Three lead ingots, about 45 centimeters long and weighing approximately between 24 and 32 kilograms, were discovered years ago during the construction of the Maghreb-Europe gas pipeline at the Los Escoriales de Doña Rama site, located in Belmez, Córdoba (Spain). They are kept at the Belmez Museum and in private homes.

These ingots, which are triangular in shape, similar to a Toblerone bar, have been dated to the first century AD. Two of them bear a distinctive mark with the letters “S S”, which corresponds to the societas Sisaponensis, an ancient mining company from La Bienvenida (Almodóvar del Campo, Ciudad Real).

This mark indicates that the ingots were intended for export, revealing that ancient Roman Córdoba was not only a production center but also a strategic point for Mediterranean trade.

Site of Los Escoriales de Doña Rama-Belmez on orthophoto
Site of Los Escoriales de Doña Rama-Belmez on orthophoto. Credit: PNOA-Actual

The international and multidisciplinary team led by the University of Córdoba investigated these ingots, and their conclusions were published in the Journal of Roman Archaeology.

Through chemical analysis and stable isotopes, it was established that these ingots were desilvered and that the ore from which they were derived came from the Fuente Obejuna-Azuaga district, an important mining center of the time.

The uniqueness of this discovery lies in the fact that the ingots were found in the same location where they were manufactured, something unusual since most of these ingots have been found at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea, as a result of shipwrecks.

(a), (b), (c) and (d) Hillside constructions located in the hillside sector of the site; (e) and (f) Lower sector of the site located on the plain
(a), (b), (c) and (d) Hillside constructions located in the hillside sector of the site; (e) and (f) Lower sector of the site located on the plain. Credit: Proyecto MEI-Heritage / Universidad de Córdoba

To delve deeper into the study, the researchers collaborated with specialists from the University of Toulouse, who have been studying the composition of ingots found at the bottom of the sea.

UCO researcher Antonio Monterroso Checa explained that this discovery places northern Córdoba within the primary networks of metallurgical, economic, and commercial production of the ancient Mediterranean.

Monterroso also noted that this finding suggests that the Doña Rama site could have been a mining settlement with a mine, a smelting facility, and a processing area, although much remains to be investigated. This involves industrialization, skill, and knowledge to achieve that level of manufacturing, Monterroso added.

Ingots 1, 2 and 3. Photogrammetry. Longitudinal, frontal and section views
Ingots 1, 2 and 3. Photogrammetry. Longitudinal, frontal and section views. Credit: Proyecto MEI-Heritage / Universidad de Córdoba

This study is part of the MEI-Heritage Project, funded by the Junta de Andalucía and the Research and Transfer Unit in Heritage Sciences at the University of Córdoba. The research is also related to the project “Production and Circulation of Goods in the Southern Edge of the Plateau”, funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation.


Sources

University of Córdoba | Monterroso-Checa A, Domergue C, Rico C, et al. La societas Sisaponensis, los lingotes de Doña Rama-Belmez y la explotación minera de los montes de Corduba. Journal of Roman Archaeology. Published online 2024:1-40. doi:10.1017/S1047759424000035


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