Late antiquity in Iesso (Guissona, Province of Lérida). A study of several stratified contexts

Joaquim Pera Isern, Alexandra Uscatescu

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This article analyzes a group of six stratigraphical contexts recently discovered in the Roman town of Iesso (Guissona, Lerida). All of them belong to the Late Antique period, a historical period which was until now almost unknown at the site. Iesso, located in interior of Catalonia, was founded about 100 B. C. The archaeological record shows its uninterrupted development through seven centuries. Thanks to the extensive archaeological excavations carried out by the Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona during the last decade, it has been possible to establish that the town was planned following a regular urban layout. It is surrounded by a solid defensive rampart that encloses an area of roughly 20 ha. In the past few years, the archaeological work has focused on the town's northern area, which is free from any modern building. Public baths, two cardines, a gateway, a part of the intervallum and the city's wall, and several private houses have been found here. This new archaeological evidence provides a decisive progress on the knowledge of the town planning and its historical development, based on a wealth of stratigraphical data. The article focuses on the pottery recovered from several pits and fill layers dated to the Late Antique period. On the basis of the available material evidence, which is compared to the data recovered from other similar archaeological sites, a historical interpretation of the town's development during this late period is proposed. During the Late Antique period the town was apparently partially abandoned, implying a reduction in the city size and importance. The town appears to have survived during the Visigothic and the Islamic Periods, however, until becoming present day Gessone in the eleventh century. The imported pottery found within these stratigraphical contexts, including African wares, Eastern amphorae, South Gaulish fine wares (DSP), together with some South Hispanic and Lusitanian productions, attest a remarkable commercial activity in a continental Late Antique town like this. The analysis of the imported pottery wares indicate the connection of this town, probably via the coastal town of Tarraco, with the Mediterranean trade routes of the time, a clear evidence for the vitality of the town. The role of the early Christian community in the twon's transformation process should be noted, as highlighted by the discovery of Late Antique remains under the present day church of Santa Maria de Guissona.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMitteilungen des Deutschen Archaologischen Instituts. Abteilung Madrid
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2007


  • Iesso urban development
  • Late antique archaeology
  • Late antique pottery
  • Stratigraphical analysis


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