Category Archives: SPAIN

Family discover ‘perfectly preserved’ Roman tomb hidden beneath a home in southern Spain

Family discover ‘perfectly preserved’ Roman tomb hidden beneath a home in southern Spain

In Carmona, a city near Seville, Andalusia, a family made a remarkable discovery during building work on their houses.

They were stunned when they knocked a wall down the patio of their townhouse to find a small arched opening that led to an underground to a funerary chamber dating from the first century AD.

They found eight niches in the room, six of whom were occupied by funerary urns or chests containing what is thought to be human remains dating back more than 2,000 years.

An archaeological team dispatched by the town council to examine the site described it as “perfectly preserved” and said it was the most important discovery made in the area for decades.

Juan Manuel Román, an archaeologist employed by the council, emphasized “the outstanding importance of the discovery”.

“It’s been 35 years since a tomb was found in such a magnificent state of conservation,” he said, adding that it didn’t appear to have suffered any deterioration over the centuries since it was sealed.

“There is barely two fingers worth of sedimentation,” he added.

An initial study suggests the funerary urns are made of different limestones and glass and are sealed in protective lead casings. 

Vessels associated with funerary rights, including unguentaria (small bottles used to contain perfume or oil) and glass dishes where offerings would have been made, were also undamaged within the tomb.

The walls of the chamber are decorated with a geometric grid and there are inscriptions on three of the niches, perhaps indicating the name of those interred within. 

José Avilés, 39, the owner of the house, who is known by neighbours as Pepe, told local media that he was astounded by the discovery. “We never imagined when we were building an extension to the house that we should find such a thing,” he said.

“It’s all happened very quickly but our intention is to keep the chamber open, preserve it and protect it and somehow incorporate into the house,” he said.

“But we’ll have to see what the archaeological teams say,” he added. 

Work immediately started by the council’s archaeology department who said the artifacts found in the tomb would be closely studied and then go on display in the town’s archaeological museum.

Carmona, known as Carmo in Roman times, was one of the most important cities in Roman Spain and today is home to one of the most interesting Roman-era archaeological sites; the Roman Necropolis, a collection of over 300 tombs

Paleolithic ‘Sanctuary’ Containing Rock Art From 15,000 Years Ago Discovered in Spain

Paleolithic ‘Sanctuary’ Containing Rock Art From 15,000 Years Ago Discovered in Spain

Archeologists have discovered a treasure trove of fossil rock art that is 15,000 years old in the autonomous region of Catalonia, Spain. In an investigation, the engravings were found on cave walls. The art is believed to prove that the site once was a religious sanctuary or shrine.

Some of the caves, in October 2019 were investigated by a team of scientists headed by Assistant Professor Joseph María Vergès of the University of Rovira I Virgili.

They had just resumed their work after some serious flooding in the area and were working on a cave known as the Font Major, which is not far from the hamlet of L’Espluga de Francolí. In particular, they were investigating the cave to establish its archaeological potential, and what they found was breathtaking.

The team stumbled across the carvings on October 30, 2019, after resuming investigations following a bout of flooding. They decided not to make the find public until it was secured, to ensure it was not destroyed

They found around 100 examples of rock art, which are mostly examples of abstract art. Also found were some 40 images that represented animals including deer, horses, and oxen, which once inhabited this part of Europe. Catalan News quotes Prof. Vergès as stating that “we made a fortuitous, extraordinary and unexpected discovery.”

The sheer number and the quality of the art mean that they are an important discovery and are invaluable for researchers. Newsweek reports that “the team says the engravings were produced on a layer of soft, sandy silt.” The art was found in a difficult to access part of the Font Major cave. The team did not immediately announce the discovery to the public as they wanted to secure and study the site first.

Paleolithic rock art of horse found in Font Major Cave near L’Espluga de Francolí.

The ancient art is the oldest that has been found in Catalonia, and there is nothing else like them in the region. The team relied on a study of their style, which revealed the majority of the images date to around 13,000 BC and comes from the “Upper Paleolithic, and more specifically to the Magdalenian period,” according to El Periodico.

