The cabezo de la almagra archaeological site



Here is an ancient archaeological site which has survived for many years thanks to two factors:

  • The availability of crop fields with water springs, which allowed the maintenance of a Roman villa, a Muslim farm, and a cortijo – a large country property in Central and Southern Spain – from the early modern period to our days.

  • An excellent geostrategic location, which allowed to directly control the main routes in Huelva, both ground – the land known as ‘Tierra Llana’ and the mountains of ‘El Andévalo’ – and fluvial – the confluence of Odiel and Tinto rivers.

The Cabezo de la Almagra Archaeological Site is located inside the Campus del Carmen of the University of Huelva and was opened in 2011. The 21,489-m2 area can be considered an outdoor museum where visitors can go through different historical periods of Huelva with their archaeological findings.

Roman Ruins

These in situ ruins – from the first century BC to the sixth century AD – show elements belonging to an agricultural exploitation. Here, we must remark a circular structure which is said to have been a silo.

The ruins are actually Roman villas, which consisted of several productive, management, and housing buildings for an upper-class which lived off agricultural exploitations. Those buildings were the following:

•The Pars Urbana (‘Urban Part’) was the main house, belonging to the owner of the villa and his family, and was full with all the upper-class luxuries.

•The Pars Rustica (‘Rustic Part’) consisted of the houses for the workers – either freemen or slaves – and several different facilities for the good management of the villa.

•The Pars Frumentaria (‘Grain Part’) comprised granaries, warehouses, mills, and pantries.

Nevertheless, not all villas had the same characteristics during the Roman Empire – actually, there were so many types of villa as of agricultural exploitation.

Regarding the building materials used during the Roman period, we should especially remark a certain material which was widely used – the tegulæ, a decoration which consists of the repetition of several geometrical motifs, waves, and a type of ellipse which looks like a pike. Besides, these motifs also appear over other materials – such as bricks or roof tiles. This would even suggest the existence of a pottery in the site or close to it. This pottery would have been in charge of fulfilling the demand of building materials not only from the villa but also from the surrounding area. Thus, many research on potteries in the area have been carried out.

Apart from the tegulæ, several fragments of polychrome Opus Tesellatum – the Latin word for ‘mosaics’ – can be also seen in the silo. On the other hand, several other ruins have been found throughout the site. It is believed that they are rests of other agricultural and domestic facilities, such as the Vinaria – the wine cellar – and the Cellæ Oleariæ – the oil mill.

The Muslim Period

Between the tenth and the thirteenth century, the site was a great oil mill where olives were pressed to make oil, but there are also traces of wickerwork and pottery workshops together with different circular structures related to the draining of both organic and inorganic elements. We have found pottery materials from this period too.

The oil mill consists of two parts. The first part is a rectangular ditch whose walls have the marks of the wicker used in the grinding process. The second part is another circular structure which worked as the necessary counterweight for the press process