October 7, 2012

Roman town of Iturissa found near Roncevaux Pass

Archaeologists at work (Berria)
It has been known these days that archaeologists of the Arazandi Society of Sciences, together with Italian colleagues, have located and partly dug the Vasco-Roman town of Iturissa, mentioned by several classical sources.

Iturissa was first mentioned by Ptolemy as a town of the Vascones, being then mentioned in two Roman itineraries as mansio (official Imperial inn) in the Asturica-ab-Burdigala (Astorga to Bordeaux) road, north of Pompaelo (Pamplona), controlling the Immus Pyrenaeaus (Roncevaux Pass, locally known as Ibaineta). 

The name Iturissa sounds totally Basque, possibly the latinized version of Iturritza (itur(ri)-aitza: spring rock?) but in any case something related to springs or fountains (iturri, often itur- in toponymy). Not too far from there for example there is a village known as Ituren, a similar sounding name. 

The modern towns in the area of Iturissa are however known as Auritz (Burguete) and Auritzberri (Espinal), with the current findings being from the area of Zaldua.

The campaign so far could only make some initial explorations, finding high quality foundations and walls and what looks like a very promising stratigraphic sequence. The researchers estimate that the whole town occupies several hectares.

Inscribed stones from Iturissa (Berria)

Cautionary note: 

I read at Rutas Arqueológicas de Navarra[es] that the town of Iturissa was dug in the 1980s, including a detailed map of it. However this settlement seems to be located further NW of the current dig, which is said to be in Zaldua, where the mausoleum and Roman bridge are the only things marked.

Related document (update):

Video (mini-documentary, 5 mins, mostly in Spanish, some Basque) of the finding and excavation of some Roman propagandistic milestones (millarii), which are the same stones shown above.

These were found at an almost forgotten path of Auritzberri known as bidezarra (the old path or road), which the people suspected to be an ancient Roman road but was just a popular belief... until now.

The discussed milestone reads: NOBILISSIMO CAES FLAVIO VAL CONSTANTIO P F AUG, i.e. to the holy (P[ius]) and happy (F[elix]) Emperor (Caesar) named Flavius Valerius Constatius Augustus, which should be Constantius Chloros.

Source: Iruña.


  1. Do you know what kind of trees are in the opening still shot of the video? Birch or aspen maybe? I hadn't expected to see that kind of vegetation that far south.

    1. FYI (the comment above and this comment are by Oh-Willeke who is using his father's computer at the moment).

    2. I'd have to see the leaves but there is one tree that totally dominates those mountains: beech, Fagus sylvatica. And they're probably it.

      Besides beeches you find other trees in patches or mixed, like oak, chesnut, yew... But beech is absolutely hegemonic.

      Besides in min 3:20, they speak of "hayales" (beech forests).


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