16 June 2024 The Future is the Product of the Past

Archaeologists have uncovered oldest Roman forum in Hispania, at the site of a named unknown city

Archaeologists have uncovered an ancient Roman forum from more than 2,000 years ago at the site of an unknown city in the municipality of El Burgo de Ebro in northeastern Spain.

Excavations by the Institute of Heritage and Humanities of the University of Zaragoza, co-directed by Alberto Mayayo and Borja Díaz, have found the forum — the most important part of a Roman city and where its most prominent political and religious institutions were located — which is considered the oldest ever unearthed in the interior of Spain.

The name of this Roman city on the banks of the Ebro is unknown, though some experts believe it could be Castra Aelia, a second-line Roman camp that became a city with a large forum after the defeat of the Celtiberians in Numancia.

The city, which was first built as a military camp, only existed for a brief period of time because evidence suggests that it was obliterated during a conflict known as the Sertorian Wars in the early first century B.C.

Archaeological work at the La Cabañeta site in the municipality of El Burgo de Ebro, northeastern Spain. Photo: University of Zaragoza

The Sertorian War was a bloody military conflict that took place in Hispania, between the years 82 B.C. and 72 B.C. and between the two factions that disputed power in Rome: the populares of Quintus Sertorius and the optimates of Quintus Caecilius Metellus and Gnaeus Pompeyus Magnus.

“This dramatic event has contributed to making [La Cabañeta] one of the key sites for knowledge of the Roman presence in the interior of the Iberian Peninsula” in this period, Unizar Borja Díaz, co-director of the recent excavations at the University of Zaragoza, Spain, said in a press release.

Borja Díaz: “It was a city laid out in a grid using orthogonal urban planning. Furthermore, a significant number of Latin inscriptions made on ceramics and other supports have been found, which shows that the people who lived there wrote and spoke in Latin. The city’s main function was possibly to serve as an entry and redistribution point for goods arriving by the river. What is certain is that around the year 70, only six or seven decades after it was built, it was razed, as demonstrated by the levels of fire that have been detected and the abundant archaeological material abandoned by its inhabitants. We do not even rule out finding human remains.”

Roman inscription on the pavement promoting renovation works commissioned by a merchants’ association. Photo: University of Zaragoza

This year’s excavations have focused on the central part of the site, where the team has uncovered the remains of an enormous plaza.

The plaza is framed by a portico and surrounded by a series of rooms that opened onto it, which may have been used for commercial activities.

In the central part of the site, between the thermal baths and the warehouses, is the forum. “It is a large porticoed plaza,” adds Díaz, “onto which a series of rooms probably intended to serve as commercial premises opened.” According to the expert, it must have had “a monumental appearance.” “This is a find of exceptional importance, not only because of its dimensions and architectural complexity, but because it is the oldest civic square found in the interior of the Iberian Peninsula to date, whose discovery will contribute to radically transforming our knowledge of the initial phase of the spread of Roman architectural models in Hispania,” he said.

A special decorative roof tile called an ‘antefix’ from La Cabañeta Photo: University of Zaragoza

The main function of the city that once stood at La Cabañeta may have been an entry and redistribution point for goods arriving by the river, Borja Díaz told El País.

“We are in a very old site. The existence of similar monumental complexes with this age is not common—not even in Italy, where there are few cities that provide such a clear image of Roman urbanism of the 2nd century B.C. It provides us with a valuable picture of the formative phase of the plaza forum model that would end up being standardized” in later periods, Borja Díaz told Spanish media outlet El País.

Although some experts think it might be related to the settlement of Castra Aelia that is mentioned in historical sources, the name of the ancient Roman city is still unknown.

University of Zaragoza

Cover Photo: Aerial view of La Cabañeta thermal baths. University of Zaragoza

Related Articles

12 tombs with Beautiful Decorations and Carved Bricks from the period of Kublai Khan, the grandson of Genghis Khan, found in China

22 May 2023

22 May 2023

China has a rich history. In addition to the fossil records from the Paleolithic Period, the country has witnessed the...

In the “Siberian Valley of the Kings”, archaeologists have discovered a burial mound containing ornate treasures dating back 2,500 years

20 January 2022

20 January 2022

A Polish-Russian team of archaeologists, excavating in the “Siberian Valley of the Kings” have announced the discovery of a burial...

1800-year-old statue head found in Ancient Smyrna Theater in western Turkey

30 July 2022

30 July 2022

A statue head dated to the 2nd century AD was unearthed during the excavations at the Ancient Smyrna Theater, located...

Three Strange Skull Modifications Discovered in Viking Women

31 March 2024

31 March 2024

In recent years, research has provided evidence for permanent body modification in the Viking Age. The latest of these investigations...

During roadwork in Oregon, a woolly mammoth tusk was discovered

21 June 2021

21 June 2021

A 12,000-year-old woolly mammoth tusk was discovered beneath the street by crews rerouting a gas line in Corvallis, Oregon. “Whenever...

2700-year-old Assyrian carvings found near Mashki Gate destroyed by Isis

20 October 2022

20 October 2022

The U.S. and Iraqi archaeologists have unearthed ancient rock carvings believed to be more than 2,700 years old in Iraq’s...

Israeli researchers uncover earliest evidence silver used as currency in Levant

9 January 2023

9 January 2023

On Sunday, Israeli archaeologists revealed that they had found the earliest proof of silver being used as money in the...

Scandinavia’s Oldest Identified Ship Burial in Trøndelag “Rewrites History”

14 November 2023

14 November 2023

In Leka, a municipality in Norway’s Trøndelag county, archaeologists have uncovered Scandinavia’s oldest identified ship burial, dating back to around...

Grain Barns dating back 6,000 years unearthed in China

15 December 2022

15 December 2022

Chinese archaeologists have revealed a cluster of 16 ancient granaries that traced back to the mid-late period of the Yangshao...

Researchers find evidence of the destruction of the Second Temple at the hands of Roman soldiers

29 July 2023

29 July 2023

Israeli researchers find evidence of the destruction of the Second Temple at the hands of Roman soldiers. The discovery of...

19 funerary tombs from Roman times were discovered in Tartus, Syria

27 May 2022

27 May 2022

During search and excavation operations in the archaeological area of Amrit in Tartus, Syria, a joint excavation team from the...

Archaeologists Discovered a New Pyramid Resembling Teotihuacán in Tikal

17 April 2021

17 April 2021

Researchers discovered a new pyramid complex in the Tikal in Guatemala. About 65 km south of El Mirador in the...

Unexpected Origins of Mysterious Mummies Buried in Boats in a Chinese Desert

17 February 2024

17 February 2024

In 1990, hundreds of mummified bodies were found buried in boats in an inhospitable desert area in the Xinjiang Uyghur...

Ancient Mythical Castle “Sörby Borg” Discovered on Swedish Island Creates Archaeological Sensation

4 August 2021

4 August 2021

A text from the early 18th century mentions the castle, which has become a bit of a legend. It has...

A Rare Late Neolithic Period Seal found in Domuztepe Mound

25 August 2022

25 August 2022

A rare Late Neolithic Seal was discovered during the 2022 excavations of the Domuztepe Mound (Domuztepe Höyük), located on the...