneas de prospección con los detectores de metales) y centenares de cuadrículas.

En el 209 a C los romanos han tomado Cartagena y, un año después entran en la zona del alto Guadalquivir, dominado por los cartagineses. Aníbal ha estado en ese territorio de importancia estratégica antes de dirigirse a Italia, recuerda Bellón. Y en la península Ibérica permanecen tres ejércitos cartagineses: dos de ellos al mando de los hermanos de Aníbal, Asdrúbal Barca y Magón Barca, y otro al mando de Asdrúbal Giscón. “La batalla de Baécula abre el control de la Bética a Roma y, en adelante, Andalucía será su almacén de aceite, trigo y minas de plata y plomo”, explica Ruiz. “Según una teoría, Escipión entra en Andalucía por Despeñaperros, pero nosotros sostenemos que lo hace por el valle del río Guadiana Menor”, apunta Bellón. Quiere evitar que Asdrúbal llegue a Italia para apoyar a su hermano Aníbal y, a la vez, evitar que se unan los otros dos ejércitos cartagineses.

La historia solo contaba con las fuentes de una de las partes en conflicto, explica Ruiz. “Y los romanos ensalzan a Escipión como gran estratega que planifica el movimiento envolvente de su ejército, que afronta la dificultad y dureza de la batalla de Baécula y que, al final, derrota a Asdrúbal”, comenta Bellón. Pero ahora los arqueólogos intentan leer directamente las pruebas para averiguar qué paso. Apenas aparecen en el cerro armas cortas, lo que indica que el enfrentamiento cuerpo a cuerpo fue limitado. Sin embargo, añade Bellón, hay muchas armas arrojadizas, como lanzas, flechas, proyectiles de los honderos baleáricos y dardos.

“Asdrúbal elige el cerro sabiendo que es un punto defensivo estratégico para defenderse y para preparar la huida”, continúa Bellón. “Los romanos establecen su campamento a unos cuatro kilómetros e, inmediatamente, fuerzan la batalla atacando a los cartagineses. Tienen desventaja teórica sobre el terreno ya que atacan cuesta arriba, pero tienen ventaja numérica”. No está claro cuántos hombres participaron en la batalla. Tito Livio habla de 70.000 (40.000 romanos y 30.000 cartagineses). Puede ser exagerado. Los arqueólogos de Jaén lo dejan en unos 15.000en total.

“Ni Polibio ni Tito Livio son contemporáneos de los hechos, y escriben basándose en la abundante documentación romana, aunque el primero, que nació en 200 a C, se considera una fuente más fidedigna porque escucharía datos de primera mano. De los cartagineses no hay testimonios porque la ciudad de Cartago fue arrasada al final de la Tercera Guerra Púnica, cuando los romanos finalmente se hicieron con el poder absoluto del Mediterráneo”, apunta Molinos.

Después de Baécula, Escipión permanece poco tiempo en el campamento del cerro que ha tomado al enemigo. Asdrúbal huye y llega a Italia, en el 207 a C. Una vez allí, envía dos emisarios a Aníbal, pero los romanos los interceptan y atacan: Asdrúbal muere en la batalla de Metauro.
El rastro de las tachuelas de sandalia

Las sandalias de los romanos, que no de los cartagineses, llevaban unos remaches de hierro en la suela de cuero, para proteger el material frente al deterioro del uso y para mejorar el agarre. Las tachuelas se desprendían. O el calzado quedaba abandonado por alguna causa. Entonces esas piezas, denominadas clavi caligarii, de un centímetro de diámetro aproximadamente y dos o tres milímetros de alto, con una punta curvada para sujetarlas al cuero, quedan sembradas por el campo. Para los expoliadores carecen de valor, así que permanecen en el lugar durante siglos, hasta convertirse en un tesoro para los arqueólogos.

“Hemos encontrado cientos de tachuelas en Baécula y, gracias a ellas hemos podido localizar no solo el campamento romano, su punto de partida, sino también el camino de unos cuatro kilómetros que recorrió el ejército de Escipión para atacar al enemigo en el cerro, así como la zona donde se desplegó y la batalla”, explica el arqueólogo Juan Pedro Bellón. Es una forma de arqueología dinámica importante, e incluso se han hecho estudios para estimar cuántas tachuelas perdería un soldado romano caminando, añade Bellón.

