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Located a monumental medieval castle among the dense vegetation of a Galician mountain


Laser photography reveals an extension of 10 hectares and a defensive wall of 1.2 kilometers, all in danger due to the installation of a wind farm and a power station

In Galicia, archaeological sites from the pre-Roman era are usually included under the name of castro.

This is the name given to the fortified town from the Iron Age that stands on a hill shared by the municipalities of Padrón (A Coruña) and A Estrada (Pontevedra).

Specifically, Castro Valente.

However, archaeologists Mario Fernández-Pereiro and José Carlos Sánchez-Pardo, from the Síncrisis research group, from the University of Santiago de Compostela, have shown in their study

Searching for an early medieval castle among the vegetation

that, far from what it might seem, the castro de Valente is actually an impressive early medieval fortress (5th to 7th centuries) that had 30 towers, a 1.2-kilometre wall and an area of ​​close to 10 hectares.

Its towers, according to the first investigations, were covered by roofs, similar to those of the Roman wall of Lugo (2.2 kilometers long), which has been a World Heritage Site since 2000.

More information

The guarded border that separated Suevi from Visigoths in the Iberian Peninsula

But the remains of this castle, with walls up to four meters wide, have been heavily damaged by reforestation and the opening of firebreaks.

In addition, it is threatened by two other very serious conditions: “On the one hand”, denounce the experts, “the placement of four wind turbines and a substation on the northwestern and southern slopes of the mountain where the deposit is located was recently requested.

On the other hand, the

Project for the execution of the Lousame-Tibo double-circuit 220 kW electrical energy transport overhead line

It foresees the placement of six towers on the northwest, west and south slopes of the Castro Valente hill.

In addition, natural erosion, together with the historical reuse of construction materials and the current lack of intensive care by the administrations and the local community, also seriously affect the conservation of the archaeological site”.

The first thing that caught the attention of the experts is that in the region the mountain where the site is located was known as A Cerca (The fence), which already indicated the possible "monumentality of the defensive system and, on the other hand, that the The existence of this enclosure had not gone unnoticed by the surrounding peasant communities”.

All this, despite the fact that there were no documents from the Middle Ages or the Modern Age that attested to its existence.

In fact, it will not be until the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century when "the first written mentions that refer to Castro Valente begin to appear" in books and newspapers, but always referring to it as an Iron Age structure (between 1500 and 500 years BC).

It was not until 1865 when the archaeologist and historian Manuel Murguía, in his

Historia de Galicia

, described it as being in a “good state of conservation”.

"About a league to the northeast of Iria [Padrón] there is a formidable castro, Castro Valente, which still preserves part of the wall that surrounded it," he wrote.

In 1913, the weekly

El barber municipal

He mentioned it again and detailed "the accesses, the visual control and the defensive system."

The castle, as a castro, is cataloged by the Archeology Service of the Xunta de Galicia.

But little more.

Canvas of the castle wall to the northeast of the site. University of Santiago

The Castro Valente hill stands on a 395-meter-high knoll.

Despite not being the highest in the area, it is very recognizable because it is a solitary hill with no nearby elevation.

The Ulla river hugs its north face.

The summit is flat and reminds the shape of a kidney.

Experts are convinced that it was raided to build the fortress.

The enclosure occupies about 10 hectares, according to the results of a LiDAR flight -laser photography made with a drone-, where the extension and the wall are perfectly distinguished, despite being all covered with very thick vegetation.

Surveys on the ground have determined that the wall was built with a double masonry wall and its interior filled with earth and gravel, thus forming a wall with a width that varies between 2.5 and four meters.

This monumental defense that surrounds the site is 1,200 meters long and was crowned by 30 cubes or towers.

In the superficial inspection carried out by the experts, they have located six with complete certainty, including a seventh that was destroyed when a firewall was opened and of which hardly anything remains.

The archaeologists complain that the state of conservation and the dense vegetation —pines and acacias— makes it very difficult to identify the structures, “being only possible to locate and document

in situ

the main access to the place and which is located in the southwestern sector of the fortified settlement”.

Two other accesses, of less relevance, are located in opposite places in the enclosure.

The first, located thanks to aerial remote sensing, to the north.

The second seems to be located to the southeast, in an area heavily affected by a fire road, and identifiable by the existence of a possible tower that would defend this access.

In the interior space of the enclosure, the experts believe they have located the “possible existence of constructions with perishable materials and stone.

In the vicinity of the deposit, there are several important water sources, the closest being the one known as Fonte do Santo or San Xoán, located in the southern area.

Associated with this source is a stone carved with an inscription related to an old chapel.

"A hermitage at the top of the mountain dedicated to San Juan de Castro Valente, where they say there had been great devotion and crowds for years," Manuel Murguía described it in the 19th century.

This chapel was moved, on an unknown date, to the foot of the hill on the southern slope.

During the prospecting of the site, evidence of bricks and tiles from the Roman tradition was found, as well as shapeless and small fragments of red paste ceramics.

All this material has appeared fragmented and at superficial levels, especially in the area of ​​destruction of the firebreak trails.

In total, three archaeological surveys have been carried out in the northwest area: two on the wall and a third inside the enclosure (about 29 square meters).

“The results obtained allowed us to document the construction technique of the defensive system and locate a possible wall structure belonging to an intramural building.

In the survey carried out in one of the cubes [towers], a large number of fragments of tégula [tiles] were recorded, which makes us think that this cube could be covered by these pieces of Roman tradition”, the report states.

Carved stone located in the Fonte de San Xoán and which belonged to the hermitage of the Castro Valente site. University of Santiago

Despite the brevity of the archaeological excavation, "many data of interest" have been obtained, including being able to determine "the typology and construction technique of the defensive system of the walled enclosure", which is preserved "in very good condition in the area northwest of the site, reaching a width of three meters and a preserved elevation close to two”.

And they add: "This type of structure attached to the wall is a

rare sight

in the fortifications of the northwest of the peninsula, with the exception of some such as those documented in Castro Ventosa [Cacabelos, León] or the walls of Lugo."

The fragments of tiles found "could indicate that these cubes could be covered by a roof, in a similar way to that indicated for the wall of Lugo [3rd century], for example."

In any case, it cannot be affirmed that there is a chronological relationship between both buildings, so it will be necessary to "collect samples to carry out absolute dating of this imposing defensive system, which would allow solving part of the hypotheses and questions unresolved here raised”.

In the intramural part of the site, a wall canvas has also been identified, which would indicate an interior stone building, although "it was not possible to clarify its functionality or the characteristics of the structure to which it belongs, but, at least, it allows us to know the existence of intramural stone structures”.

Lastly, movable material of "low quantity and quality, which could indicate a time near the end of the Roman Empire until the middle of the High Middle Ages (5th-7th centuries)" has been found, already in Suevian times.

"They are only the first and exciting steps to determine the true nature of this unique fortified enclosure," the report concludes.

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Source: elparis

All life articles on 2023-01-31

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