Scientists from the Geological and Mining Institute of Spain (IGME) have confirmed that the sediments found in the excavations of the Roman theater in Guadix, Granada (Spain), record the occurrence of large floods every thousand years, coinciding with warm climatic periods during the Roman Empire and the Middle Ages.

It was in 2007, during the construction of an underground parking lot in Guadix, that the remains, previously unknown, of a Roman theater that had remained buried for centuries, came to light.

The archaeologist in charge, Antonio López, immediately contacted experts from the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) upon realizing the relevance of the sediments covering the ruins.

Andrés Díez, from the IGME, confirmed that the sediments corresponded to deposits left by major floods. Subsequently, Rosa María Mateos and Daniel Vázquez, also from the IGME, analyzed in detail the layers of clays, silts, and sands to reconstruct events that occurred in the area over the last 2,000 years.

As Vázquez explains, the discovery of the theater, with an area of ​​almost 6,000 square meters and all the typical elements of the most prominent Roman theaters, was already exceptional.

In addition, among the sediments, ceramic remains, glass, and even coins appeared, which, together with their disposition relative to the built structures, allowed dating the floods. Scientists corroborated the datings with radiocarbon and luminescence analyses.

The first recorded event is a major flood that occurred while the theater’s portico was being built, during the so-called Roman Climatic Optimum (200 BC – 150 AD), a warmer and wetter stage that favored the agricultural expansion of the empire.

The second catastrophic event took place in the late 12th century, when medieval warmth led to good harvests that allowed for the construction of the great European cathedrals. The Medieval Climatic Anomaly reflects an extraordinarily warm period in Europe during the 10th-14th centuries.

Experts point out that these records of past floods help understand the effects of current global warming and anticipate future floods in Guadix, just as a millennium since the last major flood documented in the Roman theater is being completed.


CSIC | A. Díez-Herrero, R.M. Mateos, et al., One catastrophic flood every millennium: Synchronicity of extreme floods and global warm periods in the multi-archive record of the Roman theatre of Guadix (Granada, SE Spain). Global and Planetary Change, vol.233,

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