Gutiérrez Garcia-Moreno, Anna: Roman Quarries in the Northeast of Hispania (Modern Catalonia). (Documenta ; 10). 214 p. col. : 299 il. col. Texto en inglés, presentació en català, ISBN: 978-84-936809-7-8, 65 €
(Institut Català d’Arqueologia Clàssica, Tarragona 2009)
Compte rendu par Ilona Skupinska-Lovset, University of Lodz (Poland)

Nombre de mots : 1147 mots
Publié en ligne le 2011-04-26
Citation: Histara les comptes rendus (ISSN 2100-0700).
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This publication constitutes the result of a reworking of the author´s doctoral thesis presented at the Universitat Autònoma of Barcelona, an outcome of a joint project directed by prof. Isabel Rodà de Llanza. The aim of this project was to complement the data obtained by the study of ancient stone monuments from a historical point of view (classical archaeology, epigraphy, art history, ancient history etc.)  by adding data pertaining to the stone industry, - dealing mainly with the extraction of precisely described stone and its reworking. It was observed, that due to the durability of stone as a material, stone artefacts are relatively abundant in the archaeological context. However, little research on this material as such has been executed. The northeast of Roman Hispania, which is today the territory of Catalonia, was subjected to study.


The author starts with a survey of the literature and other relevant sources such as the Carta Arqueologica of Catalonia, which is an inventory of the archaeological patrimonium of this historical territory. In the discussion of the stone industry in the area, most Roman towns of the territory of Roman Catalonia were taken into consideration. Surveys were undertaken, allowing for the  recording of still unknown quarries and the gaining of additional detail knowledge as to the methods used in stone extraction. Macroscopic and pictographic description of rocks were applied in order to provide more detailed knowledge of the extracted stones.


A preliminary chronology of usage of the discussed quarries has been proposed, but since the extraction methods have not changed greatly since the introduction of dynamite, a precise chronological distinction has not always been possible. The British chronological system was applied (ancient quarries - VI th cent. B.C. till VI th cent. A.D.; mediaeval quarries - VII th cent. until the XV th cent.; early modern - 16 th cent. until the 18 th cent.; modern - 18 th cent. until today).


In chapter three, territories of the two largest Roman cities, Emporiae (today Empúries) and Gerunda (today Gerona, both respectively situated at a distance of 100 km and 140 km north of Barcelona, were discussed. A Phoenician harbour, settled by the Greeks under the name of  Emporion, was a traditional entrance gate to Spain for traders and settlers. Gerunda, on the contrary, was a town founded by the Romans “ex novo”. For constructional purposes, in both cases, local limestone was available in the vicinity. In Gerunda, subsidiary sandstone was at hand. The author in each case discusses the geological composition of the area, then the variation of stones used for production of the artefacts recorded. These data are combined with the composition of local quarries. The quarries are described as for location, composition, techniques of stone extraction and kinds of extracted elements. Then the stone is analyzed : lithology, macroscopic description, microscopic description, usability in architecture, epigraphy and art, and finally tool production. Then a stone distribution of the quarries and a chronology are given. In the concluding discussion, a holistic evaluation of the quarry site is supplied. The text is documented with a number of instructive illustrations in colour.


Chapter four is devoted to a description of quarries of Aeso and its territory. Aeso, today Isona,  lies ca. 150 km. north-west of modern Barcelona. Here  layers of Cretaceous limestone were recorded. Most of the quarries described in the publication were of opencast type, and commonly,  traces after extraction of elongated or almost square blocks were observed.

Quarries of Barcino, modern Barcelona (chapter five), rich in the Montjuïc sandstone, were explored through centuries, most intensively from 1869 on . A total of 16  individual quarry sites were explored.

Chapter six discusses quarries of Tarraco (today Tarragona) and its territory. Sedimental rocks formed in marine environments, mostly during Miocene, dominate the Tarraco quarries. The “El Mèdol stone” should be mentioned In particular - limestone and calcareous sandstone. The numerous quarries in the Tarraco region are described in detail and the text is enriched with instructive photographs. The architectural remnants of the Roman Dertosa are not preserved. Therefore the author, leaning on analogie, points to building materials of Islamic and Mediaeval Tortosa, as essentially coming from the same sources. The stone called “broccatello”, a mottled limestone, is of local origin. Tectonic faults consolidated by a yellowish cement with intrusions of white and iron rich yellowish materials give a colourful appearance to this stone. Its color qualities made “the broccatello” desirable for usage in opus sectile mosaics and for inscribed tables. Because of its visual quality, this stone was exported from the third century A.D. on in the Mediterranean area.


Chapter eight treats the evidence of extraction of stone in the other portions of the north-eastern region ; in this part of today’s Catalonia, all quarries were situated away from Roman towns.

Chapter nine is a kind of summary and here a broader discussion of the exploitation of stone in the Northeast of Roman Hispania is given. Analogies as to quarries of similar nature, hardness and lithology from other parts of the Roman Empire are provided and each quarry is discussed as to chronology, technique of extraction, economy, ownership, destruction by human activities and similar issues. From 15 types of stone, two have been extracted for usage since the III rd century. B.C., two types were explored since the beginning of the IInd century B.C., two types from the late IInd century B.C., still two types of stone from the first century B.C., one type from the end of the first century B.C., five types with the beginning of the first century A.D.. Most of the recorded quarries ceased to be used by the end of the third century A.D., while “ broccatello” continued to be explored and traded till the end of the Vth. century A.D. (see table page 256).  As for quarrying evidence, we find vertical trenches, half-cut or delimited blocks, negative traces after block extraction, wedge holes and trenches;  toolmarks and tools left in situ are also recorded. For a more detailed analysis of tool marks, however, systematic research material is generally lacking. The common tools used in quarrying appear to be wedges (cunei) and the pick (dolabra). Most quarries were of the opencast type, only a few were subjected to underground working. 

Quarry management, stone transportation, labour organisation, quarry ownership, stone distribution and commerce are commented on at the end.  The author on page 288 is using the wording ”triumphal arches” meaning probably “monumental arches”.


An appendix with a complete key to the geological maps and a bibliography follows.

In summing up, the publication is interesting, useful for research and documentation purposes, well written and refers to an area still insufficiently known. The rich illustrative material in colour, well described, adds value to this book.