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66 Roman military camps identified in Castile and Leon

A total of 66 camps from which the Roman legions marched to defeat the Asturian tribes, quell the Cantabrian revolts, secure the roads, protect mining areas or fortify themselves while waiting for reinforcements, have been located in recent months using new prospecting techniques in the north of Castile and Leon, according to a paper published in Geosciences this week

66 Roman military camps identified in Castile and Leon
Tortolondro (foreground) and Matimocha (background) enclosures, in Burgos
[Credit: RomanArmy]

The location of such a high number of Roman forts, determined from both aerial and satellite photographs and three-dimensional models generated from laser prospecting data ( LiDAR system ) and drones, not only adds new archaeological remains to the current catalogue, but also deepens the knowledge of the Roman advance and conquest in Hispania Romana, mainly in the northwest of the Peninsula, sources of the investigation reported this week.

This discovery, says the report, represents "an important advance in the understanding of the dynamics of the Roman conquest and increases by a third the military enclosures known for the area in the last decades".

"The use of new technologies has made it possible to carry out searches even during the months of confinement thanks to the databases of the National Geographic Institute, Google Earth and Bing Maps". All the camps, after their location, were inspected on the ground by archaeologists, while the Cultural Services of the Castilla-León community were informed of their location for subsequent inventory and protection. The discoverers claim that "only since the authorities were aware of the discovery has it been made public."

66 Roman military camps identified in Castile and Leon
Enclosures in Villaquilambre (León) [Credit: RomanArmy]

Most of the sites revealed correspond to "the remains of the temporary camps that the Roman army set up to move through hostile territory or to carry out manoeuvres around their permanent bases". They reveal, therefore, the intense military activity at the entry points - where ambushes were carried out - of the mountains of northwest Hispania during the last phase of the conquest of the peninsula by Rome. 

During the Cantabrian Wars (29-19 BC), the situation was so complicated that Augustus himself had to move to Hispania.

Among the camps located, there is an important concentration (25 sites) along the valleys of northern Palencia and Burgos, as well as southern Cantabria. In the province of León, up to 41 sites have been documented in different valleys. Among them, there are from small forts of a few hundred square metres, to enormous fortified enclosures of 15 hectares, where a whole legion and its auxiliary troops could be sheltered.

"The study notes that the discovery of two large camps with these characteristics next to the city of Astorga or the concentrations of small military camps around the city of León is remarkable. Some of these sites would be, therefore, probably related to the conquest of those territories at the end of the first century BC, while others could respond to the different functions developed by the army in times of peace". The Pax Romana, of course.

Source: El Pais [trsl. TANN; December 04, 2020]

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