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MNAT promotes its own research project on Centcelles

16 January 2024

The National Archaeological Museum of Tarragona (MNAT) promotes its own research project dedicated to the monumental complex of Centcelles (Constantí) with the purpose of answering some of the questions about its chronology and function. This Tuesday, January 16, the first meeting of the research team involved in the project was held in the same space, during which the initiative and the actions planned until 2027 were presented.

The main objective of the research is to change the traditional conception of the monument, limited to the late Roman building that has been preserved until today, with actions that will involve the surrounding area, the Roman aqueduct of the Pont de les Caixes and the study of the building from different perspectives. With all these actions, the aim is to clarify the enigmas that still surround this monument today, or contribute to it in the future. The results of the project should also make it possible to enrich and improve the experience of visiting Centcelles.

This is the first research project of these characteristics promoted by the MNAT, within the strategic line of work of the institution in promoting research, innovation and knowledge transfer. The project is supported by the Generalitat de Catalunya through the Servei de Patrimoni Arqueològic i Paleontològic and the Centre de Restauració de Béns Mobles de Catalunya (CRBMC), and is open to the collaboration of other institutions, entities and companies.

The director of the MNAT, Mònica Borrell, highlighted: "This project is an opportunity to join forces to ask questions, set new challenges and move forward with new perspectives, with objectives shared both with the German Archaeological Institute (DAI) and with different researchers in the fields of archaeology, architecture and restoration and conservation".

Planned actions

Centcelles is considered an exceptional monument within the late Roman architecture and the most monumental and powerful of its characteristics and period in Hispania and probably also in the whole western part of the Empire. Despite the research carried out, especially by the DAI in the 50s and 60s, we currently have only partial knowledge of the complex and there are several questions about its chronology (with theories that oscillate between the mid-fourth century and the first quarter of the fifth century) and its function, with approaches that have interpreted it as a villa, mausoleum, villa-mausoleum or military base.

The research project includes a program of archaeological actions, documentation, architectural, decorative and iconographic studies, and analysis of the construction materials, with a multidisciplinary perspective that allows the collection of the greatest number of clues in order to find answers to all these enigmas. The actions will be carried out between 2024 and 2027.

Among the planned actions, it is worth mentioning the digitalization and study of the documentation kept in the archives of the German Archaeological Institute of Madrid (DAI-Madrid), the institution that carried out the first excavation and study of Centcelles between 1959 and 1976 and that will also collaborate in the development of the research. In this matter, the meeting of this Tuesday has counted with the presence of the director of the DAI-Madrid, Paul Scheding, who has made a first delivery of this documentation.

On the other hand, annual archaeological excavation campaigns are planned that will affect several sectors of the area and the southern baths (which are expected to be incorporated into the tour route), as well as stratigraphic soundings of the site area, the dome room and the Pont de les Caixes. Photogrammetry and 3D modeling of the Pont de les Caixes are also planned, among other actions.

Research team

The research project team that met on Tuesday, January 16 in Centcelles is led by MNAT curator Josep Anton Remolà, and is made up of representatives of the DAI-Madrid, the CRBMC, the Museum of Archaeology of Catalonia (MAC), the INSAF, the UNED and several professionals in archaeology and architecture.

"We cannot allow ourselves to resign ourselves to consider as enigmatic one of the most splendid and best preserved architectural enclosures of the late Roman period of the Roman Empire. This team will help us to carry out a truly multidisciplinary approach to Centcelles to try to solve fundamental questions with an investigation in which we have the obligation to consider all the evidence," said Josep Anton Remolà, head of the research team.

Next: Presentation of the IV edition of the Centcelles Composition Award
Previous: Water, the protagonist of the project "Centcelles, el nostre objectiu".

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