a Celtiberian-Roman city carved out of the rock:
Notes on the site and its history
The Tiermes archaeological site, at Montejo de Tiermes, Soria (Autonomous Community of Castilla y León, Spain), stands out among the diversity of archaeological remains in the Iberian Peninsula. In the mid 1930s, Blas Taracena, the Spanish archaeologist, organised systematic digs at the site and called Tiermes “the Spanish Pompeii”.
Leaving aside such trite clichés, it is true that the remains of the old Celtiberian fortified hilltop village and the Roman city are one of the most interesting Spanish archaeological sites for the researcher and the visitor.
Doors, windows, steps, houses, streets, roads… The remains of Tiermes city have lasted throughout the centuries thanks to the fact that they are partially excavated out of the sandstone bedrock.
This, together with the metres of accumulated sediment and rubble, has meant that numerous urban structures have survived for 20 centuries, and we are now beginning to unearth them.
On the other hand, the light and rugged landscape of the Sierra Pela mountain ranges add a setting of permanent solitude for a city lost in the middle of the Soria uplands, between ravines and pasturelands with vultures circling overhead.
The digs carried out by Ortego and Zozaya during the 1960s and the systematic work of Jose Luis Argente Oliver between 1975 to 1998 began to unearth an important part of the site. Since 2001, the site has been studied by Santiago Martínez Caballero, Tiermes Excavation Director, sponsored by the Autonomous Government of Castilla y León with the financial backing of the Friends of the Tiermes Museum Association and personal contributions of its members.
In September 2003, the European Commission approved the TIERMES 2003-2006 LIFE Project, headed by Santiago Martínez Caballero and which focuses on the research strategies, preservation and enhancing the usability and value of the Tiermes archaeological site and its setting.
Historical data about Tiermes
The first references to Tiermes are to be found in classical sources, even though they are very few in number and not very clear. They are also written much later than the events described.
Ptolemaeus thus includes Tiermes among the cities belonging to the Celtiberian Arevaci tribe. Apianus indicated that it was one of the important towns in the Celtiberian wars (153-133 B.C.) and claimed that in 98 B.C., Consul Titus Didius conquered the city and forced its inhabitants to move to the plain and forbade them to build walls around the settlement.
These few references, together with other information provided by Diodorus of Sicily, Posidonius, Titus Livius, Tacitus, Plinius and others, place Tiermes as an Arevaci city fighting against Rome within the general historical context of the conquering and Romanization of Celtiberia in Hispania.
When peace came to the plateau halfway through the 1st century B.C., Tiermes was assigned to the Clunia Judicial District. The city grew in importance until it became a Roman town (Termes) some time during the 1st century A.D, perhaps under the Julius Claudius dynasty. The urban splendour of Tiermes spread during the high Roman empire, as can been seen from what is left of its public buildings (Forum, Macellum or market, Aqueducts, the so-called Castellum Aquae, Termas..)
When the crisis occurred in the 3rd century, walls were built around the city and its perimeter was reduced. During the low Roman empire, the city maintained a certain activity, and towards the 6th or 7th century, its enclosure included the centre of a Visigoth settlement, as can be seen from the burial grounds from that period found in the Forum, which was then abandoned, and the remains of a place of worship from that era where reusable decorative fragments have been found.
With the Islamic invasion, Tiermes must have been an unsafe and sparsely populated frontier area between Christians and Muslims in the Upper Duero.
From the 12th century A.D. and after the zone had been reconquered by the Christians, Tiermes did not recover its formal role as the capital of the area to the south of the River Duero. Tiermes was no longer important and became a simple village, with a church and monastery, depending on the area’s important population centre, the town of Caracena.
At the start of the 16th century, the Church of Tiermes became a chapel and the residual population settled in other more important farming and stockbreeding centres.
The only leading role that the old Tiermes conserved was with respect to religion, as its chapel was the main place of worship in the area and two pilgrimages dedicated to Our Lady of Tiermes (an original Romanesque image in the Cathedral Museum of El Burgo de Osma) were and still are held in May and October.
Research about Tiermes
Scholars and historians up to the 19th century.
