ILLUSTRATIVE DISPLAY OF THE DIGGING RESTS FROM THE ROMAN CAMP
Based on the archaeological historic context to date, we are quite sure that this camp site would have risen essentially as the operational basis for the construction of the Via Nova and its complementary installations, at least as regards the Bracarense sector itself. The chronological proximity of its oldest monetary and pottery rests and the first inauguration of the paved road in the years 79/80 of the first century AD, as the initial milestones of the route suggest, do confirm such a suspicion. In any case, the military establishment does not seem to have gone beyond the reign of Traianus (98-117), totaling its useful life span in that place hardly fifty years.
Another question, likewise discussed, has been the one concerning the name and nature of the military unit that occupied it. During a certain time we sustained that it might have been the Cohors I Celtiberorum, whose presence is detected inside Gallaecia as well as in the Teleno´s (Leon) region in Cidadela (Sobrado dos Monxes), due this time to the intervention of a prefect, as patron of this military unit, Gayo Antonio Aquilo Novaugustano, in the pact with the Coelerni from the nearby Castromao. Nowadays, however, bearing in mind the recent discoveries carried out, we assert that it was a legionary cohort, namely the IIIrd of the VIIth gémina legion, with headquarters of reference in Leon, that would have raised it in the seventies of the first century. That is felt even through the architecture itself, applying construction resources and diagrams very similar to the ones of the Leonese base camp. We have recently shared very satisfying news in relation with the place of destiny of our legionary cohort as they left this camp site. They would have moved to Dacia (Romania), the auxiliary camp of Paralissum, as shown by the marks of ceramic found in that place.
Anyway, the total surface of the enclosure, nearing 25.000 square meters, could house some 500 legionaries, and an auxiliary corps of cavalry.
The outline and heaving of the structures, organized in grids around the two fundamental and perpendicular ways cardo (N-S) and decumanus (EW), was carried out according to a common orthogonal diagram, notwithstanding slight variants in relation with other camps of the period. In any case, the structural groups up to date exhumed, either totally or partially, are the following: pricipia or general headquarters, two big raised granaries for the storage of imperishable food, Valetudinarium (hospital), five barracks for the troop, roads and channels of drainage and a defensive system (wall with its towers, porta pincipalis sinistra, main left door, porta decumana, south door, small sector of the ditch and intervallum or perimetral road, also called sagularis.
1.PRINCIPIA OR GENERAL BARRACKS.
The principia of a military camp come to be its medullar space, since they housed the essential organs of the administration, the holy area destined to the cult and the custody of banners and to strengthen the moral of the military discipline.
Actually, this important edification is organized around a square 29 by 29 meters, plus some frontal and lateral additions, thus reaching its total surface almost 1.200 meters. From east to the west, and therefore from outside to inside, the expanse is organized according to the following spaces: portico, forum, basilica and sacral-administrative area. The portico, groma-type, with projection outwards, invading partially the line of the cardo in the centre of the camp where the groma is placed, and from here its denomination, results extremely original and is attributed to the so called legionary porticos, in this case with evident fundament. Each possesses pillared corridors to the outside, framing the entrance door to each lateral room, which may be the armamentaria or chambers destined to be the warehouse where arms were stored at both ends of the dividing wall with the forum with openings giving access to those chambers.
At the rear of the portico, one can gain access to the forum surrounded by perimetric corridors with the roof held by wooden props along three of its sides, opened always outwards. In the geometrical centre of the yard the foundations of a plinth of statue arose, ignoring whether it refers to the emperor or to some divinity; maybe to the former.
Coming next, one can contemplate the basilica, detached from the forum by a blind wall, except at its ends; a rectangular space some 250 meters surface, whose purpose was to house concentrations of all type: administration of justice, harangue speeches, and maybe some entertainment performance, etc. And, attached to the bottom wall there is a rectangular central space with the floor raised some 60 centimeters in relation with the other six compartments. This would make reference to the aedes or holy enclosure, where the emperor´s statue would be displayed, as well as the Jupiter´s altar and the banners of the troop, whereas its contiguous stances, the same length, but not the same width, would be allocated to administration tasks. Finally, by the north and south flanks of the building there were opened porticoed corridors to allow people´s circulation sheltered from the inclemency of the weather.
2.-BARRACKS OF THE TROOP (STRIGIA)
Up to date four barracks have been totally excavated and the fifth is in process. However, the plant is identical in all five cases.
In reality, a bunk-house or barrack for the troop is chiefly made up of two rectangular fronted wings with an inner atrium serving also as compluvium for the collection of rain water. A central channel drove it to the respective tank, in general provided of rim, situated off the geometrical centre, but rather anchored toward the interior of the court between both wings.
The bunk-house provided lodging to a centuria (a centuriate unit) of soldiers, with its respective commands, totaling some 85 men. Each unit of eight soldiers formed a contubernium that lodged in two chambers communicating with each other, but independent of the rest of the centuria, amounting the group to ten units of these characteristics; six of the units with the sentry body in one of the wings and four in the opposite wing, seen that at the end of this last one rose the house of the commands, also called the centurion´s, already intertwined with civil fashion lodgings.
