sábado, 4 de marzo de 2017

Press release (English): The archaeological survey, and especially the GeoRadar techniques used, actually confirms the location of the Roman civitas of Caraca in Cerro de la Virgen de la Muela (Driebes, Guadalajara, Central Spain)

In the autumn of 2016 a research team led by Emilio Gamo Pazos and Javier Fernández Ortea carried out an intensive geotechnical and archaeological prospection project at the Cerro de la Virgen de la Muela, placed at the village of Driebes (province of Guadalajara, Central Spain) in the shire of Alcarria Baja. Based on this purpose, a interdisciplinary research group was formed and it was composed by the Ph.D. and professional archaologists Jerónimo Sánchez Velasco, David Álvarez Jiménez and Saúl Martín González and the professional aid of the Centro de Arqueometría y Análisis Arqueológico (C.A.I.) as well as the Departamento de Física de la Tierra, Astronomía y Astrofísica I (department section of Astronomy and Geodesy) in the Universidad Complutense de Madrid. The prospection was financed by the Regional Government of Castile-La Mancha, the Driebes City Council and the Association of Friends of the Museum of Guadalajara. Likewise, it's necessary to emphasize the kindness of the landowners who permitted the progress of this research. The archaeologists knew beforehand the possibilities of this enquiry because of the finding of the impressive Driebes Hoard in 1945. In this year the Estremera Canal at the Tagus River was built and as a result of this work it was found a 13.8 Kg. silver hoard composed of 1480 fragments of bullion silver, ingots, vessels, jewellery, torch, brooches, torcs and coins. This hoard has been dated at the late IIIrd century BC and nowadays is exhibited at the Museo Arqueológico Nacional (Madrid). Subsequently, several archaeological surface surveys were done in this place in the eighties decade by Professors Jorge Sánchez-Lafuente and Juan Manuel Abascal. These professors implied that this place was an important Roman site and they theorized it could be the ancient city of Caraca, mentioned in several ancient sources, such as Ptolemy and others.

The prospection began with a desktop research. These scholars analysed the secondary bibliography, aerial and satellite images, historical cartography and photography, and as well as local toponymy. The field survey was performed in two stages. In the first one, the archaeologists fieldwalked in regular grids or transects and they collected archaeological materials found on surface and subsequently such pieces were georeferenced (mostly these fragments were pottery shards but there were also fragments of plaster paintings). In the second stage a 600 MHz frequency band's 3D multi-channel array system GeoRadar capable of scanning depth in the soil up to 1-1.5 m. was utilised in one hectare. It was also used a drone to get a topographical survey. Both phases were complementary because they gave meaning to each other in terms of the information provided. The team awaited a good result but the final outcome amply exceeded the expectations as the research team's forthcoming scientific publications will address.

The outcome is illuminating: there is a city in there. Its urban development is well defined according to the Roman tradition. The GeoRadar clearly shows a Roman civitas, its public spaces, a porticoed forum, its kardo and decumanus, that is, the main avenues, a possible macellum or market and perhaps some thermae or baths, besides of a dense layer of insulae (household blocks). These remains overlap each other so several chronological periods can be discerned. On the other hand, perhaps the parish of the Virgen de la Muela, the Virgin of Driebes, which was built in the XVIth century and currently in a ruinous state, being built maybe upon an ancient temple.

The shards of pottery found by the archaeologists suggest the chronology of the place. The oldest remains belong to the Later Bronze Age, that is, at the dawn of the 1st millenium BC, becoming a big Carpetanian (II Iron Age) settlement that controlled this segment in the fertile Tagus basin. After the Roman conquest, the site was still inhabited and, according to the discoveries, it was consequently transformed into a municipium till the town came to an end in the 2nd century AD.

Another confirmatory fact is represented by the discovery of an unknown aqueduct of at least three kilometres long, closely similar to the one located in the nearby Roman city of Segobriga. Its conserved conduit, made of opus caementicium (Roman concrete), is 112 meters long and its headwater is connected to the Lucos spring, a stream also located in Driebes. This very name comes from the polysemic Latin word Lucus that means basically a sacred forest. The construction of this kind of public works goes in line with the monumentalization of the space and its promotion to a Roman municipality. As a final remark on this matter, a lot of major decorated ashlar stonework pieces have been detected. These blocks could belong, maybe, to former public buildings. On the other hand, the remains of the ancient road that connected the city, respectively, Southwards and Northwards with Segobriga and Complutum, that is, the so-called Complutum-Carthago Nova Roman via.