The research into the Celtiberian and Roman site of Tiermes did not begin to be carried out in a scientific manner until Nicolás Rabal started his work there in 1888. Nonetheless, between the end of the 15th century, which was the time of the last recorded population living in Tiermes, and the end of the 19th, different authors in different types of studies (erudite, artistic, statistical, demographic, encyclopaedic) refer to the presence of an important town that is immediately identified with the Termes of the classical references (Titus Livius, Apianus, Diodorus Sículus, Florus, Salustius, Tacitus, Ptolomeus, Plinius, Nonnius Marcellus), an indigenous city conquered in 98 B.C. by Consul Titus Didius and then converted into a Roman town.
These authors (Ambrosio de Morales, Mariana, Flórez, Madoz, Loperráez, Lafuente, Masdeu, Ceán Bermúdez, Cortés y López, etc.) link the presence of extraordinary ruins to the existence of the ancient Roman city, where some buildings were visible, built on the site of the old town conquered by Rome.
Nonetheless, and at the same time, the place continued to be used as a place to extract building materials for the local towns (Montejo, Liceras, Carrascosa, Retortillo, etc.), which grew up during the Middle Ages and Tiermes continued to be plundered until the end of the 19th century. For example, the discovery of the silver trullae (ladles) in 1885 together with the remains of the low empire walls (and which today are in the Hispanic Society of America, New York) triggered a “frenzied treasure hunt” by the local population, with the resulting deterioration of the site. Even important archaeological remains were broken up to be reused as building materials (such as the funeral inscription of Pompeyus Placidus, which is currently on the façade of a house in Carrascosa).
19th century - 1930.
The start of scientific research into Tiermes began with the arrival of the notable historian, writer and Soria scholar, Nicolás Rabal. Following his trip to the site in 1887, he made an initial description of the place, added topographic, town planning and geographical data, and included the differences between a Celtiberia and a Roman town. This was the starting point for the first direct intervention in the settlement at the start of the 20th century.
Following a campaign by Count Romanones to unearth the remains of buildings in the area of the Forum and Termes in 1909, using rather unscientific excavation methods and which were more of an exploratory nature, Narciso Sentenach was entrusted in 1910 and 1911 to start more extensive work in the site. He worked in the Forum (area of the imperial temple) and they began to unearth the remains of large buildings, their construction items (columns, architraves, etc..), even interesting materials, such as bronze sculptures (local dignitary, horse sculpture, Apollo,..), which were proof for that researcher of the archaeological and historical importance of the old Termes. His publications focused on a descriptive and also interpretative study of the ruins, by increasing the historical points and paying great attention to identifying and differentiating the indigenous elements from the Roman ones.
In 1913, Ignacio Calvo continued the excavations in the same area, which added to the archaeological knowledge, and focused in greater depth on the Medieval phase of the site. The materials from the Romanones, Sentenach and Calvo excavations were taken to the National Archaeological Museum, where part of the excavated materials are on display.
Tiermes also caught the attention of Schulten, who was then carrying out research in Numancia. Even through the German archaeologist never organised a dig in Tiermes, he did visit the site and analysed and interpreted in his book the historical development and the archaeological remains of Tiermes.
With Blas Taracena, the then director of the Numantine Museum, a new phase of research started, as he performed a synthesis study using a greater scientific archaeological basis, and started a systematic analysis of the place. He organised different digs in Tiermes, during the 30s and 40s, whose results led to new conclusions regarding the evolutionary phases of the city, regarding the town planning distribution and characteristics of the main buildings, and highlighted, for the first time, the special features of the bed-rock excavating technique used in the design and execution of numerous Celtiberian and Roman constructions.
The original and wealth of examples of the stone-worked architecture and its extraordinary conservation in numerous Tiermes buildings have led to the city being called the “Spanish Pompeii”. Taracena also gathered information and opinions of other authors and also studied the territory, as a key element to understanding the historical development of the city.
In the 60s, the archaeologist from Soria, Teógenes Ortego, continued with the excavations. This provided further knowledge about Tiermes and new data for interpreting its development. He would be the first author to publish a guide to the archaeological site. Between 1940-1970 authors such as D´Ors, Nieto or García y Bellido wrote about specific aspects of Tiermes, and their publications focused the attention of national archaeological research to the site.
From the 70s onwards, the work in Tiermes is defined by the application of an archaeological methodology following the new lines of action of this discipline in Spain, and which is currently being developed according to the renewal that can be seen in European archaeology based on the new, mainly Anglo-Saxon and Italian currents of thought and methodologies.
