In summer 2015 our project worked in collaboration with the History Department in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies and York International in order to offer a new experiential education course abroad in classical archaeology (HIST 3136).
Therefore, our field school became part of the York University History Department curriculum under the form of a six credit course. The course began with eight three-hour lecture/discussion classes over a span of two weeks at York in which the students examined the historical context of late-Iberian/early-Roman Spain in the second and first centuries B.C.E. and explored significant contemporary archaeological theories, methods and practices. Four weeks were then devoted to the application of this archaeological theory and method to the excavation of House 2 in Can Mateu. Themes studied included: the process of excavation (tools and techniques, plans and sections); soil and stratigraphy (applying the “Harris matrix” and stratigraphic units); recognition and analysis of material finds (pottery, coins, remains of building structures); the interpretation and synthesis of archaeological data; the value of archaeological evidence for historical analysis of the shifting social, economic, cultural and political conditions at the site in its broader Iberian and Mediterranean contexts.
Our aim for the first campaign of excavations was to start the excavation of house number 2 in Can Mateu. The house was only partially and superficially uncovered during the campaign of 1998 but was never excavated prior to 2015. The main goals were therefore two: first, we wanted to uncover the entire plan of house in order to have a first idea of its total surface, layout and state of preservation. The second objective was to date the abandonment of the house and see if it was contemporary to the one documented for house number 1.
Both objectives were accomplished. Thanks to our first campaign of excavation we know now that the total surface of the house is around 100 square meters and the remains seems to be very well preserved. The excavation campaign of 2015 allowed our team to find a group of structures made from up to seven rooms that seem to have been abandoned around 80-70 BC. It is important to mention that the known rooms have been grouped into two distinct sets, each one with its own nomenclature (AB and 1-5) based on its accessibility and physical relationships which have been established between the various rooms (see plan below).
Rooms 1-5, although partially excavated, are understood the best and seem to be rooms belonging to the same household. The presence of a hearth and two loom weights in room 1 together with the general floor of the structure, and the visible accesses between the different rooms, seem to point in this direction. So far, room 1 is the only room that has been excavated. It was abandoned around 80-70 BC, coinciding with the abandonment of most of the Can Mateu district and the structures of the sector which were excavated in house 1 in 1998. Much less can be determined room 2, except that the SU 2806, the first SU below the top soil, seems to give a chronology around 100-75 BC and that it will be necessary to narrow it further in subsequent campaigns. Practically nothing can be said about rooms 3 and 5 since they have not been excavated; room 4, though, has quite a more complex stratigraphy. At the moment, a level of preparation composed of a dump of materials and ashes (ESU 2824) and its subsequent leveling (SU 2820 and 2821) has been documented. This level has been dated between 100 and 75 BC and based on the material culture and its topographic position, it seems to correspond to a reoccupation of the sector that took place once the republican house, which belongs to room 1, was already abandoned. Over this preparation (SU 2820 and 2821), a series of stones were found to be horizontally placed, forming a rudimentary pavement (SU 2818) that was covered by the strata SU 2815 once it had been discontinued.
The second set of rooms (A-B rooms) were not excavated and only delimited and cleaned, so it is very little what can be said. It should be mentioned that these two rooms are connected to each other but do not seem to have any access to rooms 1-5. For this reason, and although it cannot be ruled out that they are part of the same structure, it has been decided to number them separately as they could have a completely different purpose. Within this second set of rooms, it is necessary to emphasize the appearance of up to three possible foundational offerings. This fact, together with the level at which we worked and the precarious state of the walls (last row of stones), seems to suggest that we are below the levels inhabited in ancient times and, in fact, possibly at constructive levels.