More light than shadows

I keep watching one of the pictures taken by the drone on Saturday morning. The very same picture you saw posted on facebook these past days and was warmly welcome by you. I cannot take my eyes off it because it makes me travel to my student years, when I used to look over the pages of St Joseph, Swan, Davies, Breeze, Birley, and many other British scholars. They were full of illustrations in which the grazing light enhanced the parapets of perfect Roman camps over the green fields. I used to thought then if it would be possible one day to find something like that in Galicia. We do now know that it is possible. And this is far from being over.

Gettig the tools ready. We do not really miss that 25 kg iron ladder.

The aerial photographs and the removal of the surface vegetation had already given us a clear view of the old ramparts, but we wanted to take a step further during this archaeological intervention. We have scratched the surface for a long time, using remote sensing techniques and tirelessly visiting sites, looking for rarities on the northwestern peninsular landscape. But this is the first time we could delve into our suspicions by excavating an exploratory trench that would allow us to document the perimeter structures of one of these enclosures. To a certain extent, this intervention was for us a methodological ordeal.

To excavate is a good way to measure how much earth and dust the world contains.

Perhaps from the outside these issues are not visible, but an archaeological excavation is, above all, a human group that coexists intensely while trying to put order in a huge amount data that presumably cannot be put together. In this profession, who can say he/she has not ever pull his/her hair out? Who can claim he/she has never had an argument with his/her fellow colleagues? Fortunately, when the team works as such, as it happened in this case, jokes, laughter and distended moments are much more frequent.

An underrated scenic art: to generate shadows in order to take pictures on field.

There is a moment when everything is uncertain and immediately after that, it seems perfectly clear. Our particular crisis took place on Thursday afternoon. After an intense debate, the joint criterion of the most veteran (Valentín) and the most novel (Fran) of us prevailed. A hard and comforting “spa session” using the pick, the hoe and the shovel came next. When the work was over, we could contemplate what you can watch here.


The southern sector of the Roman camp of A Penaparda displayed a defensive system formed by a parapet of earth and stone, as well as by a trench that was never concluded following the canonical V-shape. According to the stratigraphic record, the builders of the enclosure began to excavate the latter until they reached the rocky soil, and outlined its internal face in the local sandy substrate. A first shovelful of earth was thrown up the slope to form a terrace, and we know that a line of stones was placed over it to serve as a containment wall for the inner face. We suppose that the exterior façade of this parapet would be a sloped structure but it was unfortunately collapsed. Only by cutting the defences we could be able to understand the building process with more definition.

Nevertheless, the state of preservation of these structures is amazing. Remember that these are perishable elements, built up two thousand years ago! Our surprise turned into pure satisfaction when on Saturday morning the inhabitants of the surroundings had the opportunity to visit and observe by themselves the structures of this sector of the camp. If people can see and understand them, we have taken a step forward. It means that we began to rescue these sites from the oblivion in which they were only a few years ago. Now it is necessary to consider the next step: how to protect them, preserve them, and show them in their former splendour.


Jose Costa

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