Ultima Thule

In ancient times the northernmost region of the habitable world - hence, any distant, unknown or mysterious land.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Spain destroys lost Roman city for a car park

By Aussiegirl

Forward looking Spanish Mayor doesn't let a little thing like priceless history get in the way of progress. What's more important than a car park and keeping your campaign promises, after all? Ah -- politicians! What would we do without them

Spain destroys lost Roman city for a car park - Sunday Times - Times Online

THE archeologists could barely hide their excitement. Beneath the main square of Ecija, a small town in southern Spain, they had unearthed an astounding treasure trove of Roman history.
They discovered a well-preserved Roman forum, bath house, gymnasium and temple as well as dozens of private homes and hundreds of mosaics and statues — one of them considered to be among the finest found.

But now the bulldozers have moved in. The last vestiges of the lost city known as Colonia Augusta Firma Astigi — one of the great cities of the Roman world — have been destroyed to build an underground municipal car park.

Dr Sonia Zakrzewski, a senior lecturer in archeology at Southampton University who has worked on the site, said: “It is a real shock when things like this happen. I am surprised it has gone ahead. There is no doubt this site is of fundamental importance to archeology.”

Much of the site has been hurriedly concreted over: the only minor concession to archeologists and historians, is to leave a tiny section on show for tourists. The rest will be space for 299 cars.

The Roman city has proved to be one of the biggest in the ancient world. Its estimated 30,000 citizens dominated the olive oil industry. Terracotta urns from Ecija have been discovered as far away as Britain and Rome.

The region produced three Roman emperors — Trajan, Theodosius and Hadrian — and the research has shown that Ecija was almost as important in the Roman world as Cordoba and Seville.

The socialist council says that had it not dug up the main square, Plaza de Espana, to build the car park in 1998, the remains would never have been found. But it insists the town must press ahead with the new car park.

“Nonsense,” says the town’s chief archeologist, Antonio Fernandez Ugalde, director of the municipal museum. “For some reason, the politicians here think it is more important to park their own cars. It simply does not make sense.”

But despite opposition from numerous other archeological groups and the Spanish Royal Academy of Art, there is now no possibility of restoring the 2,000-year-old Roman town.

The most exquisite discovery was a statue, known as the Wounded Amazon, modelled on an ancient Greek goddess of war. Only three other such statues are known to exist. The one in Ecija is in by far the best condition with some of its original decorative paint intact.

Juan Wic, the mayor, who is responsible for the car park project, said he was happy to have kept one of his main election pledges. He said it was “essential for the commercial future of the square and city”.


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