Excavations at Catalonia’s Roman villa of Vilauba yield exceptional finds

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The continuing excavation campaign at the site of the Roman villa of Vilauba focused on two sectors of the site this year.

Excavations at Catalonia's Roman villa of Vilauba yield exceptional finds
Credit: Ajuntament de Banyoles

In the first, archaeologists found bone remains belonging to oxen between 4 and 5 years old that were sacrificed at the end of the first century AD. This finding, also of special importance, could provide further information on the consumption of meat during this period.




These bones were found in a large circular-shaped area about 20 metres in diameter and 2 metres deep after an anomaly was detected during geophysical prospecting. The inhabitants of Vilauba are believed to have dug a pit to extract argil during the renovation of the villa.

Excavations at Catalonia's Roman villa of Vilauba yield exceptional finds
Credit: Ajuntament de Banyoles

Once the hole was dug, it is believed that the bones of the slaughtered oxen were dumped in it. From the findings in this sector, it will be possible to study how the sacrifices were made during the period and the morphology of these animals. The discovery is also key to determining the importance of livestock farming in Vilauba for the villa’s economy.




“We work with the hypothesis that in this Roman villa, in addition to agricultural production, livestock husbandry was also very important for the economy. It supplied meat to the nearby markets, in cities such as Gerunda, while the left-overs were used for consumption by the inhabitants of the villa”, explains the co-director of the excavation, Pere Castanyer. “It is estimated that around 25 people could have lived there, including the servants and all the workers that the owners had.”

Excavations at Catalonia's Roman villa of Vilauba yield exceptional finds
Credit: Ajuntament de Banyoles

The most outstanding finds of this campaign come from the second sector of excavation, centred on a small well located in the villa’s courtyard. These excavations are the continuation of the intervention begun in 2019, which involves the removal of the most superficial levels of soil.




The well has a circular base, just over one metre in diameter, and at a depth of 6.60 metres, with stones joined together in the form of a dry stone wall. It was built during the Late Imperial Period (4th to 5th centuries AD) and remained in use at least until the 6th century AD.

Excavations at Catalonia's Roman villa of Vilauba yield exceptional finds
Credit: Ajuntament de Banyoles

“The well, unlike conventional terrestrial archaeology, since its water table is very high, has meant that all the remains inside are extraordinarily well preserved,” explains Castanyer. “In this sense, not only have the remains of seeds from carbonized crops been found, but also in their natural state as leaves from the trees, which will allow us to study the vegetation, the crops around the house, and the activities that took place in the courtyard where the well is located,” says Castanyer.




“The great surprise has been in finding many remains of wooden elements that were deposited inside the well and have been preserved intact”, continues Castanyer. “Among the wooden items discovered is part of a cartwheel, a boxwood comb and a wooden shovel. Other finds include pottery and objects made of leather, most notable of which is a whole shoe which still has the laces and straps to fix it to the ankles, as well as some leather pouches.”

Excavations at Catalonia's Roman villa of Vilauba yield exceptional finds
Credit: Ajuntament de Banyoles

The archaeological work in Vilauba has been carried out during the months of March and July of this year and forms part of the activities programmed in the current Quadrennial Project of Archaeological Research approved by the Generalitat de Catalunya.

The project is entitled ‘Dynamics of rural population, architecture, economy and landscape of the villages in the area of Pla de l’Estany – Garrotxa between the 2nd and 1st centuries BC and the 7th and 8th centuries AD (2018-2021)’ and is endorsed by the Archaeological Museum of Banyoles.

Source: Ajuntament de Banyoles [trsl. TANN; July 10, 2020]

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