Inventory number: 508
Name of the object: head of a pilum catapultarium
Material: metal, iron
Dimensions: total length: 10,3cm; length of the body:7,1cm; length of the head: 3,2 cm. irregular diametre of the body: from 1,8 cm at the openeing, to 1,1 cm where the head starts. Maximum width at the base of the head: 1,6 cm. Weight: 60gr.
Chronology: Roman Late Republic
Survey: july 2010
Provenance: sector 2
Description: Square-sectioned compact, solid pilum catapultarium bolt with socket attachment to the shaft. Catapult bolts could be a very effective weapon for eliminating the defenders of a wall in a hypothetical siege.
Where is it?
The archaeological site of Puig Ciutat is located in the municipal district of Oristà (Barcelona province). The archaeological site is currently located at the top of an elevated plain 526 metres (1,700 ft) above sea level. It covers a surface area of 5.1 hectares (12.6 acres), distributed over farmland and steeply sloping areas.
The hill is surrounded by two watercourses, the river Gavarresa and one of its affluents, the river Olost, which make the site very valuable from a defensive and strategic point of view.
What is its historical context?
Research has revealed archaeological evidence of different chronological phases that go from the Late Bronze Age or Early Iron Age to the Late Roman Republican Period (mid-1st century BC).
Most of the information we have at the moment relates to the late Roman Republican period. At that time, Puig Ciutat could have played a role as a garrison or military camp (praesidium). At the end of this period Rome’s Civil War between Julius Caesar and followers of Gnaeus Pompeius took place (BC 49 – 44).
How can we visit?
So far only a small part of the Puig Ciutat site has been excavated. The rest of the site is still buried. Two routes have been set up for visiting the consolidated remains:
1) A tour of the interior of the site: there are five information panels describing the settlement during the Late Republican Roman Period. The panels have QR codes to complement and enlarge on the information.
2) A tour of the site surroundings: provides a picture of the surrounding area and describes the geographical and natural conditions of Puig Ciutat.
Was Puig Ciutat a strategic control point?
The location of the settlement makes it very valuable from a defensive and strategic point of view as access is only by two natural routes to the north and south. However, the poor long-distance visibility might have made it necessary to have several control points in the vicinity.
In two of the excavated areas a city wall from the Late Roman Republican Period was discovered.
The section of wall described in this panel is not currently visible. Until it has been consolidated, it has been covered over again to ensure its conservation.
Where was the way in?
The archaeological excavations suggest that the wall bordered the settlement on the east and south sides of the hill.
It’s difficult to know the exact location of the gates in the wall, on account of its eroded state. However, certain clues suggest the presence of a gate on the south-east flank of the site.
How did they get in?
The excavation has revealed a rectangular construction located inside the wall.
Its purpose and date are unknown to us. It has a small, sealed entrance that could have been a second way into the settlement.
Who were they defending themselves from?
Roman military remains have been found in different parts of the site and its vicinity. This suggests a siege by Roman troops established in camps around the settlement.
It’s therefore believed that there could have been a confrontation between Romans.
Archaeological excavations have revealed various compartments in one part of the north-east wall of the site.
Thanks to the quality and the state of preservation of the archaeological material identified in this area, we can date the last occupation phase at Puig Ciutat to the middle of the 1st century BC.
What did they eat?
Among the archaeological remains, fragments were found of various ceramic recipients used for storage and transport of food products such as wheat, wine or oil.
One room has a concentration of bones from large herbivores. It could well have been a place for storing meat or a stable.
What was life like there?
According to the research, the different rooms belonged to a complex building whose purpose is unknown to us. Some of the rooms could have combined different functions, as they were found to contain both material to do with the production of everyday elements and material relating to the storage, consumption and processing of food.
What happened to Puig Ciutat?
A large number of projectiles from an armed confrontation have been recovered. Burnt areas have also been located. This suggests that there was possibly violent destruction and the site was sacked. The distribution of these military elements in the various rooms in the area of the city wall speaks for an attack begun at this end of the settlement.
