The geophysical survey carried out in the field to the west of the site revealed a building that clearly differed from its surroundings; this was identified as “Building 3”.
In 2017, it was decided to excavate in this location with the aim of characterising this construction with regard to both its structure and function. In addition, this excavation enabled us to document more of the settlement’s urban structure.
Since that first campaign, every summer this building has been the site of a dig that is used as part of the theoretical-practical course organised for students at Edinburgh University.
The excavation has, so far, led to the discovery of an almost rectangular building, measuring 8m x 11.5m. It has two rooms in the north and a large area on the southern side, which is still being excavated.
A great deal of material has been found in this building. It tells us about both the life of its inhabitants (pottery ware for drinking and eating, game pieces, coins, etc.), and about its end, as several charcoal deposits show that it caught fire. Among the rubble of the largest room, the first anatomically connected human remains from the settlement have been found.
Anthropologist and restorer preparing to extract human remains
The wooden doorway was burned during the destruction of the settlement. From top to bottom and from left to right: when the threshold was still covered by the rubble from the walls; as part of the rubble was removed, the first charcoal pieces were exposed; the progress of the work shows how part of the clay from the fallen building was hardened by the fire (white blocks on top of the charcoal); the burned wooden lintel completely uncovered.
Excavation of the threshold of one of the doors
Top, from left to right: bronze buckle, Iberian coin and lead sling projectile. Bottom, from left to right: tip of a catapult projectile and iron key.
Example of material found during the unrestored excavations
Example of material found during the excavations
Left: small bronze medical spatula (specillum). Right: spindle whorl. Piece that is placed at the lower end of a spindle to help spin the textile fibres by twisting them.
Scattering of pottery, specifically several jars, fallen onto the floor of one of the rooms.
Several fragments of burned wood. One of them had fallen onto the mouth of an amphora from Africa that has been completely crushed.
The room contains the remains of burnt beams, iron elements possibly associated with a door, and various pottery pieces
End of the 2018 campaign
Bird’s-eye view of the two areas excavated during the 2017 and 2018 campaigns
During the 2019 campaign, the entire surface of the building was surveyed to determine its full extent.
To preserve the archaeological remains, at the end of each campaign, and as long as the building is not completely excavated, the space is covered to await the next excavation period. Once the work is finished, it will be consolidated and exhibited in a museum.
Area 19 is the second room in Building 4 that has been explored. It was excavated in autumn 2019, and it has been verified that it was a large covered space (5 x 14 m along its sides). It opened to the street located to the west, which it was separated from by a row of wooden pillars. At least two of the supporting pillars rested on a circular stone base. Due to the dimensions of this room and the large volume of material in it, it has only been possible to excavate the 5 northernmost metres of the area.
This work has led to the discovery of up to seven amphoras near the northern wall, completely crushed by rubble from the building, as well as a large rectangular structure of carbonised wood (3 x 2.5 m), which is still being studied. Also worth noting are a pair of burned wooden pillars that would probably have supported the roof and which have fallen into the space. Charcoal and groups of keys have also been found. These could correspond to part of the doors that connected the space with both area 4 and the room located to the east.
With the knowledge we currently have, it is not possible to say what the room was used for, beyond pointing out its food storage role, as suggested by the amphoras found there.
Before the excavation of area 19 began, the building was delimited following its perimeter walls.
Topography work on Building 4 during autumn 2019
Excavation work at the northern end of the area
The wooden structure has been preserved thanks to having been burned, it would otherwise have rotted and disappeared forever.
General view of the structures excavated in 2019
Fallen pillars in the north of the room
Circular support base for a wooden pillar with stone wedges
Conserved part of a wooden structure
Cleaning the carbonised structure
Protection for the carbonised structure to shield it against inclement weather
Cleaning the scattered pottery
Scattered amphoras. On the left, just at the boundary; on the right, once the upper part of the pieces had been lifted and their bases uncovered.
The geophysical survey carried out at the beginning of the project revealed, among other elements, part of the urban structure of the site. Building 4 was detected in the centre of the field. It is a large building (about 450m2), with a prominent “C” shaped room (area 4), which had apparently been burned.
The 2011 to 2013 campaigns focused on this area and demonstrated that it is a closed space, even though the east wall, which is narrower, deeper, and built with smaller stones, was not detected by the geophysical techniques. The only access to the area is on the south side.
The traces of fire were also corroborated during the excavations, as several burned beams were found, probably from an attic, which had fallen on several pottery pieces. One of the pottery pieces is a black-glazed krater from present-day Sicily, which was used to mix wine and water. The resulting liquid would have been consumed using cups, also ceramic, in this case imported from the Italian peninsula.
The presence of these elements denotes a certain level of luxury. This makes us suspect that the building could have played an important role in the settlement, although future work is needed to confirm this.
Learning to shuvle
Excavation campaign summer 2013
The "C" building from the geophysical prospecting results
Experimenting with the data, the first steps taken with the total station at the site
What is geophysics and why is it applied in Puig Ciutat?
Geophysics is the science that applies non-invasive systems for exploring the subsoil. It was applied right from the start of the project as a tool that could help manage the excavations. Puig Ciutat is also an experimental site that enables us to test equipment and develop working methods. In addition to the surveys carried out in the early years, which are presented here, a systematic survey of each new area to be excavated is carried out at the beginning of each dig.