It began with Juan Zozaya’s detailed excavation in the Forum area in 1971, and more directly with the systematic project started in 1975 for the Roman city with José Luis Argente Oliver, and for the Medieval settlement, with Carlos de la Casa and other researchers. The different studies and reports emerging from this new stage would provide a complete renewal of what we know about Tiermes, both with respect to the exploration of large archaeological zones and the interpretations of the development and evolution of Tiermes between the Bronze Age and the Medieval era.
José Luis Argente Oliver headed the archaeological work in Tiermes, first of all with other archaeologists that worked in different areas of the settlement, and then single-handedly, until his premature death in 1998. He systematically studied the site and his interest in publishing his results for the general public can be seen from the numerous publications and his enhancing the usability and value of the architectural monuments that gradually were unearthed.
The turning point for Argente’s hard work came in 1986, when the authorities, who were well aware of the work that was being carried out and the monumental and archaeological importance of Tiermes, constructed the buildings for the Tiermes Monographic Museum as the focal point for onsite dissemination, and as the infrastructure needed for the work under way. It turned Tiermes into one of the Spanish archaeological sites endowed with the best infrastructures to back up the dissemination, protection and research work, tasks that explain the activity of any active archaeological enclave. A large part of the archaeological structures that are currently visible and, most of which can be visited by the public, are the result of the hard work of this researcher with endless stamina who has done so much to promote the province of Soria, from the vantage point of the Numancia Museum, and for the cultural enrichment of its inhabitants as the result of his work: the Aqueduct, the Forum, the walls, the Aqueduct House, the southern stone-worked complex, the stone-worked stands, the city streets, etc, were uncovered thanks to his tireless work.
During the 70s and 80, Argente was joined by Carlos de la Casa, who oversaw the excavation of the Medieval settlement, and worked in the burial ground next to the chapel, and Tiermes also began to be included in the Spanish Medieval archaeological bibliography thanks to his results. Hardly any importance had been given up to then to the imposing presence of the 12th-century Romanesque chapel in the centre of the archaeological site, which is proof of Tiermes becoming a small village depending on the town of Caracena in the Middle Ages. Special mention should also be made of the work of Manuela Doménech in the study of Medieval Tiermes, in the stone-worked burial ground near to the river, and the current director of the Numantine Museum, Elias Terés, in the Medieval settlement next to the chapel.
At that time, Tiermes also witnessed occasional digs by other researchers, such as Alfredo Jimeno (1975-1976) interested in the pre-Roman phases in the central area of the site; the professor of the Complutense University of Madrid Complutense de Madrid Víctor Fernández (1979-1980), in the walls, of José María Izquierdo (1981-1984), in the temple of the Forum, or E. Dohijo and J. Morales (1999) terminating Argente’s excavation after his death.
The current administrative support of the research in Tiermes is based on the directives laid down by the relevant authority in charge of the heritage, the Autonomous Government of Castilla y León, on the site having been declared of Cultural Interest in 1994, with the ensuing impact on the protection/research relations and the importance of the approval in 1996 of the Master Plan of the Site as the starting point for the long-term plan in the settlement.
With respect to the current archaeological investigation, headed by Santiago Martínez Caballero, and forming part of the Tiermes LIFE Project, and in accordance with the directives of the Autonomous Government of Castilla y León, it is focused on points, such as the Forum, where certain historical and archaeological aspects need to be clarified in order to initially disseminate a renewed presentation of the site to the general public, which will have a positive social impact on the extensive potential of the site; and secondly, from a strictly scientific point of view, to review and extract new conclusions regarding the historical development of the city, its territory and the complex archaeological relations of a Celtiberian city until it became a large Roman city, now that current Spanish and European archaeological thought envisages new approaches with respect to the assessment and interpretations of the archaeological data in this historical-cultural context.
The current team, which includes a large number of the people from Argente’s last teams, therefore wishes to highlight new aspects of this site, clearly based on the important work of the researchers over the last century, and backed by the use of new data and different methodological and epistemological approaches of current archaeological thought.
