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Knowing the "Roman-Basque" capital town
This settlement, formerly considered as an ‘oppidum’, a fortified military camp, is the most important Roman settlement among the ones found in Álava.
The Roman town of Iruña-Veleia is an archaeological site located in the municipality of Iruña de Oca, between the localities of Trespuentes and Villodas, and ten kilometres from Vitoria-Gasteiz. The experts continue working in this place.
This settlement, formerly considered as an ‘oppidum’, a fortified military camp, is the most important Roman settlement among the ones found in Álava. New findings indicate that this was the main centre of consumption in the Basque Country during the Roman period.
As it was located in the main overland route of the North of the Iberian Peninsula, it played a very important role in the revitalisation of the environment, since it distributed all the goods (oil, wine, salted meats, marble, crockery…) that arrived at there.
Therefore, these are the remains of a town strictly speaking, integrated into a completely Romanised area, whose origins go back to the end of the Bronze Age. During the Iron Age, it experienced a great expansion and the end of the 1st century of our time was its golden age. During that period, they replaced their huts with houses, including rooms around a central courtyard with a water cistern.
The access to the site –covering more than 1,500 years of history- is located at what formerly was the southern gate of the wall. This wall sheltered an urban area of more than 11 hectares but, nowadays, we can only see 500 metres.
Once we get in, leaving the Cardo Maximus to our left, we find several rooms belonging to a big urban residence, opened to a secondary street. Very close to it, we can enjoy impressive mosaics that, at present, are put in their original place. We can see the remains of painting coatings and the mosaic floor –dating from the 3rd century AD-. It also preserves the overflow channel of the water tank.
A bit farther, very near the town’s main street, that is, the Cardo Maximus, we find the remains of a house in which we can see the cellar. At the highest part of the town, we can observe the remains of a big public building that was integrated into the wall as a tower. The wall was built between the 3rd and 4th centuries AD, it had a 1.5 kilometre perimeter and very high towers (some points of the wall preserve more than nine metres).
To get an idea of how life was in the old town, a small exhibition of photographs, texts, and drawings has been installed. Some of the pieces found in the excavations are in the Museum of Archaeology of Álava, a visit recommended by the project Iruña-Veleia 3rd Millennium.
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