The REPAEMI project – Paleoenvironmental and economic reconstruction of Augusta Emerita (Mérida, Badajoz) from the high-resolution geo-archaeological analysis of the domus of the Mitreo, requested by the research team HUM 296-Archaeology classical period and late antiquity in Eastern Andalusia of the Universidad de Granada in collaboration with the Consorcio de Ciudad Monumental Histórico Artístico de Mérida is proposed for the site of Augusta Emerita, present-day Mérida (Badajoz) or how to analyze with magnifying glass a Roman domus.
Orthophoto of the Domus del Mitreo Departamento de Documentación Consorcio de Mérida
Specifically, the present proposal has as its working space an enclave that is currently being studied and excavated: the Mitreo’ home. It is one of the largest suburban domus in Emerita and one of the most outstanding examples of private architecture in Roman Hispania, which dilates from the end of the 1st century to the middle of the 3rd century A.D., when a fire breaks out that ends up destroying this residential space.
In the domus of the Mitreo a great quantity of uses and functionalities of the space is agglutinated, counting on handcrafted facies, domestic and spaces of ludic use, between which they emphasize the landscaped peristyles or some own thermal baths. In addition, this domus presents a complex phase resulting from the diachronic evolution and changes in functionality that the different spaces underwent, as lifestyles changed in this particular dwelling, thus giving rise to a unique chronostratigraphic sequence and an exceptional archaeological record. This is where our object of study comes in: the archaeological sediments that make up the stratigraphic sequence from techniques that go beyond macroscopic autopsy and involve the loss of an enormous amount of information.
Profile under the hipocaustum of the Domus del Mitreo (author M. Bustamante)
Objectives of the project:
1) Characterization of the soils and sediments of the archaeological sequence of the domus of the Mitreo.
2) Approach to the natural and anthropic processes of formation of the archaeological site.
3) Identify the uses of the different architectural spaces from the micro stratigraphic register to characterize the diachronic evolution of the domus and, very especially, how was the process of traumatic abandonment of this outstanding suburban residence.
4) Creation of a documentary archive of thin sheets, thus preserving the archaeological stratigraphy, which inexorably disappears in the excavation process.
5) Provide new data for museum resources to the Mitreo’s Home, a space visited by 800,000 visitors a year. The purpose of these resources will be to disseminate the results of the project and the archaeological stratigraphy.
Sampling strategy and analysis techniques
The work will begin with the choice of a sampling strategy on archaeological profiles with chronostratigraphic information. Depending on the available record, and the objective of the research at the archaeological site under study, a targeted or systematic sampling strategy will be chosen that encompasses a significant sample of the stratigraphic units of the sequence.
Two types of samples will be taken during the process:
(a) Unaltered and oriented samples: These are stratigraphic columns that preserve the archaeological record in shape and orientation, from which small clods of earth are extracted. Thin sheets will be extracted from it, which, by means of polarized optical microscopy, will make it possible to know the structure and components of the soil/sediment, and are the basis of the micromorphological study.
b) Disintegrated samples of soils and sediments: These samples are extracted in parallel and correlated with the unaltered samples. These are disaggregated soil/sediment sampled at intervals. A series of analyses of soil properties and components is carried out on them, the semi-quantitative and/or quantitative results of which are intimately related to land use and environmental conditions. These analyses provide information on the presence of constituents, climatic conditions, availability of nutrients, mobility of pollutants and, above all, indicate the processes of edaphizing evolution in the face of anthropic degradation.
These samples will affect not only the living space but also the balnea associated with the house.
Protocol of micromorphology of soils and archaeological sediments (author M. Gutiérrez)
Specifically inside the house the following spaces will be sampled:
- Tabernae (shops): in order to try to understand what the uses were, as well as the products that were manufactured and sold.
- The backyard: where the kitchen could be located and where evidence of artisan production has also been witnessed.
- The viridarium (landscaped space): the analysis at this point may help us to define which were the plants that ornament this leisure space in the house.
- The horreum (the warehouse): in which some of the food stored in that place will be determined.
As far as the bathroom is concerned, samples will be taken in the following places:
- Hypocaustum (chamber of inferior heat or glory): these samples will be of interest to be able to define which were the vegetable species that acted as fuel.
- Propignea (service zones): to assess how work was done in these spaces where the slaves were confined.
- Frigidarium (cold room) and caldarium (warm room): these analyses allow us to analyse the processes of sedimentary formation in cold spaces.
Macarena Bustamante- Alvarez, Ana Mª Bejarano Osorio y Mario Gutiérrez Rodríguez
Responsables de la excavación: -Macarena Bustamante-Álvarez, Profesora Titular del Área de Arqueología de la Universidad de Granada. -Ana Mª Bejarano Osorio, Arqueóloga del Consorcio de la Ciudad Monumental Histórico-Artística y Arqueológica de Mérida. Responsable de los análisis: -Mario Gutiérrez Rodríguez, Investigador Postdoctoral, Universidad de Granada – University of Leicester