суббота, 6 июля 2019 г.

The Gaul who lost a coin in Palencia

It is only a hypothesis, but a very probable one… the coin was dropped by a Gallic soldier who was part of the auxiliary troops of the Emperor Augustus when he arrived at the wheat fields of present-day Osorno (Palencia). And more than 2,000 years later, the Dessobriga Project team, led by Margarita Torrione, professor of Hispanic History and Civilization at the University of Savoy (France), found that coin that was minted in the second half of the first century BC by Contoutos, chief of the Santoni, a tribe of southwestern Gaul (north of the Gironde estuary), and the first people defeated by Julius Caesar in the Gallic War.

The Gaul who lost a coin in Palencia
Gallic coin found at the Dessobriga site
[Credit: The Dessobriga Project]

At the same time, other finds were made, such as a large building about 50 metres in length, detected by aerial photography and currently being excavated. There are also several stelae from the pre-Roman necropolis, some engraved in the Celtiberian script. One of them bears the indigenous name of Touto: «Quite common in stelae from the Iberian Peninsula of the Middle Iron Age, whose etymology comes from the Celtic ‘touta’ meaning ‘community, tribe, clan'», Torrione says.

Underlying all this is a Vacceian settlement and later a Roman city, militarized by Rome for its privileged position as a crossroads and for its abundance of grain.

In the last third of the 1st century BC, the Cantabrian and Asturian tribes had still not submitted to imperial power. Needing supplies they frequently plundered the fertile fields of their Vacceian neighbours. When Augustus set up his camp in Segisamo (present-day Sasamón, Burgos), some 30 kilometres from Osorno, he faced a similar problem: to maintain his legions and auxiliary troops, as well as depriving the rebels of much needed provisions. For this reason, Dessobriga was attacked and subdued around 29 BC, during the preparations for the Cantabrian Wars (29-19 BC).

In 2001, owing to the construction of the Camino de Santiago Motorway, emergency excavations were carried out not far from the Las Cuestas (Osorno) hillock, which uncovered part of a settlement from the early Iron Age (8th-5th centuries BC).

The Gaul who lost a coin in Palencia
Archaeologists in Dessóbriga in the 2016 campaign
[Credit: The Dessobriga Project]

In 2013, Margarita Torrione commenced a project specifically aimed at unearthing Dessobriga, an urban centre included in the Itinerario Antonino.

«To this end, I drew up a work plan that was carried out by means of geomagnetic prospecting, with financial support from the Palencia Provincial Council, the Osorno City Council, my own funds and permission from the Junta de Castilla y León», says Torrione.

A total of 23 hectares were explored which revealed the existence of prehistoric huts (between the 8th and 5th centuries BC), a later Vacceian settlement with a markedly defensive character, later converted into an urban centre and a cremation necropolis.

The large building that is currently being excavated in the Amesetada area of the Las Cuestas hillock, corresponds to a former indigenous structure, «later renovated and reused by the Romans». This structure was likely used for grain storage and/or commerce activities. In the first decades of the 1st century AD parts of this structure were razed and covered by a wide cobblestone avenue that may correspond to the cardo maximus, a kind of great north-south road.

The Gaul who lost a coin in Palencia
Roman double-finned arrow used during the capture of Dessobriga
[Credit: The Dessobriga Project]

A large defensive wall and moat just over six metres wide defended the population from possible attacks in its most vulnerable area. The abundant archaeological material found (ceramics, fibulas, coins, weapons, marbles, along with buildings and the defensive system) certify that this territory, located between the districts of Osorno la Mayor and Melgar Fernamental in the provinces of Palencia and Burgos, was intensely occupied between the first Iron Age and the end of the second century AD, during the period of the high Roman Empire.
According to the Greek chronicler Diodorus of Sicily (1st century BC), the Vacceians were the most developed ethnic group among the neighbouring villages of the Celtiberians and occupied a 45,000 square kilometre strip of the Iberian Peninsula. They have been called the first «communists» in history, given their collectivist production system since, as Diodorus says, the harvest was shared equally among all the inhabitants. «In reality the distribution was most likely controlled by the elites, so this supposedly egalitarian economic system is far from certain,» says Torrione. Nevertheless it was their fertile fields that led them to be the targets of raids by the surrounding villages and of Rome, which ultimately meant the end of their freedom, as confirmed by the bronze coin lost by a Gallic soldier far from his home in Hispania.

A new archaeological campaign is scheduled to take place from the 5th to the 25th of August this year. For more information visit the Dessobriga Project website.

Author: Vicente G. Olaya (trsl. TANN) | Source: El Pais [July 02, 2019]



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