Ancient Spanish Vineyards Discovered In 1000-Year-Old Deserted Basque Village

By Rhonda J. Miller on December 30, 2013 9:57 AM EST

Deserted Spanish Village Site Of Ancient Vineyards
Archaeologists have discovered evidence of vineyards that existed more than 1,000 years ago in a deserted village in the Basque region of Spain. (Photo: UPV/EHU / Rhonda J. Miller)

Archaeologists have found evidence of vineyards that were likely flourishing more than 1,000 years ago in a long-deserted village in the Basque region of northern Spain. The terraced fields traced back to ancient vineyards are located in the medieval settlement of Zaballa. The evidence of grape cultivation was discovered by researchers from the University of Basque Country, Live Science reported.

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 The discovery revised a segment of Basque agricultural history. "Archaeo-botanical studies of seed remains found in the excavations and pollen studies have provided material evidence of the existence of vine cultivation in a relatively early period like the 10th century," said Antonio Quirós-Castillo of PV/EHU-University of the Basque Country in Archaeology magazine. "Owing to the nature of the crop spaces built and the agrarian practices developed, they are not compatible with cereal crops, but they are with vines."

The archaeologists also uncovered metal tools likely used to maintain the ancient vineyards, according to Live Science.

The village at Zaballa was feudal territory set up about the 10th century A.D. around a manor monastery, according toArchaeology magazine. The settlement was abandoned in the 15th century, presumably after local lords created a rental system that forced out many of the community's settlers. Zaballa is one of more than 300 deserted settlements collectively known as Araba-Alava, where archaeologists are working to reconstruct the history of region, Live Science reported.

he research in the area is adding up to some of the most important archaeological information on medieval history in northern Spain. According to Quirós-Castillo, it is helping scientists to "see how the peasant community itself gradually adapts to the political and economic changes that take place in the medieval context in which these places are located."

For example, the archaeological team also studied another abandoned settlement in Araba-Alava called Zornotegi, where they determined the terraced fields were used for cultivating cereals and grains. "Zornotegi has a completely different history," Quirós-Castillo said. "Even though it was founded at more or less the same time, it is a much more egalitarian social community in which such significant social differences are not observed, and nor is the action of manorial powers which, in some way, undermined the balance of the community."

The researchers are working to bring more attention to the Araba-Alava settlements. "The space for traditional crops, still easily recognizable in the landscapes closest to us, are historical spaces brimming with explanatory significance to help us understand the societies of the past," said Quirós-Castillo "Indeed, they require attention which they have not had until now."

The findings were reported in a special edition of the journal Quaternary International.

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