Tale of a Discovery
Antonio Rodríguez Colmenero
A progress report on the scientific project at the Roman fort drawn up by Antonio Rodríguez Colmenero, Professor of Ancient History, sponsor and coordinator of the Aquis Querquennis research project.
Interview with Antonio Rodríguez Colmenero
Discovery and Excavation of the Encampment
The first surveys were carried out by Florentino López Cuevillas in the 1920s, after having visited the compound on June 5, 1921 accompanied by Ramón Otero Pedrayo, Vicente Risco and Bande Farruco Pena’s attorney. In 1949 it was flooded under the As Conchas Reservoir, property of Fenosa (Northwest Electric Power). Commencing in 1975, the company authorized research excavation under the supervision of Antonio Rodríguez Colmenero, lasting nearly twenty years, focusing especially on the northwest quadrant. Today the research effort continues under the guidance of Santiago Ferrer Sierra.
The encampment, which occupied an area measuring 2.5 hectares, was surrounded by a rectangular-shaped wall with rounded corners. Within it, quadrilateral defense towers stood between the gates and the corners. The wall was erected with small granite binding stones, dry-laid (without mortar), measuring 3.20 m in width and close to 5 m in height, and was topped by semi-cylindrical battlements. The defensive system also had a V-shaped outer fosse, 5 meters wide and approximately 3 m deep. The perimeter was constructed with four monumental gates, including the Mainis Sinistra (main gate on the left side) and the Decumana, located on the West side. The Principalis had two small openings, one for incoming and another for outgoing traffic. The Decumana was similar but had a single opening. The defensive system was supplemented by the intervallum, 11 m wide, forming a safety zone absent any construction between the wall and the first line of buildings.
Five troop barracks, or strigia, have been excavated, consisting of surrounding structures aligned to face a central courtyard, with a cistern for collecting rainwater. The rooms, or contubernia, had clay floors and were divided into two sections: a sleeping area and living quarters. Eight soldiers could be housed in each. At the entrance of the barracks, circular bases can be found, which would correspond to the bottoms of communal furnaces. There are also two rectangular granaries in the camp, locally known as “horrea”, which would rest on columns of stone pillars and were enclosed by thick walls with external buttresses. A nearly square building was also discovered, which would correspond to the hospital, or valetudinarium, consisting of several square rooms around a central courtyard, or compluvium. This courtyard may have a peristyle of wooden columns sitting on a low stone parapet. A canal was also discovered, which would drain the waters of the compluvium to the outside of the building.
The central building, which would correspond to the headquarters, or principia, has a rectangular floor plan. In it we find a lobby flanked by covered and open hallways along the facade. We then find two small rooms on both sides, which could possibly be the armamentaria, where they would store weapons not intended for everyday use. Then there is a large rectangular courtyard with peristyles on three sides, known as the forum. There is also a basilica, which is accessed via one large central and two narrower side entrances. The sanctum-administrative area would be located at the rear, with an official temple, or aedes, surrounded by five rooms, two to the north and three to the south, which might have housed the archives, or tabularium.
The latrine has also been excavated; a rectangular building attached to the wall. In it can be found a drainage channel, a central sewer, and a space along which wooden benches or toilets would be located, the latter not having been preserved as they were originally made of wood.
Outside the wall, in the southernmost area we find two circular bases paved with flat tegula tiles, probably the bases for ceramic ovens. Vestiges of a house were also discovered. In this place a vicus or cannaba would be set up, forming a small village contemporaneous to the encampment.
It is believed that the military unit that was stationed at Aquis Querquennis was Cohort III, which depended on the Legio VII Gemina, whose base was located in León, because ceramic markings appearing on the tegula tiles confirm this is so. This would have been a unit comprised of 600 infantry and cavalrymen.
AQUAE QUERQUENNAE VIA
It is made up of various buildings, built on successive dates, currently all of them belonging to the Aquae Querquennae Via Nova Fundation.
The Aquae Querquennae-Vía Nova interpretation center will remain
temporarily closed. More information: 988 040 127 – 988 443 001