3.-RAISED GRANARIES (HORREA)
Two contiguous samples of horrea have been dug out, of uneven width ( 8´20 and 10´30 m., respectively), but identical length ( 21 m.).They possessed strong perimetric walls almost a meter wide, reinforced at intervals with transversal buttresses projected both inwards and outwards. It is thought to be so due to the pressure that the grain stored exerted on the lateral walls. The wooden floor would be laid on parallel alignments of granitic abutments that would allow the circulation of air for the conservation of stocked food, protecting it at the same time from the predatory activity of rodents. In one of the granaries the presence of a ventilation chimney with the same aim has been uncovered.
Both horrea, however, in spite of being independent, had a common loading and unloading deck with a porticoed front zone to keep both buildings from the strong storms of the SW.
It was in the horrea that imperishable food was kept, such as cereals, dry legumes, salty meat, wine and fats. These provisions resulted essential to keep the logistics of the establishment.
Given its situation inside the military compound, we are not totally sure whether this building might have housed the hospital or the praetorium, residence in this case of the tribune of the cohort, chief of the garrison. In any case, it has been endowed with the first of the functions and we are going to describe it accordingly.
We refer to a construction organized around an impluvium or central square yard surrounded by sidewalks open at three of its sides, whose roof would lean on wooden pillars and supported by a extended base some sixty centimeters high. The mentioned corridors could be reached from the entrances of the respective lodgings, in some cases provided of homes that frequently showed traces of having suffered reforms and modifications.
From the central yard flowed out, by the wide entrance, drainage channel that reached the outside of Porta decumana. No chirurguical instrument has been found , though.
5.INNER ROADS AND SYSTEMS OF DRAINAGE
It has already been said that the compound space is organized in grids, following the marked guidelines of the two perpendicular master roads: the cardo and the decumanus. However, while the cardo divides its sector in two rigorously equal parts, the decumanus does it in an asymmetric way, assigning toward the side of the praetorian door one third of the surface and to the side of the decumana more or less two thirds, being this larger space transversally subdivided by means of the layout of another parallel narrower road; the via quintana.
We shall still refer to the via sagularis or perimetral that identifies itself with the intervallum and possesses two fundamental functions: it provides exit and service to some barracks of the troop and supplies space for the installation of the bakery ovens of each century, resulting still perceptible some of their layout, always of circular or oval design. As regards the drainage to evacuate pluvial waters, little canals are being uncovered in several zones of the military enclosure and almost always following the axis of the streets. It can also be seen that in occasions some canals flow into others and the resultant wider pipe flows to a lower side of the camp. Anyway, one can remark the lack of conventional sewers as well as any trace of aqueducts that could have conveyed clean water from some distance.
In general, the channels derive from the different buildings toward the public ways of the compound. In the case of the principia, these offer a more looked- after execution, flowing out to the via paetoria and draining off by the door of the same name. As regards the valetudinarium and the horrea, their drainage flowed by the door decumana joining the rest of the drainage coming from the barracks of the troop, finding its way by the intervallum and even by the via quintana.
6.-THE DEFENCES (WALL, TOWERS, DOORS, INTERVALLUM AND PIT).
One must not forget that we are dealing with a military fortress and, therefore, the articulation of the defensive system would be essential. Up to date, extensive wall tracts have already been dug out with its towers and its respective doors, which, in spite of representing partial rests, offer the perfect diagram of the whole defensive compound. We know that the wall was three meters wide. The inner filling consisted of an amalgamated mixture of stone and clay that came to constitute the inform core. At a certain distance, depending on the length of the stretch in relation with the respective doors, there was an inserted rectangular tower, being possible to remark, even now, their plant a bit raised over the foundations level due to a 10 cm salient pointing outwards and another one 50 cm inwards. However, there are also corner towers, situated at the angles of the camp that offer a trapezoidal plant and an external rounded profile. In general, the distance between towers surpasses slightly 28 meters in longer sections between doors, being less in shorter sections. Among the filling of the ditch (fosse), fragments of cornices finishings and battlements have appeared, which come to show how the wall was topped.
On the other hand, the entrances, up to now dug out, have been the porta principalis sinistra (main left door) and the porta decumana (west door), rightly supposing that each one of their opposite may offer, when dug out, identical characteristics.
The first mentioned has double void space for the traffic under round arches, both framed between rectangular towers 10 by 5 meters each of them. The wall battlement would be situated some 5 meters from the ground, ignoring whether the towers had just one or two superposed storeys.
However, the porta decumana has only one void space for the passage, being the rest of the characteristics very similar to those of the previous ones
The access to the towers was through a rear door, opened at the bottom by the side of the camp, articulating from there a system of wooden staircase so that one could reach the upper storey (s) of the towers as well as the wall.
Besides, parallel with the outside along the perimeter of the wall, would run a V-shape ditch, four meters deep and as many at the top, interrupted only to give way to the entrances.
The defences were brought to an end by means of the intervallum or perimetric inner road, some 11 meters wide that added to the functions described the role of working as a separator between the inner constructions and the line of the wall in the case of attack with incendiary darts.