Las tachuelas salen ahora a la luz con los detectores de metales (apoyados con GPS para una localización exacta de cada pieza), y los arqueólogos de Baécula han analizado los resultados del barrido del territorio con ellos identificando las zonas de mayor densidad de tachuelas (campamentos y batalla) y piezas más dispersas en el camino. Cuando los investigadores han comparado la ruta que marca el rastro de las tachuelas con el mejor camino trazado sobre la topografía de la zona han visto que los romanos acertaron.

¿Y de los movimientos de los cartagineses? Puede haber un rastro de sus monedas, sus armas… El plan de investigación ahora es seguir a las tropas de Asdrúbal en la retirada y profundizar el conocimeinto del campo de batalla.

Folks whose Spanish is reasonable will want to visit the project webpage (Tras los pasos de Asdrúbal Barca: de Baecula al Metauro), which includes links to a number of papers spawned by the research. This sort of thing (and the techniques for locating the battefields and camps) is clearly something that can be used elsewhere …

UPDATE (a few minutes later): I note that Adrian Murdoch mentioned this article a few weeks ago (and we Blogosphered it) … still worth repeating though as AM links to a report in English. Why doesn’t this sort of thing get greater coverage in the English press?

Tegulae and Teratoma Burial from Spain

On the periphery of our period of purview, but darned interesting is a story from LiveScience … here’s a bit in medias res:

[...] Archaeologists found the woman buried in a necropolis near Lleida in the Catalonia region of Spain. They only found a few artefacts buried with her: tiles known as tegulae that had been put over her body to form a gabled roof.

“Tegulae graves were the most common Roman burials. She was not an important or rich person. She had a low socio-economic status,” Armentano explained.

The researchers note in their paper that while it’s possible the woman never experienced symptoms, it’s also possible that, despite the tumor being benign, it ultimately killed her.

“This ovarian teratoma could have been the cause of this woman’s death, because sometimes the development of teratomas results in displacement and functional disturbances of adjacent organs,” the researchers write. They note that infection, hemolytic anemia and pregnancy complications can also occur with an ovarian teratoma, events that could also have caused the woman’s death.

The tumor would not have changed her outward appearance, and researchers can’t tell for certain what affect it had on her, Armentano explained.

“We suppose that, at least during a long part of her life, she was completely unaware of this tumor. Depending on the eventual complications, she could have suffered, but there” is no evidence of this, writes Armentano. “She could have died because of many other causes!”

Despite that uncertainty, historical records do indicate that this woman lived in a time period of great change. King’s College London Professor Peter Heather notes in his book “The Fall of the Roman Empire” (Oxford University Press, 2006) that, by A.D. 411, Spain had been divided between groups known as the Vandals, Suevi and Alans. [...]

via:

The original article has a number of photos … there’s also a slideshow of additional photos which, curiously, doesn’t seem to be linked to from the original article.

Elite Myth Mosaic Use

This seems to be more covert hype for a(n interesting) book than ‘news’ per se (maybe not), but … from a Carlos III University of Madrid press release:

This line of research, coordinated by Luz Neira, who is a professor in the Department of Humanities: History, Geography and Art, as well as a researcher in UC3M’s Institute for Culture and Technology (Instituto de Cultura y Tecnología), continues on the path established by previous studies that examined the images of women and certain legends in Roman mosaics. “We had previously shown the memory and conscious, self-interested reuse of myths, but this new volume also examines the possibility that there is a subliminal message regarding the elites’ fundamental concept of the civilization versus barbarism binomial,” explains the historian, who was in charge of the coordination and publication of ‘Civilización y barbarie: el mito como argumento en los mosaicos romanos’ (‘Civilization and Barbarism: Myths as plots in Roman Mosaics’) (CVG, 2012). A variety of specialists in Roman mosaics also collaborated on this book, which offers a new perspective in the approach to mythology and its reuse throughout history, which was a result of “a conscious and self-interested phenomenon of re-semantization.”

