1000-Year-old Vineyards Discovered in Spain

By , UniversityHerald Reporter

University of Basque Country researchers have discovered 1, 000-year-old ancient vineyards in the terraced fields of Zaballa, an abandoned village in Spain.

Zaballa was abandoned in the 15th century after residents were asked to pay rent for their homes and land. The village is the first deserted settlement in Spain. Zaballa is one of more than 300 abandoned settlements collectively known as Araba-Alava.

"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," Juan Antonio Quiros-Castillo, study author, said in a press release.

For the study, researchers explored the tenth century fields that are still perfectly visible in the landscape. Their analysis of soil composition and topography indicates that the fields within the medieval settlement of Zaballa were more agriculturally suited for growing vines, rather than cereal crops. The archaeologists also discovered metal tools that were probably used to maintain the vineyards 

The scientists also examined the agrarian spaces, "which 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," Quiros-Castillo said.       

The finding has been published in Quartenary International.

Quiros-Castillo and his team studied another deserted settlement Zornotegi (Salvatierra) in Alava. Similar to Zaballa, the village was abandoned in the 15th century. The terraced fields here were once intensely used to grow cereals.

The study of such deserted settlements helps understand the anthropology of the community. Quiros-Castillo and fellow archaeologists want Araba-Alava settlements to be considered as archaeological heritage in order to protect their rich history.

"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; indeed, they require attention which they have not had until now," Quirós-Castillo said.

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