The appearance of the Roman wall solves the great archaeological mystery of Seville

Un obrero, ante la parte exterior de la muralla romana hallada en Sevilla.
A worker, in front of the outside of the Roman wall found in Seville. Álvaro Jiménez

Since archeology was born as a historical discipline, in the middle of the 18th century, researchers have put forward the most varied hypotheses about the route of the wall of the Romula Híspalis colony, a great work cited by Julio Cesar and by other written sources, but that nobody, until now, had found. In the number 11 from the Plaza de San Francisco, in front of the Plateresque façade of the Seville City Hall, 2, 10 meters below the current street level, they have unearthed large limestone ashlars. Álvaro Jiménez, director of the archaeological intervention of the project for the construction of a hotel, began to excavate from there and went down almost three meters more until reaching a linear segment of 9, 30 meters of wall from the middle of the 3rd century.

The construction is made with limestone ashlars from Los Alcores and opus caementicium in the section that has been discovered during the construction works of the service basement of a five-star luxury hotel that will open in September 2022.

“It is the first time that remains of a Roman wall have been found in Seville and that we can verify it scientifically ”, explains the archaeologist before the now protected remains, which from the foundations reach 2.5 meters in height. “Furthermore, it is surprising that, in the middle of the third century, in a supposedly crisis period, a structure as powerful as this was built, with a total width of 4, 80 meters, result of the sum of a socket of 1, 70 meters high and the preserved elevation of the wall, 3, 25 wide ”, adds Jiménez.

The reinforcement of the zócalo could function as a defense against the floods of the Guadalquivir river, whose course in the third century passed about 36 meters of the unearthed structure, as has it could be verified by the alluvial sediments found during the excavation. “The length of what we have discovered is the width of the plot, but everything indicates that the wall continues in the number 10 and in the 12 ″ says Jiménez.

The architect director of the work, David González, has modified the project to include the segment of wall that they found in April. “This is a great work of goldsmithing. We have included a large patio in the hall of the hotel that will have an overhead view of the wall, which can also be seen frontally from the basement through a glass ”, he explained this Thursday. The enhancement of the Roman wall will be carried out by the architect Alfonso Jiménez and the archaeologist Fernando Amores following the indications of the Provincial Commission of Historical Heritage of Seville. “The find is of great heritage significance, since it is the first time that a Roman wall canvas has been found in Seville. What until now had been fictional archeology is now unquestionable ”, affirmed the archaeologist of the Ministry of Culture José Manuel Rodríguez Hidalgo.

“This is a dream come true and, moreover, a great surprise because of the date, the third century. There are indications that in Roman times several wall enclosures had to be built in Hispalis, but until now we had no archaeological certainties ”, reflects Fernando Amores who, among 2003 and 2011 led the excavation of the Antiquarium, a large plot of 7 . 000 square meters in the heart of the city in which a block of Roman houses from the 1st to 5th centuries and a powerful structure of ashlars were found that, at first, Amores identified as part of the Roman wall of the 1st century , but that part of the base could also be a large mausoleum from the time of Augustus, partially disassembled to reuse its ashlars.

Since the 15th century, when the Andalusian fence of the 12th century [de la que actualmente se conserva el 30% de su perímetro] was confused with the Roman one, archaeologists have presented a multitude of hypotheses about the layout of the Roman enclosure, but based on evidence that has re erroneous or doubtful results. One of the last, which includes the discoveries of the Antiquarium museum, is the one presented by Daniel González Acuña in 2011 [incluida en el gráfico] and whose route does not coincide with the section now discovered.

The finding will be published in a scientific article on the walls of Hispalis, signed by Amores and Jiménez in the book that the University of Southampton (United Kingdom) dedicates to the memory of the British archaeologist Simon Keay, a specialist in the Roman Empire. “He passed away last April, a few days before the discovery. He was surprised that some Spanish archaeologists formulated their theories without data, ”says Amores, a professor of Archeology at the University of Seville who has advised Jiménez on this intervention. “Until now all the evidence of the wall that had been published was speculation, but this is a certainty,” he adds emphatically. The experts consider the finding especially interesting because it has also been possible to excavate part of the intramural space, since the back of the excavated site faces Álvarez Quintero street 32.

Vista general de la parcela del número 11 en la plaza de San Francisco de Sevilla con el lienzo de muralla romana descubierta.
General view of the plot of the number 11 in the Plaza de San Francisco in Seville with the canvas of the discovered Roman wall. Álvaro Jiménez

On the space outside the walls, that is to say in the direction of the current Plaza de San Francisco, the wall appears surrounded by a pomerium, a legally and religiously defined imaginary line around the wall, which marked the sacred limit of the city and on which it was forbidden to build uir. “The original soil is five meters deep from the current one. And the course of the Guadalquivir River has varied over the centuries, approaching or moving away from the edge of the Roman city, but it has never crossed it “, says Jiménez, who last year was in charge of the recovery of an Islamic bath of the century XII in the Giralda bar, hidden after a 17th century reform.

“From the 11th century With the construction boom of Al-Mutamid, the ashlars of the wall are reused in other constructions and the river bank, whose course had shifted to the left, is occupied by a Muslim necropolis ”, Jiménez explains. The existence of the cemetery was known since 2006, when some 80 burials during the construction of the Metrocentro.

In the excavation, in which anthropologists, geologists and specialist in ceramic materials have also worked, six burials from the 11th century have appeared, one of them, that of a girl from 18 to 20 years, which remained intact with a maqabriya (Muslim funeral monument).

The riverbed of the Guadalquivir, which varied according to sea level, in Roman times ran through the current Alameda de Hercules, Amor de Dios streets, Sierpes, San Francisco and Nueva squares and it continued until it joined the Tagarete stream where today is the Torre del Oro, defensive bastion of the Andalusian wall. In such a way that both channels embraced Seville, practically turning it into an island until in the middle of the XIX the Tagarete was vaulted in the subsoil.

Intramuros, on the current Álvarez Quintero street, which is four meters above the Plaza de San Francisco, the archaeologist has verified the existence of six levels of occupation of a street formed after the construction of the wall, which is adding some 20 centimeters with each one, until it is abandoned in the 6th century. It seems that in Visigothic times this part of the city contracted and was not inhabited again until the 11th century, when it is occupied again until today. “It is a dirt street, compacted with pieces of brick, ceramic and gravel. Within the walls, attached to the wall, there is a late house, from the 4th and 5th centuries, with a 4 x 4 meter patio paved with fired brick. This building is also built with ashlars from Alcor, but they did not come from the dismantling of the wall, but from other Roman buildings ”, says Jiménez. For the moment, from the prudence inspired by the late Professor Keay, archaeologists do not propose a route beyond what was discovered.

Imagen del proceso de excavación del enterramiento islámico, que puede verse junto a los dos obreros.
Image of the excavation process of the Islamic burial, which can be seen next to the two workers. Álvaro Jiménez

The project, promoted by the Madrid company Millenium Hotels Real Estate, combines two regionalist homes from the early twentieth century in Plaza de San Francisco, plus another from the eighties in Álvarez Quintero street that add up to 694 square meters of plant. The number 12, the work of Juan Talavera y Heredia, is the one that will integrate the wall, while in the 11, by José Espiau y Muñoz, “the essence of this Sevillian house has been respected, but with 21st-century performances”, González points out.

According to the architect, the promoter of the project understood from the moment of the discovery the need to preserve the Wall. The total investment to convert the three properties into a hotel with 25 rooms and 3. 100 square meters built is 11, 5 million euros.

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