Beautiful site. Very modern building around the excavation. There are some videos that give you a good impression of the ancient times and how the place looked like and how rhe... read more
Discovered in 1968, La Olmeda Roman Villa is one of the most important...
Discovered in 1968, La Olmeda Roman Villa is one of the most important archaeological sites in the Spanish Roman world. It is a big mansion of the Late Roman Empire (4th century A.D.) whose main building – square and flanked by two towers- is arranged around a central courtyard with peristyle that opens towards the different rooms, most of them paved with mosaics. The main room is the Oecus, with 175 m 2 , where one of the most important mosaics of the Roman world is still extremely well preserved, with two scenes to admire. The main one represents the well known episode of Ulyses in Skyros and it is surrounded by an elegant frieze filled with portraits, maybe the owner’s portraits. Below, there is a very realistic hunting scene.
Several necropolis with plenty of interesting archaeological material have been excavated in the surroundings of the main building, which facilitates the study and the greater knowledge of the Late Roman world in the Meseta. The archaeological complex was declared Asset of Cultural Interest on 3 rd April 1996. The comprehension of everyday life in the Late Roman Empire can be completed with the visit to the Monographic Museum of the Villa in Saldana, a village near La Olmeda. There, you may contemplate the collection of “terra sigillata” fine ware pottery and the burial goods of the necropolis . La Olmeda Roman Villa was discovered while doing some agricultural work at the beginning of the summer in 1968. The tractor tripped over the remains of an ancient wall and that was the starting point of the archaeological research. The mystery was cleared up with the discovery of a splendid Late Roman palace: rooms, corridors, porches… a whole complex whose peak, 1600 years ago, has found its way to the present by chance.
The monumental facade of the building, flanked by two octagonal towers, is in the South. After passing through it, we come to the main hall of the palace where the mosaic has been preserved almost intact. At the back of the hall, two columns mark the division between it and a perpendicular gallery, which is the Southern part of the peristyle. This peristyle also has beautiful mosaics and the main rooms of the Villa open towards it. The eastern, the most important and sumptuous, have been identified as a bedroom, a small dining room and a reception room. All of them have splendid mosaics. Among the western rooms, the large dining room is the main one. It was reformed during the Roman age, which increases its archaeological interest. The mosaic of the reception room is one of the most important of all those preserved in Spain: tiny stones of a wide range of colours are harmoniously ordered to compose different scenes. Hunters on foot and on horseback that pursue various animals, heroes of the Classical Antiquity that tell us about their old legends and a frieze where the owners of the palace, among heraldic wild ducks and dolphins, are immortalized in portraits where the art of the mosaic reaches its culmination.
The objects found in the ruins are exhibited in the Archaeological Museum of Saldana, 6 kilometers from the Roman Villa: coins, fine ware pottery, tools of farmers and artisans, bronze tacks of their fast horses and fragile greenish glasses. These ones were found among the burial goods put close to the corpses inside the tombs of the necropolis placed at a sufficient distance from the village. The baths of La Olmeda Roman Villa are a distinguished area in the western part of the Pars Urbana. They were already identified in the excavations performed by Pedro de Palol and Javier Cortes in 1970. Since then, there have been a number of works whose primary aim was to delimitate the external perimeter of the complex.The works inside the baths resumed in 1991, locating five rooms at the Southern side of the complex, documented as the southern area of the baths. The building of a fixed cover to protect the thermal area from the weather in 1995 brought about the consolidation of the structures as well as the restoration and replacement of the Opus Tessellatum floors discovered in the rooms.
The rooms are organized in two areas at both sides of the access corridor and because of this, from an analytical point of view, we can divide the floor of the baths of La Olmeda into three areas:
The Southern area is made up of a big round room (B-10), maybe a “warm” room, provided with an underground heating system. There are four small rectangular rooms attached to it (B-14, B-13, B -12, B11 [two of them at the entrance]) without a heating system.
The central area is the access to the baths of the mansion. Judging by the presence of external buttresses, it is possible it was once covered by a roof.
The Northern area is the place where the more specific rooms of the thermal area are located. To date, archaeologists have identified:
A big square room with rounded corners and a bench in some areas, maybe an apodyterium (B-02), which also has a cold bath of descensio style.
In the SE area there is a smaller room with a deep wastepipe and ceramic floor tiles. It could have been used as laetrinae (B-5).
Attached to the previous areas, there is a long and narrow covered area, maybe a hall, located at the beginning of the only entrance to the apodyterium from the outside.
In the North of the Northern area, there are three projecting blocks discovered during the perimeter excavation in 1986: in the NE corner, above the vestibule, there is a small square room (B-06) that seems to have been added to the whole structure; in the middle there is a clover shaped room (B-03) connected to the apodyterium; and in the NW corner, attached to the heated rooms, there is a rectangular room (B-09) with a praefurnium that has been explained as the thermal propnigeum.
In conclusion, all these works show a building of nearly 900 m 2 attached to the palace of the Villa and with an enclosed area of nearly 300 m 2 added to it between the Southern area of the baths and the nearest tower of the palace.
The villa can be visited without a guide. There is a recommended itinerary to make the unguided tour easier. There are also some informative panels and interactive machines.
Advance reservations are required for guided tours (only groups of a minimum of 10 people and a maximum of 30 people). The Monographic Museum of La Olmeda Roman villa, which is at San Pedro's Church in Saldana, can be visited using the same access ticket of the Villa.