Archaeological digs in Tiermes 1909-2004
• Conde Romanones: Forum, Termas 1909
• Narciso Sentenach: Forum 1910-1911
• Ignacio Calvo: Forum 1913
• Blas Taracena: Various zones, 30s – 40s
• Teógenes Ortego: Various zones, 60s-70s
• Juan Zozaya: Forum 1971
• José Luis Argente: Forum, Forum district, Walls, Aqueduct, Aqueduct House, Stone-worked complex, stone-worked stands, Carratiermes Celtiberian burial ground, Visigoth burial ground, 1975-1998
• Carlos de la Casa: Chapel burial ground 1975-1985
• Alfredo Jimeno: Forum district 1975-1976
• Elías Terés: Medieval settlement 1981-1982
• Manuela Doménech: Chapel burial ground 1981-1982
• Víctor Fernández: Walls 1979-1980
• José María Izquierdo: Forum 1981-1984
• Eusebio Gutierrez Dohijo & Javier Rodríguez: Foro 1999
• Santiago Martínez Caballero & Alberto Bescós Casa: aqueduct, forum 2000-2001
• Santiago Martínez Caballero & Alberto Bescós: forum 2002-2003
Santiago Martínez Caballero & Alberto Bescós: LIFE Tiermes 2003-2006
SHORT GUIDE TO TIERMES 2009
Santiago Martínez Caballero
Arturo Aldecoa Ruiz
1. The Sun Gate
Passageway and access to the city from the south-west
This passageway carved through the rock is 2.5 metres wide and is located in the extreme south-east of the city. The original paving no longer exists, even though all the drainage channels can still be seen. The channels were also carved in the rock and were used to drain off the water that filtered through the paving. The gate is halfway along the passageway and the traces of the hinges and supports are still visible in the rock.
2. Rock seating.
Public structure used to host different religious, commercial and recreational activities.
It is a large structure consisting of a long, irregular cavea, facing southwards and directly carved into the sandstone rock. The eastern ends opens onto the so-called Sun Gate, a long passageway that connects the open space in front of the cavea to the urban sector to the north.
The eastern end of the complex is flanked by a ramp, which is also excavated out of the rock and which was an exit from the city to the south. The complex is outside the area occupied by the hill terraces, next to two urban viae running south from the settlement.
The interpretation of the complex has always been problematic. S. Martínez and J. Santos recently interpreted the eastern rock seating, the Sun Gate and the flat area in front of it as parts making up a public space known as a campus/Forum pecuarium. It was built between the first century B.C. and the first century A.D.
3. Southern rock complex.
Architectural complex of private dwellings excavated out of the sandstone rock.
The houses of the Southern rock complex are the most interesting and best documented example of the rock architecture of Tiermes. The two houses making up this urban complex provide the best example of how rock architecture was combined with typical Roman building techniques. Dating back to the first half of the 1st century A.D., the houses are on the southern edge of the hill next to the surrounding plain. They used the rock wall that had previously protected the house built there in the 1st century B.C.
The location of these buildings next to the excavated homes and on the rock of the southern sector of Tiermes make up a neighbourhood of dwelling areas, which also includes the House of the Aqueduct. Remains of marble paving and the paintings to decorate the walls exemplify the set of different solutions that were included in this building to normalise and decorate the spaces for private use.
4. Southern Thermal Baths.
Remains of the large building housing the Roman thermal baths.
The remains of a building identified as thermal baths are nearby. The corner of one of the rooms still stands and there is evidence of different sections, such as the caldarium and frigidarium, along with mosaic floors in some places.
The unearthed area has to be considered as the main sector, as one of the walls made out of sandstone further north is also considered to be part of the thermal baths. Putlog holes and other construction elements can still be seen in the wall that undoubtedly formed part of the thermal bath complex.
5. Hornacinas or Niche House.
House excavated in rock with four niches or larders in its walls.
Moving westwards from the Rock Complex, there are the remains of other buildings using the terrace rock, of which only a part of them is visible. One of them is the so-called Hornacinas or Niche House as it has four niches or larders in its walls. Several steps from the entrance staircase, which was covered to avoid accidents in contemporary agricultural work, still remain in the front.
6. Rock dwelling.
Rock dwelling known as “Pedro’s House”.
This building, also known as "Pedro's House", is on the southern rocky outcrop and has a central staircase that divides it into two. There are doorways into the rooms on either side.
7. House of the Aqueduct.
Two large buildings near to one of the branches of the aqueduct and behind the rock dwellings.
House of the Aqueduct I
It is a large private house, the first one to be fully excavated in Tiermes, and its surface area occupies a whole block, with a total of 1800 m2. It borders on to four streets excavated in the rock and is south facing. It is located next to the southern canal of the aqueduct, which is the northern edge of the house.
