The largest Roman site in the province

The Roman villa of Vinamargo, outside the urban nucleus of Castellón and a couple of kilometres from the sea, was discovered during the canalization works on the gully of Fraga, which uncovered archaeological sites from different eras: Iberian, Roman and mediaeval. From the research we know that the villa was inhabited between the 1st and 5th centuries CE and that it is the largest excavated archaeological site in the province of Castellón, with a surface area of approximately 2,750 m². However, it should be noted that it has only been partially excavated, in the area affected by the works, and therefore cannot provide a complete picture of the actual floor plan or size. The villa is very close to Caminàs, a historic pathway connecting many of the sites in La Plana, and also near Via Augusta and the sea, and is therefore an excellent geographic strategic location.
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Archaeological documentation
The villa was probably built by a patrician1 living in the neighbouring Saguntum, in which the area of La Plana is located, executing structures necessary for use in agriculture and fishing, as well as a dwelling and other rooms for different purposes. Although the main activity is unknown, there are remains of pottery kilns, olive, vine, cereals and fruit tree cultivation, as well as bovine, ovine and porcine livestock.

Later extensions to adjoining rooms and buildings

The typical Roman villa had a pars urbana, living quarters for the owner and his family with the same comforts as in their domus2 in the city; a pars rustica for the kitchen and the slaves’ quarters, and a pars fructuaria for the preparation, conservation and storage of agricultural produce. The distribution and subdivision of the spaces of the villa in Vinamargo are difficult to define due to the different extensions which altered the distribution of the rooms and buildings adjoining the residence. However, it is known that an initial nucleus was created on the west side in the middle of the 1st century or early 2nd century CE.

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Of its surface of 2,750 m2 only the area affected by the works has been excavated
However, from the 3rd and 4th centuries CE the design changed, with a gradual expansion and the superimposition of new structures. In fact, the pars rustica (stores, stables and slaves’ quarters) was located on the west side, and the pars fructuaria (ovens and connected rooms) on the east. It is highly probable that the pars urbana was moved to the south following work and a new definition of spaces which included the addition of the thermal baths, the furnace and hypocaustum3.

Three courtyards with surrounding rooms

The villa is made up of three modules which repeat the same pattern: a courtyard around which the different rooms are distributed. The first courtyard is located in the centre and was accessed from the north, but its exact outline is unknown as it was destroyed during modern roadworks in Vinamargo. This space includes a portico with four pillar or column bases, two oblique canalizations and a well with another canalization that was built at a later stage. From the south an area from a later phase can be accessed and this includes the thermal baths, with the baths of the frigidarium4, the caldarium5 with remains of the hypocaustum, the praefurnium6, the furnus7 and additional rooms which might have been the tepidarium8 and natatio9, as well as the remains of a latrine. A square tank with a water system and two dolia10 were found on the southwest corner. These structures and the canalization were probably connected with the decanting and firing of clay. A small corridor connects this courtyard to a second courtyard located further west which was originally surrounded by a wall instead of rooms. During a later phase of structural change this courtyard was extended to the west and its shape modified, incorporating completely symmetrical rooms around it. These 15 square rooms in different sizes may have been store rooms, stables or even living quarters.
This settlement was in a position of great strategic importance: two kilometres from the sea, very close to Caminàs and quite near Via Augusta

Rooms for the slaves

In contrast, the third courtyard is almost certainly the area where the first stones were laid to build the villa.
This space accessed from the east side had a central courtyard, a perimeter portico, an impluvium11 and several rooms, although numerous later transformations hinder interpretation. The only well-documented transformation is in a rectangular room on the northeast corner which conserves the original flooring. This third courtyard is outlined by a porticoed pathway and to the east by the pars rustica with the slaves’ quarters. s.