Specifically, there are premeditated and conscious recreations of certain mythological characters and episodes from different areas of the Empire, which were selected and even distorted in order to generate a spirit, deepen principles, or recall the foundations upon which their privileged position within the Roman state had been established, the researchers explain. “They re-used certain Greek myths as symbols that reinforced what Rome stood for,” states Luz Neira, “because they were of transcendental importance, due to the universal values they depicted, and they became champions of civilization”.

The scene of Achilles in Skyros, one of the most frequently depicted among the mosaics of the imperial epoch and which can be found, for example, in the villa of La Olmeda (Palencia), seems to be intended to highlight the archetype of the hero who is capable of giving his life for his country. The legends of divinities such as Dionysius and Aphrodite, the Labors of Hercules, the Journeys of Perseus and the battles between Amazons and centaurs are some of the other mythological episodes that originated in Greece that the Romans appropriated as their own and converted into models to be followed. “The memory of a legendary war and a mythological hero would become with the passing of time, and even up to the present day, the phenomenon with the greatest impact on people and individuals; this is what led us to analyze the myth as the story of the struggle between civilization and barbarism,” concludes the researcher.

Historiography in mosaics

Until now, the concept of the civilization in the Roman Empire had been analyzed using written sources and official images found in public spaces, in sculptures or relieves of certain monuments, such as arcs, steles or commemorative columns. However, very little in-depth research had been done on the representation of these concepts in private spaces, perhaps due to their domestic character, the researchers point out. “We were surprised by the absence of references of this type in the form of mosaics, where due to their unusual circumstances of conservation in situ the mosaic documentation offers an authentic repertoire of tile work, with geometric, plant and human figure decoration, connected to the private domestic contexts that pertained to the most privileged sectors of Roman society in any urban or rural location of the Empire,” comments Professor Neira.

In this respect, according to this historian, it seemed unthinkable, a priori, that members of the elite, who were involved in the government and matters of the Empire, would not have made use of the significant surface area of the mosaics that paved the living spaces of their domus and villae to commemorate their victories and their identification with Rome as a guarantor of civilization as opposed to “barbarism”. “They did it,” states Luz Neira, “by depicting re-used myths that evoked the values that, from an ideological point of view, Rome wished to represent.”

Punic Amphora from Denia

Brief item from Euroweekly:

AN amphora dating back to the fourth century BC has discovered buried three metres deep in the ground near Denia port. Archaeologist Josep A Santonja Gisbert says the jar is in perfect condition and has identified it as ‘Punic’ a unique type that was produced in Ibiza between the years 400/375 and 300 BC. Linked to other similar discoveries found in settlements and underwater sites around the Iberian lift from Ampurias to Almeria, and the Balearic Islands, is clear evidence of the expansion of Eivissa wine and its consumption by the Iberian tribes. Its presence is particularly relevant as it fills an historical void connecting Iberian culture and settlements existing in the vicinity of Denia. A representative of the the Archaeological Museum of Denia said they were very grateful to Alvaro Gomez Ferrer who discovered the item and the local police for their collaboration in excavating the find. A full report will be compiled by the experts and issued to the Underwater Archaeology Centre of the Generalitat Valenciana.

The original article has a photo of the amphora … this find obviously predates the Roman occupation of the site (we heard of a Roman fish-salting factory there a while ago: Roman Salting Factory from Denia/Dianum) and probably comes from the time the place was a colony of Massilia(Strabo’s: Hemeroscopeium (3.4.6). For a press release (in Spanish) from Denia, which identifies the type more specifically as a PE14 amphora:

A Dozen Sets of Lorica Segmentata Found in Spain!!!

Saw this on Reddit … hopefully some of the English-speaking press reads rogueclassicism and checks into this … it is an exciting find:

La sede del CCAN, desalojada por el Ayuntamiento hace meses, escondía un auténtico ‘tesoro’ romano. Las excavaciones que se están llevando a cabo en el inmueble, que en el futuro se convertirá en aula arqueológica del León Romano, han sacado a la luz fragmentos de una veintena de corazas de soldados de la Legio VII. Una auténtica ‘mina’.

