Between the end of April and the beginning of May 2015, fieldwork was carried out at the fortified Arab village of El Castillejo, Guajar Faragüit, Granada (Spain). Built on the top of an isolated hill facing the village of Guajar Faragüit, its surface of ca. 1.5 ha (120 m x 130 m) is clearly defined by a circuit wall with a baluarte (fortified gate) along its western side. Excavations undertaken by the University of Granada (UoG) from the 1980s up until 2001 demonstrated that the site was occupied from the beginning of the 11th century to the mid 14th century (Bertrand et al, 1990; García Porras, A, 2001; Malpica et al, 1985; 1986; 1989). The buildings conform to a repeated plan of several rooms organized around a central patio with at least two floors. Standing walls were built in rammed earth, locally known as tapial, with foundations of stone masonry. Although the reason behind its abandonment is still controversial (it seems possible that its desertion was caused by the Black Dead), at some point during its occupation, El Castillejo experienced a strong earthquake that caused widespread damage mainly in the eastern part of the site which was completely destroyed and never resettled. By contrast, the western area survived the seismic event although evident seismic effects, including several restorations, are recognisable in this area. Our fieldwork focused on the systematic recording of both EAEs (Earthquake Archaeological Effects, see Giner-Robles et al. 2009) and restoration works, using also photogrammetry and a drone flight performed by the Department of Archaeology of the UoG, in order to better understand the damage typology and distribution of repairs. EAEs visible on standing walls or collapsed structures range from shear or composite cracks (penetrative fractures), displacement of tapial blocks and tilted, folded or detached walls.
Reparation works are recognizable because a later phase of tapial was constructed after the seismic event. Moreover, this 2nd architectural phase often re-used 1st phase tapial fragments, stones, bricks and tiles. We collected stratigraphic evidence which shows that the restorations were carried out in response to the seismic damage by the people who returned to resettle the site after the earthquake. Due to this wealth of evidence, El Castillejo represents a wonderful case study for investigating a medieval society’s resilience to seismic damage.
Interestingly, this seismic event appears not to have been included in any seismic catalogues, as there is no known seismic event that can be correlated with the earthquake that damaged El Castillejo within the Granada area during this period (11th – mid 14th century). In collaboration with Alberto G. Porras (UoG), we aim to collect new data in order to more accurately date this event. With new archaeological results expected soon, this research will hopefully provide a new and significant contribution to the palaeoseismic background of Andalusia.
Fieldwork on El Castillejo was successfully carried out thanks to the fundamental support of Alberto G. Porras, lecturer of medieval archaeology at the University of Granada. Without Alberto this work would have never started. Cataloguing of EAEs and restoration works has been developed with Peter Brown (Durham University, PhD student), whose involvement was essential to the in-field research activities. The municipality of Guajar Faragüit and the Delegación de Cultura de la Junta de Andalucía also supported our research supplying the requested permits. A special mention is also needed for the friendly residents of Guajar Faragüit. Among them I would like to thank in particular José and Jasmina (Casa Lijoya) and José (Bar Parada).