So, this research team has verified the existence of an urban centre and they identify it as Caraca, a Roman place which position has implied rivers of ink flow since the time of the great humanist scholars up to now. Although some researchers have considered that this ancient site was to be found in other towns in the province of Guadalajara (such as Taracena), or even Carabaña or Perales de Tajuña in the region of Madrid, the geographical placement of the site agrees with the information provided by Ptolemy and chiefly by a Later Antique itinerary, the Anonymous Cosmographer of Ravenna who located Caraca between the cities of Segobriga (Saelices, Cuenca) and Complutum (Alcalá de Henares, Madrid) in the referred road which Southern end lied in Carthago Nova, one of the most important harbours in Roman Hispania. This road was based fundamentally in the mining and transport of one of the main products exported from the Spanish Central Plateau to the Roman Empire: the lapis specularis, a secondary gypsum translucent mineral used to make Roman windows. This trade was highly profitable until the generalization in the use of glass in the 2nd century AD caused its ruin. Precisely, the researchers relate this fact somehow to the end of the city. On the other hand, it was also important to Caraca the use made of the fertile agricultural lands in the Tagus basin in addition to esparto grass gathering. This is a native perennial grass, highly common in these lands, abundantly utilised in Antiquity to make cords, ropes, basketry, etc...

To confirm the hypothesis developed at the beginning stages of the research process and the results produced by the use of the technologies applied, it is necessary to undertake the next step. So, the archaeologists would be pleased into continue this current year with a very first campaign of archaeological excavations to broaden the knowledge acquired around this relevant archaeological site. This settlement is exceptional to strengthen the understanding of the Roman presence in the Spanish heartland, the Inner Plateau. On the other hand, the study of the civitas of Caraca means a great opportunity not only for scientific purpouses, but also to promote the socio-cultural and economic development of the Alcarria shire and thus, for the province of Guadalajara.

Relevant quotes about this project:

- Mr. Pedro Rincón Arce, mayor of Driebes: "In Driebes there is a huge expectation and excitation concerning the archaeological project. It's always been said there was in that place some archaeological remains. On the other hand, we want to thank the owners of the place for their collaboration in the progress of the research project".

- Mrs. Teresa Sagardoy Fidalgo. Archaeologist in the Regional Government of Castile-La Mancha: "This is one of the most relevant findings in Guadalajara in the last years".

- Mr. Fernando Aguado Díaz, Museo de Guadalajara's Director: "The strength of the approach of the project presented by the research team directed by Emilio Gamo Pazos and Javier Fernández Ortea led to the Association of Friends of the Museum of Guadalajara to support it from the beginning. Even though this is an early stage of the research, the data offered by the Geophysical prospection transform the knowledge held around the Roman presence in our province and complete the map of the territorial organisation of Roman Hispania. We just need to wait for fieldwork and excavation results to complete the Roman collection of our Museum so we can illustrate and produce an expositive discourse in order to make more comprehensible this cultural phase".

- Mrs. Teresa Chapa Brunet. Professor of Prehistory, Director of the Research Support Centre for Archaeometry and Archaeological Analysis (C.A.I.), Universidad Complutense de Madrid: "The geophysical methods are presently indispensable with regard both to research and the management of the archaeological heritage. The use of tools as the 3D GeoRadar allow to detect with precision buried structures that nowadays are impossible to see. This is what happens at the Driebes' archaeological site, where under the plough field we can "watch" squares, streets and Roman households. With this information in mind, archaeological activity can focus on their goals more efficiently regarding both excavations and the conservation of the remains in danger. Otherwise, the finds run the risk of being ruined".

- Mrs. María Luisa Cerdeño, lecturer of Prehistory and archaeologist, Universidad Complutense de Madrid: "It's important to highlight the significance of this discovery. It has been found almost intact so it can provide worthy information concerning the contact between the Iron Age Carpetanian natives and the Roman conquerors and, subsequently, their later cultural development. The interest of the place lies in its long cultural sequence from the Later Bronze Age, passing through the Iron Age Carpetanians until, as we said, the Romanisation process and its integration in the political, economical and cultural Roman zone of influence".


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