Unos hallazgos sin precedentes, según el arqueólogo municipal, Victorino García, «tanto por la cantidad como por la calidad de las armaduras que han aparecido». Y eso que apenas se ha excavado en una mínima parte en este lado del edificio, por lo que no se descartan nuevos descubrimientos en los próximos días, que convertirían a la Casona de Víctor de los Ríos en un enclave de excepcional valor.

En la parcela de 800 metros cuadrados que hay en la trasera del edificio ya aparecieron a finales de los años noventa las primeras pruebas de la existencia de la Legio VI. En aquella excavación se extrajo parte de la coraza de un legionario, que hoy puede contemplarse en una vitrina del Museo de León.

Hace un año los trabajadores de Decolesa, empresa que está restaurando el edificio de Puerta Castillo, descubrieron en el subsuelo de la Casona de Víctor de los Ríos una lucerna (lámpara de aceite) y restos de otras tres corazas romanas.

Ahora, en la parte de la Casona que ocupó durante décadas el CCAN, han aparecido importantes piezas de lorica segmentata, la armadura que utilizaban los soldados romanos.

Se trata de un tipo de coraza que supuso toda una revolución, porque se desmontaba con facilidad — soltando las hebillas y cierres, que se ajustaban con tiras de cuero—, era más cómoda de llevar, se podía guardar en un espacio más reducido y, por tanto, era más fácil de transportar, puesto que era posible separarla en cuatro secciones.

El nombre de la coraza que usaban los legionarios —lorica segmentata— hace alusión a la división en placas metálicas de la armadura que portaban las legiones en la época de máximo esplendor, ya que eran muy costosas y exigían hábiles herreros en su confección. Un hallazgo insólito

Para valorar la importancia de los hallazgos de Santa Marina hay que tener en cuenta que uno de los grandes hitos arqueológicos fue el descubrimiento, en 1964, en las excavaciones en Corbridge (Reino Unido), de fragmentos de tres loricas.

Sólo los legionarios, y a veces los pretorianos, llevaban armaduras como las halladas en la Casona de Víctor de los Ríos. Las fuerzas auxiliares, en cambio, portaban la lorica hamata (cota de malla) o la lorica squamata (armadura de escamas de metal superpuestas). Debido a su particular estructura, la construcción de la lorica segmentata era muy costosa; por ello, entre los siglos II y III, este tipo de armadura dejó de usarse.

Las obras en la futura sede del León Romano, que comenzaron hace siete años, se prolongarán hasta el 2013, después de que el Ministerio de Cultura haya habilitado una partida de 568.610 euros para el actual ejercicio y otros 654.258 euros para el próximo.

The gist is that archaeologists have found a dozen sets of armour of the lorica segmentata type from soldiers of the Legio VII (and maybe VI as well?) at Casona de Puerta Castillo. I can’t tell if it’s just armour they’ve found or whether there are bodies in it, but lorica segmentata was pretty darned expensive to produce in either case, so finding so many sets is a pretty major thing …

Roman Baths From Tarragona

I was hoping we’d get more info on this one from the Barcelona Reporter (a few days old already):

It seems the baths fell into disuse as the Roman city became busy and eventually became a habitat area, and a first dating points to the late start of V or VI century

Archaeological find Roman baths unearthed in Tarragona, but nothing yet

The earth works being carried out on Nau street, to replace the various public services, provided the new archaeological find, the Roman baths are located near Tarraco square Tarragona, reported local sources.

It seems the baths fell into disuse as the Roman city became busy and eventually became a habitat area, and a first dating points to the late start of V or VI century.

The remains are in good condition, and were just over one metre under the surface, it used hypocaust-heating with walls and pavement covered in opus signinum soil-mortar of lime and sand mixed with Small fragments of silicate rock.

The dating suggest something a bit outside of our purview, but we should note that we were previously aware of bath structures at Tarraco … see, e.g.,  The Tarraco Port Area Public Baths (the English translation of the conclusions follows the Spanish title page)

via Archaeological find Roman baths unearthed in Tarragona | Barcelona Reporter.

