Printer friendly version
Archaeological research exposes the funeral ritual in the Strait of Gibraltar
11 September 2012
Set in the current municipality of Tarifa (Cádiz) and opposite the Moroccan coast, Baelo Claudia is one of the best preserved Roman cities in Spain. Declared a National Historic Monument in 1925, the once prosperous city was founded in the late 2nd century BC. A team from the University of Alicante has been studying part of the remains since 2009. The project, which deals with the archaeological excavation of the eastern necropolis, is led by Professor Fernando Prados Martínez and has the support of several researchers from other Spanish and North American universities, as well as personnel from the archaeological site itself that belongs to the Andalusian regional Culture Ministry.
The archaeological work conducted at the site since the early twentieth century has uncovered what is probably the best preserved city from the high imperial Roman period of the Iberian Peninsula, though many elements link it to the Mauritanian-Punic African world, especially visible in certain architectural and structural features of the forum and the Templar area. The necropolis also presents unmistakable features of Punic tradition in its early stages.
Baelo Claudia is the culmination of a complex urban process started in the eighth century BC as demonstrated by recent research. Baelo was the result of the evolution of mixed race natives and their interrelation with foreign population, Africans initially and later Romans, always linked to the development of economic activities, mainly fishing and fish preserves, and to its splendid geostrategic position at the gates of the ocean.
The team from the University of Alicante leads a project entitled "Death and Funeral Ritual in Baelo Claudia (Cádiz)", which the Andalusian Government recently authorized to develop over the next six years. The study of the necropolis will allow researchers to learn more about the ancient funeral rituals but also to prepare its inclusion in a new guided tour. This extension of the city’s heritage would complete the current tour that begins in the magnificent museum opened in 2007, visited by over 200,000 people a year.
In the 2012 campaign, carried out between August and September, the University‘s excavations are focusing on the study of the central area of the necropolis and have uncovered several funerary monuments, some of certain monumentality and other minor structures that are also interesting as they show the older phases. Among the findings, Fernando Prados highlights several cremation graves and others gathered in ceramic containers. The archeologists have dug up graves intact, complete with their grave goods. Students and graduates of the Universities of Alicante, Cadiz, Stanford and Zaragoza are taking part in this project that is financed by various Andalusian institutions.