House of the Aqueduct II
This building has been only partly excavated and different rooms and basements can be seen. It is noted for having a work area, possibly a shop.
8. Collective dwelling area.
Large area excavated in rock, next to House of the Aqueduct I, around 32 x 28 metres.
There are many examples of beam putlogs, flights of stairs and the remains of eroded rooms. A street was carved through the sandstone rock to overcome the slope between the terraces
9. Neighbourhood houses.
Buildings carved high up out of the rock.
Only the inner wall of the building remains, which was a deep cut into the rock nearly 30 m high. The traces remain of different putlog lines for the slab floors. Up to six stories can be counted in the wall, which means that it was almost certainly a neighbourhood house or insula, carved out of the rock.
However, no further details are known as the ground plan of the building has not been excavated. It is believed that the three walls that are not conserved would have been built using wood frameworks and adobe bricks.
10. Defence remains.
Remains carved out of the rock close to the Western Gate, which have been rather eroded by the weather. They may have been used for defence purposes and were connected to the West Gate.
11. The West Gate.
It is an internal communication ramp of the Roman city and possibly reused an entrance to the pre-Roman urban complex. This gate was the way to the three terraces that make up the hill on which the city is built. It is another of the ways into the city and was also made out of the sandstone rock of the hill.
As can be observed in the entrance itself, it does seems that it would not have been used for vehicles, but rather for the exclusive use of passer-bys, due to the raised height of the lower step. It is a similar structure to the Sun Gate, but with a longer and steeper ramp, as it linked the three terraces of the hill on which the city is built.
The marks to place the wood jambs of a double door, which would cut off the city centre from the outside, are approximately in the centre of the first stretch of the gate.
12. Room with semicircular chevet.
Rectangular space with semicircular chevet, 10 metres long by 2 and 3 metres wide.
This room is still 1 metre high at the walls carved in the rock and a stone staircase is in its centre. It is on the northern channel of the aqueduct and its use is unknown.
Remains of a structure, Temple?, on the top of the hill.
Only the traces remain of the foundations of a small building, along with some rabbets in the rock, that could be steps, at the highest part of the hill, which overlooks and dominates the surrounding area. At least three construction phases can be made out here.
14. Theatre cavea.
Public building with small seating area. A public building was erected on the north-western slope of the city in a recess in the rock. Some worn steps that look as if they would have been used as seating in a theatre cavea can still be seen. No conclusive information exists about this structure.
15. Roman Aqueduct.
Infrastructure to supply water to the city.
The city infrastructures included the one to supply running water to the city, which was an aqueduct filled with a wide range of transport and distribution solutions, characteristic of Roman aqueducts. The original part of its works dates back to the Tiberian era (14-37 A.D) and it is the most outstanding piece of engineering in Tiermes. The Tiermes aqueduct had the typical elements to collect, transport and then distribute the water in the city.
The water collection point (caput aquae) is thought to have been located on the northern slope of the Sierrea de Pela mountains, at the source of River Pedro, 3.6 km to the north of Tiermes. There was a fork structure or castellum aquae next to the West Gate. It no longer exists today, but it was the starting point for the two urban branches of the aqueduct, which are well know as they have been explored to a large extent.
The Tiermes aqueduct is an infrastructure built in order to meet the water supply needs for drinking and hygiene in a city that had undergone significant urban and, surely, demographic growth after the conquest, nearly a century earlier. The theoretical study indicates that, according to the river bed of the Pedro spring, the Tiermes aqueduct could supply up to a population of 20,000 inhabitants, as it supplied up to 70 litres of water per second.
However, the figure was much higher than the population that Tiermes must have had at its moment of greatest splendour.
16. Small ramp excavated in sandstone.
On the northern side of Tiermes, on the second terrace, a communication ramp was built between two terraces of the western sector of the urban complex, cared in the sandstone rock. The entrance was covered during the Later Roman Empire by the defensive wall.
17. Later Roman Imperial Wall.
Stretch of wall.
The Roman walled perimeter of Tiermes was around three sides of the city, where access was easier. An important stretch has been found, approximately 200m in length, along which there are four cubes or tower foundations, and it is roughly 4 m thick.
Both the building method and the materials found date the construction of the wall to the second half of the 3rd century A.D., until we have more data to that effect.