Roman Temple Find from Spain (maybe)

Something seems to be lost in translation (maybe not)  in this item from the Barcelona Reporter:

The work that has lasted three weeks have also brought to light several tombs and a Roman Christian who, according to experts, could belong to some bishops or individuals from that epoch

An ancient Roman temple, discovered following the first excavations in the chancel of the church of Sant Feliu Girona.

The temple, with cross-shaped plan, apse, three naves and two side chapels, and several tombs from the sixth and seventh centuries, have appeared

This intervention is part of the European project “Sopra e sotto. Euopea La Città”, the culture program involving the City of Brindisi (Italy) as main organizer, with participation as members of L’Ecole Nationale Superiore d ‘ Architetture of Toulouse (France), the University and the city of Girona.

The work that has lasted three weeks have also brought to light several tombs and a Roman Christian who, according to experts, could belong to some bishops or individuals from that epoch. Professor Josep Maria Nolla, archaeologist and head of the excavations, said human remains have not been found, suggesting that the bodies were moved elsewhere.

“A number of graves, fairly well preserved, were discovered but not a single human fragment”. The expert stressed that they found wood and nails, so someone had been buried in a coffin, but when they dismantled the old church to build the new, it seems they picked up all these skeletal remains and bury them elsewhere”.

The European project has benefited Girona as it focuses on finding solutions to some of the problems faced by medium sized cities in finding their past history and town planning where the exploitation of archaeological sites of interest are in the midst of urban fabric.

Some Spanish coverage from La Vanguardia also mention this temple in the shape of a cross, but that doesn’t seem Roman, does it? Perhaps they mean Byzantine/Late Roman?

via An ancient Roman temple, discovered in the chancel of the church of Sant Feliu Girona..

Ancient Port of Trafalgar

I’m hoping we’ll get more on this one, but many of these items reported by ANSA never seem to make it beyond ANSA’s own English coverage:

Searches along the Cadiz coast have led Spanish archaeologist Joaquim Casellas to find the ancient port of Trafalgar, 50 metres below the waves and partly buried at a depth of 15 metres below the sea floor. “This is one of the most important archaeological finds ever in Spain” said the Spanish researcher, who previously discovered some of the new rooms inside the pyramids of Cheops and Giza together with Zahi Hawass. In his research in Andalusia, Casellas has employed the airborne radar survey techniques also used in Egypt. The ruins of the port of Trafalgar, uncovered together with many archaeological finds, date back to a time before the Roman period. As Casellas explained to the press, they could go back to the era of the Phoenicians or even further. The port was found in the area of the Cape which give its name to the historic battle in 1805 in which Napoleon’s dream to conquer Britain was shattered. The site “has a surface of 15 by 3km” according to the archaeologist, “the submerged part is 50m under water, the land part is 15m below the surface.” Thanks to radar survey techniques, Castellas can now reveal that “the port is surrounded by a 30m-high wall,” with “a large-scale geometric layout similar to the pattern found in the ruins of Ampurias,” the Greek-Roman city in the Catalan region of Upper Empordà in Girona. According to the researcher, several buildings were constructed on the port in successive periods. Castellas has used aircrafts equipped with radar in his search, since diving in the area, a protected nature reserve, is not allowed. The radar used in the research can find signs of urbanisation as deep as 400m, and “was designed to survey large land masses with a fine-toothed comb.”The results of the air survey were superimposed on Google maps of area: “They make clear” the archaeologist said “the ancient port is shown in red, which stands out against the surrounding area, shown in green, littered with archaeological relicts and finds.” The method used, according to Castellas, “gives us a much wider and detailed view, enabling us quickly to find valuable archaeological sites at a lower cost per expeditions, which is the most complicated and costly parts of research.” Interest in Spain by marine archaeology has been reawakened in recent years, partly thanks to the find in 2007 of the half a billion dollars worth of golden and silver doubloons by the North American treasure hunting company Odyssey. But Castellas said, referring to the antique port of Trafalgar, that no old relicts or treasure chests will be brought to the surface. “To recover some of the treasures of the ancient civilisations” he explained “we need investments which are only possible with real political interest in archaeology.”

This Google Earth modification from ECD might give you a better idea of the nature of this find: