Ruins of an ancient Roman settlement—complete with some of the most significant and pristine remains from the empire ever discovered in Spain—have been unearthed by archaeologists at the site of the modern-day town of Jimena de la Frontera, according to BBC News.
The findings suggest that the settlement, which was originally discovered by Hamo Sassooon, a retired researcher who used to take daily walks to a local castle called the Castillo de Jimena de la Frontera, was a fairly significant city. Without his volunteer efforts it is unlikely that the settlement would have been discovered, archaeologists noted.
“If it weren’t for his acute observational powers,” expedition coordinator Juan Miguel Pajuelo told the BBC, “it is doubtful that we would have this opportunity to understand Oba, as Jimena was known between the first century BC and the third century AD.”
“At first sight the impression is of visiting an Arab castle, slightly altered in the 19th Century,” explained Miguel Angel Tabales, a professor of archaeology at the University of Seville who has been leading the excavations since 2002. “But the moment you… analyze what you are actually seeing you quickly realize that this… the remains of a very important Roman city.”
Walls, doors, towers and a temple found among the remains
The existence of a Libyan-Phoenican settlement at the site was confirmed by the discovery of a cache of bilingual coins marked with the name “OBA.” Once the region was conquered by Rome, the name was changed to Res Publica Obensis and declared a town governed by Latin law under the auspices of Emperor Vespasian. Afterwards, it was ruled by a local senate.
Some of the Roman-era remains discovered by the archaeologists include doors and towers, as well as hydraulic infrastructure designed specifically for the hilly region, a temple, and a handful of well-preserved walls, according to BBC News. In fact, Tabales said that most of the wall, which is part Roman and part Islamic in construction, remains intact.
“By superimposing this enclave on to the usual structure of a Roman city, we can see that the public zone, the initial forum and the main street start in the lower part of the city. This means the Romans adapted their original model to the topography of the site,” he said.
“The site was chosen because it gives commanding views of the surrounding countryside – an imperative for a military garrison. The monumental character of the architecture witnesses a time of great power and confidence,” Tabales added. “It added to Roman imperial propaganda.”
The city was governed by the Taifa kingdom of Seville starting in 1059, according to the BBC. It was seized by Christians in 1431, recaptured by Muslims, then conquered by the Castilians in the year 1456. The expedition is currently focusing on making the compound accessible, they added, but there are concerns over the stability of the ground on which the site is located.
Feature Image: The Castillo de Jimena de la Frontera is the original settlement of Jimena containing traces of an ancient and multi-cultural history. Credit: Flickr