Thursday, July 7

Arrows, ‘pilum’ and irreducible Cantabrians: the Palentina Mountain returns copious material from a great Roman siege

Year after year, excavation after excavation, the La Loma castro, in Santibáñez de la Peña (Palencia), is becoming a source of abundant archaeological remains from what was one of the largest Roman sieges during the Cantabrian Wars.

Unlike other war episodes related to the domination of the unruly indigenous tribes (29-16 BC), the Roman siege of La Loma has no records in the classics of historiography, from Livio to Floro, but it does exist on the ground . The latest campaign by a team of archaeologists has brought to light dozens of vestiges of the siege by the armies of Augustus, who ended up destroying one of the most important indigenous ‘oppidum’.

The excavations began in 2003 and were carried out in two periods with a decade of interruption in between: 2003-2007 and 2017 to the present. The first period of excavation was directed by Eduardo Peralta. In the period that starts in 2017, the excavation is directed by the team of archaeologists made up of Peralta Labrador, Jesús F. Torres Martínez and Santiago David Domínguez-Solera.

These last two belong to Imbeac, the Monte Bernorio Institute for Studies of the Antiquity of the Cantabrian Sea, chaired by Torres Martínez, who is also its scientific director. Domínguez-Solera is also director of the research and dissemination office of Heroic Archeology and Cultural Heritage.

large siege

The events unfolded at the beginning of the military campaign to break the indomitable Cantabrians. This phase took place in the Montaña Palentina, at the foot of the Cantabrian Mountains, during the years 25 or 24 BC.

The siege was of great dimensions. Rome besieged the castro with a main camp, other secondary camps and forts, all of them linked by trenches and palisades. The ‘oppidum’ was finally razed to the ground and 2,000 years later, thousands of remnants of the fighting and settlement are still being dug out of the ground, mostly remains of weapons, arrowheads and other projectile weapons.

The Archaeological Zone of La Loma is made up of a spectacular and very well preserved Roman siege device around the indigenous settlement or castro of the territory of the Cantabrian Peoples (Camarians) in the North of Palencia, reports archaeologist Santiago David Domínguez-Solera.

The siege device was made up of a main camp (‘castra aestiva’) and several forts and secondary camps (two ‘castella’ have been located) linked together by contravallation and circumvallation fortifications. Finally, the indigenous ‘oppidum’ was stormed from the northwestern slope and razed to the ground, as has been archaeologically verified.

The archaeological work carried out by the Eduardo Peralta team between 2003 and 2007 served to recover part of the defensive structures of the indigenous castro, as well as part of those of the main Roman camp and the two secondary camps discovered so far. Very abundant material was also recovered, both indigenous and Roman military, generating one of the most important collections of war pieces for the Roman world in its time.

The objectives of the excavation are the musealization, the enhancement and the promotion of the Archaeological Zone of La Loma as a cultural and tourist resource of the first order of the municipality and the area in which it is integrated. During the ten years in which the deposits were not intervened, they were looted, damage that has been evaluated.

Between 2018 and 2021 new sectors of the outer perimeter of the wall have been excavated and close to one of the accesses at the point where the highest concentration of Roman arrow projectiles has been determined and where it has been confirmed that the final assault took place to the castro

It has also been possible to study the construction technique of the walls and their evolution over several centuries, said Dr. Domínguez-Solera, the latter being a reflection of the political, social and military boom of the cultures of the Second Iron Age in the Cantabrian Mountains before its conquest by Rome. “The review of materials from the first phase of research, the specific studies of ceramics and fauna, aerial photography, 3D topography and the publication of the results (at the informative and scientific level) complete the inventory of work undertaken”, he stated. .

future excavation

Excavation in the future will focus on the access system to the castro, with the road, the door, its corridor and the space or bottleneck behind the bastion. In this way, it is intended to understand “the complexity of the defensive system, at the same time that we will obtain data on the assault on this part. More data than we already have”, say the promoters of the project, who do not rule out seeing the entire area emerge one day.

The team of archaeologists is aware that they have an arduous task ahead of them, but they are convinced that in time the visitor will be able to access the entire original area. “We have excavated practically two thirds of the total. We think that the visit will even be able to enter the castro through the original door itself and understand everything better”, they assure.

The material that has been found has been deposited in the Museum of Palencia. At the same time, they are thinking of setting up a virtual museum on the Internet and that in the future the area will host an interpretation center with reproductions. The final decision will be made by the Santibáñez City Council, which is the promoter of this project. In any case, every year, before their delivery to the museum, the found materials are exposed to the public in open days.