18. Flavius Forum.
South and east portico.
South and east porticos of the Flavius Forum.
The lower level of the south and east porticos of the Flavius Forum, under the level of the square, are structured in an L-shape, open towards the outside by means of large pilasters, which lead on to a passageway or ambulatory which end in a set of tabernae built in the east and south walls of the artificial terrace that supports the market square.
19. Triangular market area.
Space adjoining the Flavius Forum identified as a provisional commercial area. The area immediately to the east of the Flavius Forum is made up a triangular market area, that uses part of a street from the Julius Claudius era. The lower level of the Forum and other buildings on the terrace over look the market area.
20. Flavius Forum.
As the city became more wealthy, it was able to build a new forum in the 70s A.D., which we have called the Flavius Forum due to its type of architecture and its chronology. It is a rectangular quadriportico, with short sides to the north and south, built on a large artificial terrace made out of emplecton, a type of masonry in which the outer faces of the wall are ashlar, the space between being filled with broken stone and mortar. Cross layers of stone are interlaid as binders.
Only the foundations remain, but it was built as a duplex portico (double columnata) on the north and west sides, and simplex (just one) on the other two. Two large rectangular rooms in the centre of the two first sides stand out. The first, where the base of a large podium still remains, is built on the cella of the Augustan temple, which was demolished to build the new public space. Several tabernae are located to the south of this room.
Special mention should be made two that were merged into a single area between the 2nd and 3rd centuries A.D., which is now paved with a multi-coloured mosaic with geometric and plant motifs. On the north side of the quadriportico, the central room, which is more difficult to interpret, is flanked by other tabernae. A large room with a central tank, to the West, and a large apsed room, to the east, are noteworthy.
21. Mosaic building.
There is an important structure with three rooms with mosaics to the north of the Flavius Forum. The rectangular central room, paved with white tessera, depicts a central emblem using dark blue and red tessera. The two circular side rooms have white tessera floors. The building was either part of the thermal area of an urban domus or of public baths.
22. Julius Claudius Forum.
Commercial, religious and administrative centre of the Roman centre. It is between the Romanesque chapel, the Flavius Forum and the late antiquity wall. From an overall point of view, the area between these three buildings seems to be identified with the main public centre of the city, which must have been set up during the high-imperial era, even though the exact perimeter is currently unknown. Only the southern sector has been excavated.
Therefore, we have only unearthed some of the buildings, and sometimes only part of them, that make it up and which look over a square, which is located to the north and remains practically unexplored. We have identified the following elements in the sector to the south of the Forum square:
a) South portico (26-37 A.D.). It closed the square to the south, by means of a terraced structure which offset the differences in level, and a public building was built on it.
b) Monumentum to Tiberius (June 26 A.D..- June 27 A.D.).A monument dedicated to the Emperor Tiberius Caesar Augustus was located somewhere in the square. Only the base with its honorary inscription remains, but it was recovered outside its original setting.
c) Claudius Sacellum (41-54 A.D.). Apsed chapel, located next to the Nero Temple of the Forum. About 5 m wide and 9 m long, it faces northwards and overlooks the square. It was used for some type of public worship.
d) Nero temple of the Forum (54-68 A.D.). Last building erected this part of the Forum, this large classic structure closed the main part of the south side. The building was constructed on a square artificial platform, measuring 16.4 m wide and 18.4 long, standing directly on the sandstone.
22bis. Forum district.
Private residential district next to the Forum.
The latest digs in this zone have unearthed part of a residential district next to the Forum, where there are different buildings from different chronological and cultural eras. Structures were initially noted from the late Celtiberian period, between the 1st century B.C. and the Augustan period, where the city had already been conquered and different native lifestyles began to coexist with the Roman customs.
Two blocks, Insula I and II, and bordered by streets, have been identified from this period. Street II includes drainage channels dug out in the rock. Street III still has the paving from the 1st century B. C. in limestone, with pavements and stones to cross the stream. The current distribution of buildings and streets dates back to the two first centuries of that era, on the previous original layout. The ground plan and internal distribution of the different buildings are adapted to the irregular layout of the blocks.
Special mention should be made of the presence of numerous underground rock rooms, some of which have access steps also carved out of rock, together with channels to drain off the water that filtered through the rock. The well-conserved paving in Street I dates back to that period.