Magnetic surveying showed evidence of an urban layout in the north-east of the site and important signs of combustion, which could have been from fireplaces or they could have been traces of a possible fire.
The excavations confirmed the presence of archaeological materials and structures from the settlement’s three occupation phases, going from the Late Bronze/Early Iron Age (mid-9th – 7th centuries BC) to the Late Roman Republican Period (mid-1st century BC).
Five dwelling spaces and a street from the last phase were found built onto the north-eastern section of the wall. These constructs could be part of one large building combining the functions of dwelling and storage.
The state of destruction of the different rooms, with abundant crushed ceramic material above the living level, and the presence of abundant military projectiles above the ruins (indicating they were fired from outside) speak for a military confrontation which may have begun at this end of the settlement.
Excavation work in the buildings close to the Late Republican Roman wall
Surveys of the different occupation phases at Puig Ciutat (Late Bronze/Early Iron (9th – 7th centuries BC) up to the Late Roman Republican Period (mid-1st century BC)
The inner face of the wall is built over the two walls from the previous occupation phase (intermediate phase) and above the demolition level of this same phase
Photogrammetric study of the different constructions excavated at the north-eastern end of the settlement
Constructions abutting the wall
The process of excavating the hearth (redder area). At the bottom of the picture can be seen the test trench thanks to which the wall from the intermediate phase was discovered
Excavation of the floor of the hearth, made with heat-resistant ceramics
Scattered fallen material above the living level
[left] Various fallen materials (remains of animals, metal objects, etc.) above the living level. [right] Fallen dolium and amphora above the ruins of a ceiling or a first floor
Northern room abutting the wall
Articulated animal remains located under the ruins of the northern room
Projectiles located in the rooms abutting the wall
Photographs by CRBMB-Ramon Maroto. July 2011-2012.
A Game of Strategy
Puig Ciutat stands in a meander of the Gavarresa stream, which provides a natural defence along part of its perimeter but gives it little long-distance visibility. Occupation of this site, then, probably didn’t respond to the strategic advantages of this meander.
What did the inhabitants of Puig Ciutat defend or control? When was it destroyed? At the end of the Roman Republic? Where was it attacked from? What factions could assailants and besieged have belonged to?
As we’ve seen, some of these questions have now been answered thanks to the work carried out so far.
To solve these mysteries, the Puig Ciutat team is applying traditional archaeological exploration as well as geophysical archaeology or remote sensing over a large area surrounding the site.
Picture: © LIDAR data property of the Institut Cartogràfic i Geològic de Catalunya.
The intervention at this point reveals the presence of one of the main entrances to the settlement in its last phase. The suspicion that it was here was based on the fact that a path to the top of the hill from the east converges here with the main street in the area, which runs north-south.
The work located two sections of wall at this point, separated by a certain difference in height between them, at the ends of which there could have been the gate. It wasn’t possible to confirm this as they have been largely flattened. Even so, this idea is backed up by the presence inside the settlement of a wall parallel to the city wall that forms an entrance passage leading to a second gate, which was found to be sealed.
The structures preserved inside the settlement are totally unknown as the area was found covered by a thick layer of stones whose purpose could not be explained. The dating of the various associated articulated animal remains gave a date for it during the last occupation phase.
As a hypothesis, it was suggested that the layer of stones could have something to do with reinforcing the area or sealing it off in the settlement’s final moments, but we shall have to wait for future campaigns to be able to corroborate this.
Fill level from the Late Roman Republican Period
Western part of the trench
Structures dated from the Late Roman Republican Period can be observed. Decembre 2014.
Part of the cranium and a bovid articulated limb
Sloping section of wall
Part of the wall and its ruins can be seen towards the slope. The wall running parallel to the city wall can be seen on the left, forming an entrance passageway. Decembre 2014.
Section of city wall (north-east stretch)
[left]. Photogrammetric study at the end of the 2014 season. [right] Location of various excavated structures
At bottom left and top right, stretch of Late Republican city wall