It is believed based on an analysis of their style that some could be even older, while others come from the later Neolithic period. The Catalan Institute of Archaeology (IPHES), stated that the discovery was “a milestone in the history of Catalan archaeology,” reports Newsweek.

More rock art found in Font Major Cave near L’Espluga de Francolí.

The archaeologists believe that the cave was once a shrine or a religious sanctuary. It is likely that religious and other ceremonies were held at the site.

The artworks may have had some magical or spiritual significance for the Stone Age people who created them. Given the various styles of the images, it would appear that the site was considered sacred for a considerable time.

Catalan News reports Prof. Vergès as saying that “the sanctuary may have even been bigger but that some of the engravings had in fact been erased by human activity.” In the past, the cave was part of an adventure trail. Many visitors had touched and drew graffiti on the walls with the engravings and had unwittingly destroyed the Stone Age art.

The shrine or sanctuary cannot be visited because of the small size of the cave and especially because of the delicateness of the rock art. Newsweek states that “the archaeologists say that the engravings can be easily damaged or destroyed with even minimal contact.” Therefore, it is highly unlikely that the shrine will ever be open to the public.

However, experts from IPHES and the regional Catalan Culture Ministry are working to record the ancient images.  They are using 3D scanning equipment to record the prehistoric art, and this will enable them to be studied without them being put at risk. It is hoped that the 3D scans, which will be in high resolution, will one day be made available to the public and allow for the sanctuary to be digitally recreated. Visitors will hopefully have an opportunity “to view a projection of the sanctuary in 3D,” according to the Catalan News.

The Catalan government has announced that the cave will be declared a cultural asset, which means that it will be protected by law.

Spain is home to some of the world’s most important examples of prehistoric rock art and engravings, such as those at Altamira and El Castillo, which have some of the earliest known. Indeed, the country is home to the greatest number of documented rock art sites in the world.

Researchers Will Search for Spanish Treasure Ship

Researchers Will Search for Spanish Treasure Ship

Nearly 400 years after storms sent one of Spain’s greatest treasure galleons on to the sea outside Mexico, archaeologists from the two countries are to renew their search for the ship and its precious cargo of gold, silver, and jewels.

According to the storm hit, the omens for the Nuestra Señora del Juncal’s return voyage in October 1631 were decidedly ill. A day before the fleet of which it was a part set sail from Mexico, its commander died. The ships pressed on even though the Juncal was in a poor state of repair and taking on water.

It is hoped the project will be a training ground for young underwater archaeologists.

After weathering a fortnight’s storms, cutting the main mast and tossing cannons and other heavy objects overboard in a desperate attempt to lighten the ship, the crew could do no more. Of the 300 people on board, 39 survived by climbing into a small launch.

In May, underwater archaeologists from Spain and Mexico will begin a 10-day search for the Juncal. It is hoped that the work will be just the beginning of a two-decade-long scientific and cultural collaboration.

The joint project, which comes six years after Spain and Mexico signed a memorandum of understanding over their shared underwater cultural heritage, aims not only to locate and protect the Juncal but also to train a new generation of Latin American underwater archaeologists.

Dr. Iván Negueruela, the director of Spain’s National Museum of Underwater Archaeology, has been working closely with Roberto Junco, the deputy director of underwater archaeology at Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History. Negueruela said the team had done its calculations and the chances of finding the ship were looking very promising.

“Because the cargo was so valuable – it was carrying lots of ingots – the authorities had a detailed inventory,” he said. “The survivors were also questioned in-depth and their statements help us to reconstruct what happened with quite a high degree of accuracy, so we have a fairly good idea of where the ship sank.”

The Juncal is thought to have been carrying between 120 and 150 tonnes of precious materials, dwarfing the 14 tonnes of cargo recovered from another Spanish wreck, the Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes, in 2007.

