Researches in the late roman site of 'El Castillón' reveal a longer occupation for the settlement
José Pichel Andrés/DICYT Last campaign of excavations at El Castillon (located in Santa Eulalia de Tabara, Zamora, Northwestern Spain) have revealed that this Late Roman town was occupied for a longer period of time than the determined by the scientists so far. Prior dating placed the last dwellers of El Castillon not beyond the 5th century AD, but in the 2013 fieldwork, the archaeologists have discovered artefacts enabling to enlarge the chronology of the site until a period between the 6th and the 8th centuries, then the Early Middle Ages.
“Archaeological excavations have been carried out in different zones of the site, among them we have the metalworking sector an area where we have found new structures and layers associated with the iron working and blacksmithing” explains to DiCYT Jose Carlos Sastre, fieldworks co-supervisor. He himself with his colleagues Patricia Fuentes Melgar and Manuel Vazquez Fadón have leaded the last campaign investigation within the frame of the Archaeological Research Project Zamora Protohistorica.
Another important survey, focused on the dwelling area where the most outstanding discovery of this campaign has taken place, “we have excavated a housing group of structures at the central area of the hillfort, where some layers reveal artefacts belonging to a posterior period than what it was supposed to be so far. At nowadays we archaeologists can move the last date of occupation in El Castillón from the 5th to the 8th century” indicates the supervisor. A more accurate dating would be ready to be defined with the laboratory analysis that will be carried out after the excavations.
This level of occupation is related with the existence of several home fireplaces. Some samples from their internal parts (lest polluted) have been taken to make palaeo-magnetism and thermoluminescence tests. Archaeologists expect that those tests allow them to know the fireplaces date and use.
Concerning dwelling at the South of the site, “we have identified the remains of a large building where a room with a slate-slabbed floor was discovered” points out Jose Carlos Sastre. This new structure seems to belong to a late period of occupation according to the pieces of pottery that have been found “It shows us that El Castillón was inhabited for a longest period than we have ever thought”.
Last summer campaign most outstanding artefacts are pieces of pottery. Some of the samples that the archaeologists have registered are belonging to the same style of those which have been found in Cerro de San Esteban, a “twin site” situated in the nearby area, southwards in the Esla riversides, not very far from El Castillón.
In the same way, “we could highlight some personal ornaments made of glass as necklace-links, pieces of jewellery, and a small iron spear use for hunting.
The group of archaeologists, students and volunteers leaded by Jose Carlos Sastre Blanco, Patricia Fuentes Melgar and Manuel Vazquez Fadón (Supervisors) was formed by 47 members coming from a great variety of universities from Spain (Valladolid, Oviedo, Santiago de Compostela, Málaga, Granada, Castilla la Mancha, Rey Juan Carlos, León, Salamanca, Extremadura, Barcelona, Zaragoza, Autónoma de Madrid, Complutense de Madrid, Jaén, Burgos, UNED), or abroad (Coimbra -Portugal-, Pisa -Italy-, Bourdeaux -France- and British Columbia -Canada-).
The site has been excavated for five consecutive campaigns since 2007. 2012 was a gap year when the excavation was impossible to proceed because of a lack of funding, but this last campaign the Scientific and Cultural Association Zamora Protohistorica was able to continue excavating thanks to a promotion launched on the internet and the crowfunding-websites. Before starting the fieldworks, magneto-metric studies on the site revealed the existence of hidden structures beneath the surface hardly visible because of the vegetation, but the excavating has been the key to provide the scientists with more accurate information about them and obtain valid results.
In conclusion, El Castillon has become one of the most important sites when studying the gap of centuries between the Late Roman period and the Early Middle Ages, a dark era where the lack of written documents and the scarce studies make of it an unknown period in the context of the Spanish Archaeology. With more than 6.ooo pieces of pottery from which more than the 60% are decorated, a structured urban plan of buildings and streets forming economically specialised districts, a thick wall enclosing the settlement and a privileged situation over the landscape, make of it a first- line archaeological site. Now with materials confirming its occupation until the 8th Century its importance as a key-settlement has also been confirmed. Campaign after campaign this site is enlarging the number of remains and structures belonging to the period between the 3rd and the 8th century, helping the scientists to discover how people lived during that transitional period between the Antiquity and the Middle Ages.