Saturday, 19 May 2012

Romans in Spain

May is wearing on, so it must be time for another blog post. And, just in time, my trusty news hound tracked down an interesting story from the Spanish press.

Last week's Diario de León newspaper announced (in Spanish, here and here) the "Discovery of a 'treasure' of Roman armour in the former headquarters of CCAN" (the Spanish Club Cultural y de Amigos de la Naturaleza).

The site lies on ground formerly occupied by the legionary fortress of the Roman Seventh Gemina Legion. Archaeologists unearthed a "true gold-mine" consisting of the fragmentary remains of twenty metal cuirasses, of a type nowadays called lorica segmentata, the classic armour of the Roman legionary.

Excavations in 1998 (reported in Spanish, somewhat belatedly, here) had already unearthed similar lorica segmentata cuirass fragments, including one of the iconic iron body 'hoops' with copper alloy trim, and fragments from the arm-guard known as a manica (shown here).

All of the finds have originated in large, square buildings with central courtyards, which may be some sort of workshop (fabrica) or arms store (armamentarium). The find of the manica in particular suggested to the Spanish researchers that the Roman Seventh Gemina Legion must have been involved in Trajan's Dacian Wars, where such arm defences are known to have been worn to counter the terrifying Dacian falx, a razor-sharp "hockey stick" weapon. Of course, it may be an equally valid hypothesis to suggest that native Spanish elements had their own nasty, razor-sharp, anti-Roman weapons!

Reconstructed cuirass from M.C. Bishop, Lorica Segmentata, Vol. 1 (2002).