This project’s main objective is the study of the different port areas related to the various population centres established in Empúries between the 6th century BC, when the Foceian commercial Emporium was created, and the 7th and 8th centuries AD, a time of profound transformation that marks the passage to the medieval period.
Knowledge of these port areas is a key factor in the historical interpretation of the ancient Greek and Roman Empúries, since its origin, evolution and decline were always linked to the determining role played by its port.
Aerial view of Empúries. On the left, the nucleus of the Greek Neapolis and, on the right, the hollow of the old natural port (author: M. Bataller)
This is a multidisciplinary project that contemplates, on the one hand, the archaeological excavation of different sectors of the site linked to the ancient port spaces. The most important action is centred on the excavation of the northern quarter of the Greek city, with the aim of finding out about the urban planning of this sector, recovering the ancient topography and understanding the connection of the city with the ancient natural port. The work carried out in 2018-2019 and, especially, the excavation of the imposing level of sand that filled the old harbour hollow has made it possible to visually recover the rocky promontory on which the Greek city was built, which, in some points, formed a small cliff about 7-8 metres high, from which the entire harbour area was visually dominated.
Reconstructive drawing of the northern part of the Greek city and the connection with the natural harbour area (author: Jordi Sagrera)
On the other hand, the project also contemplates other geomorphological research work and palaeoenvironmental reconstruction of the natural environment or geophysical prospecting, with the aim of knowing the morphology and characteristics of the port areas and establishing the interrelationship between the dynamics of the landscape and those of the population.
The project starts from the premise that traditional interpretations of port areas were essentially based on the reading of the few references to classical sources or on the simple observation of topographical and archaeological elements preserved until the present day, without taking into consideration the profound transformations that the coast and the territory of Empúries have undergone over the centuries.
Fortunately, over the last few decades, the convergence between archaeological research and palaeoenvironmental studies, which have focused attention on the evolution of the palaeolandscape, has enabled us to reconstruct a natural environment and a geomorphological framework that is completely different from the present one and, in this way, to reinterpret some aspects of the historical account. On the basis of these works, we now know that between the 6th century BC and the 6th-7th centuries AD, the Ter and Fluvià rivers formed vast alluvial plains around Empúries, giving rise to the formation of extensive areas of wetlands and small freshwater or brackish water lagoons, of varying depth and extension depending on the period and the balance between the fluctuations in sea level and the contributions of sediments from the rivers.
The juxtaposition between archaeological and paleogeomorphological data demonstrates the perfect adaptability of settlement patterns to the particularities of a natural environment strongly marked by the existence of three clearly differentiated environments: the river, the lagoon or wetland and the estuary. The specific characteristics of this landscape led to the existence of a common settlement pattern, which favoured the occupation of the small elevations located on the same coast or at a short distance and surrounded by an aquatic environment.
Palaeolithic landscape of the coastal plain of Empúries, with the distribution of the main centres of population: 1. Sant Martí d’Empúries; 2.Greek city; 3. Roman city; 4. Santa Margarida
The paleoenvironmental reconstruction work, which is supported and financed by the Palarq Foundation. Paleontology and Archaeology Foundation” for the preparation of pollen diagrams, is based on the records obtained from different geological surveys carried out in some of the old lakes that characterized the landscape of Empúries, such as that in the sector of Santa Margarida and Sobrestany. From the samples recovered, the aim is to complete the pollen data already obtained in lakes located further inland on the plain, focusing on the urban or periurban landscape of ancient Empúries.
The pollen study is elaborated from the samples obtained in different geological surveys carried out in some of the old lagoons located in the surroundings of Empúries. Detail of the survey carried out in the sector of Santa Margarida.
The characterisation of the landscape will be carried out on the basis of the pollen content and non-pollen microfossils, including coprophilic fungus spores, which allow the characterisation of the livestock farm. In addition to the corresponding radiocarbon data that will allow the sequence to be adjusted to the project’s objectives, the aim is to carry out a high-resolution, multi-proxy study that includes, in addition to pollen, a set of palaeo-environmental indicators such as sedimentology, geochemistry, NPP, etc., in order to adequately reconstruct both the palaeo-environmental dynamics of these ancient lagoons and the estuary environment, their filling process, as well as the landscape transformation and human exploitation of this sector.
Pere Castanyer, Marta Santos, Joaquim Tremoleda y Elisa Hernández
De izquierda a derecha: Joaquim Tremoleda, Pere Castanyer, Elisa Hernández y Marta Santos. Equipo del proyecto de investigación arqueológica sobre las áreas portuarias de la antigua Empúries (2018-2021) del Museu d'Arqueologia de Catalunya-Empúries.