Negueruela said the Juncal was transporting riches beyond silver and gold from the New World, among them cacao, dyes and animal hides. Anything organic is unlikely to have survived four centuries of sitting in saltwater, however.

The priority from an archaeological point of view is securing the site and carrying out a methodical, exhaustive and transparent excavation. “When you have a cargo of such extraordinary riches, you’ve got to be totally transparent about what you’re doing, whether you bring up two tonnes of silver or a single silver spoon,” said Negueruela.

“We also want this to serve as a training ground for young underwater archaeologists from Latin America so that countries don’t find themselves at the mercy of pirates and treasure-hunting companies. There will be grants to allow two or three young archaeologists to come out with us each year to train.”

The idea is that within eight or 10 years there will be a group of young, well-trained archaeologists in each country where they’re needed.

“We older archaeologists are running out of time and we need to train up young archaeologists so that we can leave the seabed in good hands,” said Negueruela.

For him, the Juncal’s true riches are not its cargo but the vessel itself – and the chance, for once, to get to a wreck before the treasure hunters do.

“I’m really keen to discover exactly how the ship was constructed and to see how the bulkheads and the decks were put together,” he said.

“We’ve seen that with Mary Rose and the Vasa in Sweden. I want to know exactly how a galleon looked in the first half of the 17th century, and that’s fundamental: where were the sleeping quarters, the stores, the latrines, the eating areas. We know about them from drawings from the archives from the 16th to 18th centuries but we’ve never excavated them. This is such a rich source of information.”

Construction Workers Stumble Across Old Pots With 1,300 Pounds Of Ancient Roman Coins Inside

Construction Workers Stumble Across Old Pots With 1,300 Pounds Of Ancient Roman Coins Inside

Building companies discovered a hoard of bronze Roman coins concealed in jugs in Tomares, Spain during this week.

19 pottery jugs were discovered in the Zaudin Park when the workers digged ditches. The urns were packed with coins showing an emperor on one side and various depictions of Roman stories on the back reported the Spanish newspaper, El Pais.

According to the Archeological Museum of Seville, where the treasure was carried, the coins weigh more than 1,300 pounds date back to the third or fourth centuries.

The workers were digging a ditch to run electricity to a park when they came across these old-looking pots. These pots are actually called amphoras, and they were made during the time when Rome ruled much of Europe.
There actually turned out to be 19 of these amphoras in the area. All of them were full the brim with bronze Roman Empire coins.
The weight of the coins totaled about 1,300 pounds! There was quite a bit of these thing.

Ana Navarro Ortega, who heads the museum, said that 10 of the jugs broke during the dig.

“I can assure you that the jugs cannot be lifted by one person because of their weight and the quantity of the coins inside,” she said. “So now what we have to do is begin to understand the historical and archaeological context of this discovery.”

Why so many coins would be hidden in jugs raises interesting questions for archaeologists and historians.

Investigators floated the hypothesis that the money was set aside to pay imperial taxes or army levies, reported El Pais. The jugs appeared deliberately concealed underground, covered by a few bricks and ceramic fillers, according to the Andalusian department of culture.

Richard Weigel, a professor of ancient Greece and Rome at Western Kentucky University, told the PBS NewsHour that the coins likely were buried during an era of “great discord in the Roman empire.”

The central authority in Rome broke down in the middle of the third century, he said. Germanic tribes invaded the country from time to time, in addition to other challenges to the various emperors.

Once the coins are thoroughly examined by researchers, they will be placed into the Seville Archeological Museum for everyone to enjoy.
It’s amazing that these amphoras and coins survived hundreds of years buried underground.

The part of southern Spain where the coins were discovered would have been considered a distant land to emperors before it became a normal part of the Roman Empire, said, Weigel.

“The suggestion that they were collected to pay taxes to the Roman Empire is, of course, possible,” he said. “But I suspect that they could have been stored to pay one of the Roman legions in the area and to hide the money from invaders in the region.”

Once the emperors on the coins are identified, he continued, it should be easier to date the coins and put them in the context of military activities and invasions.