We are able to systematically apply geophysical techniques at Puig Ciutat thanks to the participation of the company SOT Prospecció Arqueològica.
What does it consist of? This measures local variations in the Earth’s magnetic field.
What does it enable us to do? It is useful for identifying kilns, hearths, burned areas, metals, filled trenches, as well as for delimiting sites.
Ground-penetrating radar (GPR) prospecting
What does it consist of? This measures variations in humidity by emitting an electromagnetic pulse, the echoes of which are subsequently received at the surface
What does it enable us to do? It is useful for detecting built structures, and allows us to visualise what structures are like at depth.
What does it consist of? This measures variations in conductivity and magnetic susceptibility by analysing the way the subsoil responds to an electromagnetic field applied from the surface.
What does it enable us to do? It is useful for characterising substrate composition and indirectly defining parameters like salinity, permeability, and porosity.
Interpretation of results
What does it consist of? This gives archaeological meaning to variations in the physical properties of the subsoil.
What does it enable us to do? This allows us to extract the archaeologically most significant elements from the geophysical images
Archaeology, like any science, has its own methodology which is adapted according to the objectives and circumstances of each case being studied. In this respect, the work undertaken on the structures of the present building serve as an example to explain the scientific method applied in Puig Ciutat.
The present state of the excavations does not yet allow an answer to many of the questions hinging on the site. Nevertheless, geophysical surveying has made it possible to focus the excavation in those areas where the presence of built structures has been recorded. Thanks to this strategy, in a short time we have been able to obtain the largest possible quantity of data for drawing up the first interpretative hypotheses.
What do we know?
Geophysical surveying has identified the presence of a building in the middle of the agricultural area. Some of the techniques used, such as ground-penetrating radar, have made it possible to define the geometry of the structure and establish its depth about 0.5 metres (20 inches) beneath the surface.
What do we see?
A building measuring 11 x 11 metres with an entrance in the form of a passageway which very probably opened onto a distribution space inside. Two rooms have also been made out abutting the main façade and, finally, a space subdivided into four compartments at the back. The two innermost rooms are of a smaller size.
In the course of the excavation, a large amount of carbon and shattered ceramics have been documented that suggest the building may have been destroyed.
What do we deduce?
The building is an unusual construction that stands out in the settlement. Its size suggests it could be the residence of the commander or person in charge of the establishment praetorium) or a building with an important administrative function in the same context (principium).
Although at present the data do not offer any more information about its purpose or its destruction, we hope to obtain more results in future work.
Aquest sondeig es va realitzar amb l’objectiu de confirmar la presència i les característiques d’un edifici de grans dimensions, que havia estat prèviament detectat per les prospeccions geofísiques.
The archaeological excavation revealed a square building, 11 by 11 metres, divided up into various rooms opening onto a central distribution space. This was reached by a passage that communicated with the building’s only entrance, open in the southern façade. The date provided by the ceramic material recovered confirmed that the building belonged to the latest phase of occupation of the settlement, in the Late Roman Republican Period.
The work revealed that the structure had been heavily affected by farming work in the field in recent times and some of the walls that divided up the complex have not survived. Despite the poor condition of the remains, carbon was found which could have been part of the door latch.
Two surveys performed in the interior of the building showed that it had been looted in ancient times, probably to recover some of the stones from the north and west walls.
Its large size make this building an important one in the settlement’s complex of buildings. According to documentary sources, a building of these characteristics could have been the praetorium, or residence of the Roman camp’s Commander, or the principia, or administrative building. In the case of Puig Ciutat, this building could have fulfilled both functions.
[left] Drawing of the structures located superimposed on the ground-penetrating radar data. [right] Interpretation of the located structures superimposed on a photograph taken from a drone.
July 2010-December 2015
Excavation work in the building
Excavation work in the western rooms of Building 1
View of the entrance and the passage leading into the building from the south. In the foreground can be seen the carbon which could have been part of the door latch
South-west section of the central building after the tops of the walls have been marked out
Two views of the test trench dug at the south-west corner of the building. The original wall can be seen damaged below the layer of small stones with which the robber trench was filled in
Geophysical methods have made it possible to explore the site in detail and more exactly define the geometry of the structures and their geological surroundings. In this context, geophysical surveying has centred on two fields in the western section and, especially, on the field in the eastern sector, as they allow extensive work that is impossible in the wooded areas.
The main techniques used are magnetic surveying, which provides information on areas with alterations in the electromagnetic field like the ones produced by combustion, ground-penetrating radar, which provides a more precise description of built structures, and electrical surveying, which documents variations in the potentials of sediments.
The results and interpretations obtained with the different techniques are used in the planning and management of subsequent excavations.
Map of the magnetic gradient of sections 1 (west) and 2 (east)
The blue and red colouring indicates areas with temperature alterations or containing metals. The black linear elements could indicate built structures. The white elements could indicate accumulations of sediments or structures dug into the ground, like silos.
Map of reflected energy
Represented are depths included between 0.55 and 0.65 metres below ground. The built structures and the surface bedrock are in black.
Map of electrical conductivity
Obtained from electromagnetic surveying by the ORBIT group at Ghent University (Belgium). In black, the elements of marl and limestone: rock base and building material of the site. In white, clay marls from higher levels.