Field Diary: Kicking off the Meranges Campaign!

An international team is conducting a 10-day archaeological campaign in Meranges (Cerdanya, Catalonia), among which we find Coll de Molleres I, the highest Roman site in Catalonia, with the objective of studying its structures, chronology, and the impact of human occupation on the surrounding landscape.

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On July 3rd, we launched the archaeological campaign in the municipality of Meranges (Cerdanya). An international team of 10 people will be working for the next 10 days on the archaeological study of various high-altitude sites, among which the excavation of Coll de Molleres I stands out as the highest Roman site in Catalonia.

In all cases, the objective is to characterise the functionality of the structures and define the chronological framework of their uses, as well as determine the extent to which these occupations have exploited the environment surrounding the sites. In this sense, it is of particular interest to define the impact of livestock activity on landscape evolution.

Within the framework of Arnau Carbonell‘s doctoral thesis, more than 200 archaeological structures of great historical, archaeological, and heritage interest have already been documented in the study area.

Field diary

First two days

The campaign started with a rain forecast, but that didn’t stop us! The fist two days started with an archaeological survey at the Estany Sec site, and two surveys in Prat Fondal.

One of the methodological features of our team is that we remove the grass like a carpet and put it back in place when we finish. This way, we minimise the impact of our reseach on the landscape.

The process of graphic documentation is carried out by implementing new technologies such as photogrammetry. We do not use traditional photogrammetry, but instead, we utilize techniques that combine image and video capture with a lidar sensor.

Third day

After closing the excavation at the Estany Sec site, the entire team focused on the excavation of the two test pits opened at Prat Fondal. In structure 201, a possible enclosure, a very dark level filled with charcoal has been discovered. The charcoals are archaeological remains of great interest as they will allow researchers to obtain C14 dating, which will determine the chronology of the structure. At the same time, they are the study material for our anthracologist, Valentina Pescini, who will analyze them in the laboratory to identify their plant species.

Fourth day

On the fourth day of the campaign, we head to the Coll de Molleres I site, the highest Roman site in Catalonia. The team has been conducting extensive excavations here since the 2022 campaign. This year, we continue our archaeological work to characterize its functionality. Why did the Romans build a settlement at an altitude of 2,500 meters? This is one of the many questions we will try to answer during the 2023 campaign.

We started the day by setting up the DGPS, a differential GPS used to accurately georeference control points and coordinates. We conducted an initial drone flight to document the condition of the site and begin the cleaning process for the excavation.

Fifth day

On the fifth after cleaning and preparing the site, we focused our efforts on delineating the walls of the area that was extensively excavated during the 2022 campaign.

Coll de Molleres I

Sixth and seventh days

Over the weekend, archaeological work continued at the Coll de Molleres I site. We are making progress in excavating the large Roman-era area. The abundant ceramic materials, along with some iron and bronze pieces, confirm the significant potential of this settlement.

On Saturday, we had a high influx of visitors who were exploring the route towards Puigpedrós and discovered the existence of the site, sparking curiosity about the ongoing archaeological intervention. This allowed us to engage in on-site scientific outreach, discussing the important high-mountain heritage and promoting our discipline.

Eigth day

We start the week by opening a new survey to date the chronological origin of the livestock enclosure located to the east of the site and clarify its connection to the large Roman-era area.

Ninth day

The archaeological excavation at the Coll de Molleres I site is bringing to light highly significant archaeological remains for characterising the Roman settlement. Some pieces have emerged nearly intact. To ensure no remains are missed, we carefully sift through all sediment to recover any fragment of archaeological material.

Tenth day

Second-to-last day of the campaign at the Coll de Molleres I site. We have successfully completed the diagnostic test pit with excellent results. We have confirmed that the eastern wall of the excavated area has a Roman origin. We have also documented significant levels of abandonment and occupation, recovering abundant ceramic fragments that will help us date the chronological origin of the livestock enclosure, along with the charcoals.

During the day, the Mayor of Meranges, accompanied by other members of the City Council, visited us to learn about the archaeological work we are conducting at the Coll de Molleres I site and assess the potential implementation of a future knowledge transfer program in the municipality. Dr. Josep M. Palet, director of ICAC and codirector of GIAP, explained the entire research program that we are developing in Cerdanya and the significance of the site regarding Roman occupation of the territory, particularly with the Roman city of Iulia Livica.

Arnau Carbonell-Puigventós, co-director of the intervention, showcased some of the found materials and explained the ongoing graphic documentation work, which is crucial for the subsequent interpretation of archaeological results. Dr. Lídia Colominas, co-director of the intervention, explained the approach from archaeozoology and how it allows us to understand pastoral and transhumant practices.

Last day

Last day of the campaign! We made the most of these final hours to continue progressing in the excavation at the Coll de Molleres I site. Archaeological materials of great value kept emerging. We continued the sediment sampling for anthracological analysis, providing insights into the utilisation of the surrounding environment by the people who inhabited this high-mountain Roman settlement.

Last remarks

We conclude the archaeological campaign in the Pyrenees with exceptional results! Three enclosures were surveyed across different sites, along with one hut, and the extensive excavation of the Roman area at Coll de Molleres I, which began during the 2022 campaign, is nearly complete. Everything has been well protected before we descend to continue the research next year.

Great team and a fantastic campaign!

Check past posts about our work in Coll de Molleres I and Meranges:

The campaign is a collaboration with the Meranges City Council, and part of the research activities planned in the projects:

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