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Focus-Abengoa Foundation trusts new archaeology

December 4, 2008

December 4th, 2008.- The discoveries found in the Sanlúcar la Mayor area demonstrate the importance of a new archaeological research method called geophysical exploration, which uses new non-invasive techniques that allow the different forms in the soil to be discovered and visualised, without the need for excavation.

Aware of the importance of the Roman remains in Sanlúcar la Mayor next to Abengoa’s solar plant, the Focus-Abengoa Foundation has sought the collaboration of the most prestigious team in the world in the use of these techniques. The team from the University of Southampton, under the direction of Fernando Amores, chief archaeologist for “The Recovery of Roman Andalusia” project, has already begun the diverse exploratory and investigation work on the area and their results will be displayed in 2009 in a permanent exhibition.

A revolutionary team

The archaeological team from the University of Southampton, led by Professor Simon Keay, is a pioneer in the use of this new technology. It is currently carrying out numerous on-site projects related to imperial Roman remains in Crete, Egypt, Morocco, Syria, Italy and Spain.

Physics applications for archaeology are constantly being developed. In the studies being carried out in Sanlúcar la Mayor these include the use of two highly specific technologies, magnetometry and resistivity. The combination of these techniques provides a spectral image of the subsoil, creating images of “stains” or “anomalies” which are interpreted by the specialists as walls, ovens, fires, metal mass, ancient channels, wells, etc. The digitised control of all this information generates different virtual maps of the deposits that are cross-referenced to provide an initial version of the size and distribution of the structures below the ground.

These geophysical explorations are accompanied by other visual examinations to collect archaeological materials that stand out on the surface of each site (remnants, marble, bricks, tiles, bones, etc.). Their classification and statistical treatment are superimposed onto the geophysical maps so that chronologies and functions can be assigned to the sites without having to excavate them.

All of the accumulated information about the sites is subsequently processed using geographical information systems (GIS), powerful IT tools that allow spatial analysis of the area. GIS manage alphanumeric and spatial information converting simple databases into different sorts of images or maps. This provides an initial set of data with which to begin hypothetically “reconstructing” the territory for a specific era, meaning the economic, social and political structure of the settlements and the relationships with the setting from which the data comes. Limited excavations can subsequently be used to check hypotheses of special interest documented by the geophysics, such as their state of preservation, etc.

The initial images produced from the explorations have provided a clear picture of what the Romans constructed on the lowlands of the River Guadiamar. Eight settlements have been pinpointed, including the Roman city of Laelia, whose existence was already known, but not its characteristics. Now the various technologies can show us the dimensions of the city, what its structure was like, how its inhabitants lived or how many metal workshops there were (due to the proximity to the mines of Riotinto and Aznalcollar). In short, the cutting edge of archaeology allows us to “recover” not only pieces of value, but also to discover the Romans’ way of life on the banks of the River Guadiamar, exactly where Abengoa’s solar platform now stands.

For more information on the “Recovery of Roman Andalusia” project, contact:
Pilar Azcárraga / Pilar Lladó
91 576 52 50


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