Aquis Querquennis

Aquis Architecture (I): Construction and defensive system - AquisQuerquennis 3D

Aquis3D 15 May, 2020 No Comments

It is impossible to answer all the questions that a site presents only from the material and structural remains recovered at the same site. Therefore, we have to refer to similar archaeological discoveries of various kinds to carry out a historically accurate reconstruction for the structures found.

For this project, we will try to prepare the virtualisation of the different items that make up the Bande buildings reconstructions, based on the different documentation provided by collaborating organisations and the rest of the historical-archaeological evidence available, to provide you, our target audience with a more realistic vision of the way in which virtual heritage is constructed.

In this article we want to provide a general description to briefly describe the architecture, construction techniques and the various items of which the Aquis Querquennis camp consists of.

Materials and construction techniques

Experts claim that military compound structures are not excessively complex either in terms of construction technique or the raw materials used. Thus, most of the walls would have been erected with compacted local granite through the use of clay, as no remains of ancient cement of any kind have been documented.

Components such as the frames of the roofing, doors or shutters would have been made of wood from the forests in the area (such as oak).

Finally, fired clay would be used to make flat, curved tiles used as roofing for most of the buildings.

Roman Camp Aquis Querquennis (aerial view of the site) - Source: “Galicia Pétrea” exhibition at the City of Culture (Monte Gaiás)
Roman Camp Aquis Querquennis (aerial view of the site) – Source: “Galicia Pétrea” exhibition at the City of Culture (Monte Gaiás)

Floor plan and internal organisation of the site

The Bande enclosure has the most typical form for Roman military fortifications of the first centuries in our era: a rectangle with rounded corners.

The arrangement of the paths inside the enclosure is very orthodox for this type of fortification, by distinguishing perimeter and axial components:

  • The intervallum (cleared space) was an area of 11.72 m between the walls and the facades of the internal buildings. The so-called uia sagularis or inner perimeter path would have occupied part of this wide area.
  • The main internal roads would have consisted of the via praetorian, via decumana (about 8 m wide) and the vias principalis and quintana (9 and 6 m wide, respectively).

This arrangement divided the interior into 3 nominal areas and 5 de facto sectors:

  • The praetentura, still not yet explored archeologically, was the front or area of the enclosure.
  • The retentura would have been organised in a similar way to the rear of the fort.
  • The latera praetorii constituted the epicentre of the fort.

The defensive system

Roman military fortifications of the High Imperial period had a defensive system notable for having one or more trenches on the outside and a parapet on the inside usually crowned by a fence that protected the guard crossing. The archaeological digs done so far have managed to find about 225 m of the enclosure’s defensive perimeter, just over a third of its total.

Scale model of the Aquis Querquennis Roman camp (Barracks) - Source: “Galicia Pétrea” exhibition at the City of Culture (Monte Gaiás)
Scale model of the Aquis Querquennis Roman camp (Barracks) – Source: “Galicia Pétrea” exhibition at the City of Culture (Monte Gaiás)

It is known that the basic defensive devices consisted of the following:

  • Trench: A width at the mouth of about 5 m and a depth of about 1.8 m below ground level.
  • Berm: Area that separated the outer trench from the inner wall. It was 1m wide.
  • Wall: A construction about 3 m wide built of stone.

The core of the structure would have been composed of a powerful gravel filler amalgamated with local clay. The maximum height preserved at the time of the dig was approximately 1 m.

In theory, the defensive perimeter would have been reinforced by having between 12 and 14 towers, 8-10 clear spaces and 4 corners, of which 3 and 3, respectively, were dug.

  • Clear spaces: These were located in regular sections between the doors and the corners. Their flooring was solid, like the wall itself into which they were integrated.
  • Corners. The two specimens dug have different features:
    • West tower: Its exterior (7-7.2 m) and interior (5.1 m) surfaces were arched to fit with the curvature of the walls.
    • South tower: Explored during the 2014 campaign, but information about it is not yet published.
    • North tower. Shows a trapezoidal shape (5.1 m) inward and outward

It is important to remember that the enclosure would have four accesses, of which 2 have been dug: these correspond to the main doors: sinistra, main left- and decumana, rear.

  • Main door, left: The consisted of an 11.67 m access divided in half by 2 x 2 m square columns (spinae). A small opening in the easternmost tower allows us to deduce the existence of an access at ground level, while a small wall in the western tower may indicate a staircase to connect the lower floor of the tower with the first floor and/or guard post.
  • Rear door: This door would be simpler and had a 14.4 m façade.

Also, on this occasion a dividing wall can be seen inside one of the towers which could be related to a staircase. Finally, a channel coming from inside the enclosure would cross the span to the outside.

The monumentality of these accesses must be emphasized. They used good quality construction materials and documented extensive use of granite ashlars. It is also highly possible they had decorative elements that enhanced this aspect, such as the decorative mouldings documented in similar archaeological examples in the space between the pilasters or ledges and the start of the voussoirs. In the double-walled portals, in the area between the arches and below the parapet, an inscription was frequently placed commemorating the foundation of the fort.

Aquis Querquennis digital reconstruction - Source: Cristian Andrade
Aquis Querquennis digital reconstruction – Source: Cristian Andrade

In future articles we will also do this type of analysis for other vital areas of the camp such as:

  • Main quarters
  • Military hospital
  • Horrea or granaries
  • Soldiers’ barracks
  • Workshops and storehouses
  • Ovens, toilets and stables, etc.