23. Romanesque Chapel.
Dedicated to Santa Maria de Tiermes, it is a rectangular chapel with an apsed chevet, consisting of a single nave and a porticated gallery on the south side. The architectural remains of the Middle Ages that have survived to the present in Tiermes are mainly in the Romanesque chapel, built in the 12th century.
The ground plan is a single nave with a semicircular apse in the chevet and a porticated gallery added to the southern side. The main doorway is on the south façade and is framed by simple single-arched archivolts on two columns with carved capitals depicting Adam and Eve with the serpent on the left and two quadrupeds and an individual with a turban on the right.
The porticated gallery consists of five openings on the longest side, with the central one being the entrance. It has single arches on double columns, supported on a podium and separated by buttresses. The twelve capitals of the gallery feature magnificent iconography, both in terms of quality and in variety of themes.
Special mention should be made of the mythological iconography, depicting two knights fighting, a boar hunt, and a motif of a basket or bees-hive, which is finely carved and a wonderful example of the outstanding trepan work from the Silos Monastery, among others. There are three decapitated sculptures inside the portico and within a niche.
They are holding notices that say in Latin "Give and you will receive. Domingo Martin made me. 1182”. We do not know whether the text refers to the sculptures, portico or to the chapel.
The chapel, where mass is held during the summer, organises pilgrimages twice a year: on the third Sunday of May and on 12th October, which continue a tradition passed down through the ages for a good harvest and in thanksgiving.
24. Medieval necropolis of the chapel.
The early medieval necropolis is located around the Our Lady of Tiermes Chapel, with more than 200 tombs, 129 of which have been exhumed. The excavated area has a high density of burial sites, most of which are mainly slab tombs. There are also sarcophagus and ossuary tombs.
The timeline of the necropolis is approximately from the 11th to the 15th centuries. There is a Roman road that is part of the Tiermes urban network, next to the Forum area, running past the necropolis.
Only two burials from the late antiquity period (6th to 7th centuries A.D) have been exhumed. The Visigoth necropolis is nearby and decorative remains from a possible place of worship from the same period have been found there.
There is a car park at the end of the road from the Museum to the site.
26. Carratiermes Celtiberian necropolis.
It is an iron-age Celtiberian necropolis (6th century B.C. to 1st century A.D.). The Carratiermes incineration Celtiberian necropolis is on a gentle slope running down to a river, less than one kilometre from the Tiermes oppidum and Roman urbs, in a place known as Carratiermes as a King’s Highway ran through it.
The 645 tombs excavated so far (10 or 15% of the estimated total of the necropolis) date from the 6th century A.D. ( early Celtiberian era) to the 1st century A.D. (at the height of the Romans).
The remains of a Bronze Age village are under its structures. The necropolis is spatially spread out horizontally. There are areas of concentration, empty areas and groups of tombs that form burial mounds. There are no defined paths, but there are steles on different tombs. It has been noted that different grave goods are laid out north-south, possibly using the stars.
Three phases can be seen in the necropolis: early celtiberian, high Celtiberian and late celtiberian. Different funeral structures have been documented: shallow tombs, tombs covered by sandstone stones, tombs marked by stone steles, and rabbets in the natural conglomerate. The grave goods include bronze items (early Celtiberiean), weapons, prestigious items and ceramic articles (high and late Celtiberian stages).
27. Late medieval necropolois by the river.
Late medieval rock necropolis.
The late medieval rock necropolis, with 50 tombs from between the 9th and 11th centuries A.D., is located 500 metres from the Chapel, next to the River Tiermes and a roadway that is known as the "King's Highway" (start of the Roman Tiermes-Segontia road), which 200 metres further on runs past the Carratiermes Celtiberian necropolis.
There are two groups of three steles carved in the rock by the tombs. The Roman Tiermes necropolis may be located near to this area and the two sets of rock steles found here may belong to it. A possible oratory carved in the neighbouring quarry surrounded by numerous medieval tombs was also found here.
28. Roman quarries.
Different quarries, places where blocks of stone were quarried to build the different structures, surround the city. Some carved blocks that were not quarried can still be seen.
There are Roman inscriptions on some of the walls, with names of people and numerous engravings of different themes and over a wide time period (from very early periods to the present).
29. Tiermes Museum.
Opened in 1986, it houses an attractive exhibition of the archaeological findings in Tiermes, its history and its monuments.
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