The first constructions are known to have begun in the middle of the 1st century CE

Within the entire dwelling complex a space on the west border should be mentioned. This small apsidal room is flanked by several square rooms. Researchers believe that this area served a religious purpose, a hypothesis which is supported by the discovery in the adjoining room of a suggrundaria12 in a tomb covered with tegulae13 and the pottery grave goods left with the dead child.

Masonry walls

The same pattern was used for the building from the foundation of the villa to the different phases for modification and reform. The foundations are built alongside a 90-cm-high plinth of brick walls, rammed earth walls and a tegula and imbrex14 roof to judge from the remains. However, two floors were documented on site with opus caementicium15  while the floor in the thermal baths is thought to have been opus reticulatum16  given the discovery of rhombus-shaped remains. The material found in the different excavation campaigns contributes in some way to establishing an order for the different phases of changes and expansions of the villa of Vinamargo, although cataloguing work is still ongoing. A large amount of transport pottery mostly from Tarraconensis (1st-3rd centuries CE), associated with the wine trade, and from Baetica for the trade of oil and fish-salting were recovered. There is also a group of African amphorae (2nd-4th centuries) and various types of fine tableware, including plates, bowls, glasses or cups in Hispanic terra sigillata17  (1st-2nd centuries CE). The sigillum or potter’s mark on some of these pieces helps establish their origin.

The owner, probably a patrician, had the villa built in order to work in local agriculture and fishing

Local pottery production

The waste from firing found in an area outside the villa shows that the residents manufactured their own pottery (1st-2nd centuries CE). Small amphorae, lamps and flasks have been identified thanks to the potter’s mark, identifying the potter as Atticus. All the pieces were moulded but are twisted and deformed, and were discarded for this reason. Although rare, fragments of Andalusi pottery from the 10th to 12th centuries were found alongside the remains from the Roman era. This is thought to be connected with an Andalusi farmstead near the villa, as structures from this time were found in the west part of the dwelling and other remains dating from the 14th and 15th centuries, on the east side. Among the metal objects it is worth noting some iron or lead remains connected with furniture, as well as tools for working in the fields, nails or staples. There are also coins such as asses and sesterces, which date from 2nd-1st centuries BCE to 1st-3rd centuries CE. Fibulae (decorated bronze brooches) were found which were used in the harnesses of horses, as well as bone objects including hair pins, awls, sewing needles, knife handles and parts of hinges, which can be dated to the 2nd-3rd centuries CE. We know that some of the glass remains found are from tableware. There are also large panels of glass used for windows and even several glass paste beads and mosaic tesserae.


1Patricians: The wealthiest class in the Roman world, owners of most of the land and livestock.2Domus: Home of a family of a certain economic level where the head of the family was called dominus.3Hypocaustum: Greek underfloor heating system from the Hellenistic period, adopted and widely spread by Romans and used in the thermal baths of the Roman Empire.4Frigidarium: Cold water baths.5Caldarium: Hot steam baths used in the complex of the Roman thermal baths. Temperatures could reach 60 degrees Celsius.6Praefurnium: Term used in ancient Rome to refer to the combustion chamber of a furnace.7Furnus: Furnace generating heat for the caldarium and tepidarium.8Tepidarium: Warm water baths, between 25 and 30 degrees Celsius, heated by the hypocaustum




09Natatio: Pool deep enough to swim in.10Dolium (pl. dolia): Roman pottery cask or jar used to store and transport food.11Impluvium: Tank for the collection of rainwater.12Suggrundaria: Infant burial site.13Tegula (pl. tegulae): Roman roof tile.14Imbrex: Roman pan-tile.15Opus caementicium: Construction similar in appearance to concrete but made with sand, water, mortar and stones of all types.16Opus reticulatum: Form of brickwork made up of small diamond-shaped blocks placed to form a grid.17Terra sigillata: Latin expression meaning ‘sealed earth (or ceramic)’ referring to a characteristic type of bright red Roman ceramic. In use from 1st century BCE to the mid-3rd century CE approximately.




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