Roman weapons found in Albacete: helmets, swords, daggers and highly prized shields


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Libisosa is located next to present-day Lezuza, a municipality located to the west of the city of Albacete. In this privileged area civilizations such as the Iberian, Roman and medieval have left their mark. The abundance of water and its geostrategic factor attracted the Romans in 180 BC, when Rome was still a Republic.

Roman weapons found in Albacete: helmets, swords, daggers and highly prized shields
Iron helmet of the generic Montefortino type and a 21-centimetre triangular
iron plate found at the site [Credit: HĂ©ctor Uroz, Gladius]

The Romans, in addition to occupying the peninsula, also brought with them a series of internal conflicts. And Libisosa was witness to their outcome. Between 82 BC and 72 BC, the first Roman civil war took place, known as the Sertorian War. Quintus Sertorius had proclaimed himself proconsul (governor) of Hispania Citerior, and the Optimates (senators and large landowners who violently opposed the Gracchi) led by Quintus Caecilius Metellus Pius and Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus faced him over the course of a decade.

In this sense, the city of Libisosa was essential for securing the passage from the Meseta to Andalusia and from the Levante to Extremadura and Portugal, and therefore instrumental in the conquest of the Iberian Peninsula. Archaeologists and historians have been studying this historic area in the field for decades. Throughout this time, they have found all kinds of pottery vessels, dishes, bowls, goblets or imported luxury ceramics that demonstrate the importance of this archaeological site.

Roman weapons found in Albacete: helmets, swords, daggers and highly prized shields
a) Map showing the location of Libisosa; b) surface of the archaeological area and topography
of the excavated sectors; c) planimetry of the Ibero-Roman quarter (Sectors 3 and 18)
[Credit: HĂ©ctor Uroz, Gladius]

Excavations at Libisosa are ongoing and now, thanks to Fernando Quesada, Professor of Archaeology at the Autonomous University of Murcia, and HĂ©ctor Uroz, Professor of Ancient History at the University of Murcia, we can learn a little more about this enclave. Together they have published an article in the academic journal Gladius, where they show the latest armament findings that shed light on this troubled period. 

This ancient Roman city stands out for the “excellent preservation of its structures and materials”, and the results of the discoveries compiled in recent years are published for the first time.

Roman weapons found in Albacete: helmets, swords, daggers and highly prized shields
Offensive weaponry. Weapons wielded: a) sword LB 152140; b) sword LB 130597;
c) dagger LB 152201; d) dagger LB 152382 [Credit: HĂ©ctor Uroz, Gladius]

The findings oscillate mainly between the pre-Roman period, where military equipment of the Oretan people and weapons of the Republic of Rome abound. One of the most striking elements is a sword from the mid-second century BC. “It was found leaning vertically against a wall, which has caused an unintentional curvature of the blade,” says the report.

It is not the only bladed weapon that has been found, since daggers and arrowheads have emerged in the area. Moreover, offensive weaponry is not the only thing that has been found. Archaeologists have discovered part of a bivalve shield boss in wrought iron plate: “One complete layer is preserved, while the additional layer has not been found”.

Roman weapons found in Albacete: helmets, swords, daggers and highly prized shields
Finding of the shield boss [Credit: HĂ©ctor Uroz, Gladius]

Roman weapons found in Albacete: helmets, swords, daggers and highly prized shields
Active defensive armament. Bivalve shield boss: a) schematic of scutum with bivalve umbo
(García Jiménez and Quesada 2014: fig 1b); b) shield umbo LB 145429; c) umbo LB 150993;
 d) organic remains attached inside LB 150993; e) complete bivalve shield umbo LB 130298
[Credit: HĂ©ctor Uroz, Gladius]

Perhaps the most striking element of this collection is an incredible iron helmet that was recovered from a small hearth where they also found other “exceptional objects” from the Iberian period. As for the case, it is of Monteforino type but lacks cheeks. According to Quesada and Uroz, “the absence of cheeks and the metal used distances this helmet from what we can usually expect for a context of Roman legionaries”.

In the report they detail that the Roman or Iberian origin of the military pieces does not imply that they were the last to wield them. That is, the weapons were usually lost on the battlefield, and were often recovered and used by the enemy. “In fact, in the middle of the 2nd cent. BC, it cannot be deduced from the piece itself whether it was last used by a resistant Hispanic against Rome, a Hispanic allied with Rome, or a Roman legionary,” the article clarifies.

Roman weapons found in Albacete: helmets, swords, daggers and highly prized shields
Active defensive armament. Shield handle LB 150743: a) drawing and photograph; b) detail
image of the find; c) image of the find on calle 3 next to the phaleras: d) detail
of the phaleras and LB 150745 with organic remains attached
[Credit: HĂ©ctor Uroz, Gladius]

For this reason and for all that remains to be excavated, research will continue to find what happened in Libisosa and thus learn a little more of our historical past. 

Source: El Espanol [trsl. TANN; April 13, 2021]

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