La Olmeda Roman villa celebrates 50th birthday
In July 1968, Javier Cortes was working on the fields in the area known as La Olmeda, in Palencia, when we stumbled upon tesserae from an ancient mosaic. It was a unique finding – the trace of a large rural villa from the Late Roman Empire (fourth century AD). The archaeological site of La Olmeda was designated as an Asset of Cultural Interest in 1996. Today, it is open to visitors.
Visiting this Roman villa means going back in time and getting a glimpse of the glory of the Roman Empire. It covers 4400 square metres – amazing mosaics with polychrome patterns spanning 1450 square metres, baths, a garden, five halls, four towers, two porticos and over 30 rooms. At the oecus, or main hall, there is one of the most important Roman mosaics in Europe.
50th anniversary activities
This year, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the archaeological discovery, there will be all kinds of free cultural activities and events from April to December. In July and August, children will be able to attend the EducaOlmeda summer workshops and learn how to make a Roman mosaic, a shield or a piece of jewellery, how to write as the Romans did, and other crafts. They can even become little archaeologists and find their treasures!
Grown-ups can have a great time at the villa as well, attending the classical theatre programme in the summer or the International Festival of Archaeology Movies from 23 to 27 October.
The setting is perfect for historical re-enactment. Visitors will come across scenes from Roman life not only at the villa but also in the city of Palencia: everyday life, Roman legions, and much more.
In addition to the villa itself, the archaeological site includes barns and granaries, workshops and stables, and workers’ lodgings. About 6 kilometres from the site, in Saldaña, some of the artefacts found at La Olmeda are on display in the Museum: coins, fine tableware, farming tools, greenish glasses as burial offerings…
The Romans in Spain
Fans of archaeology or the Roman Empire have more to see in Palencia. There is the archaeological site of La Tejada, in Quintanilla de la Cueza, which offers an interesting set of rooms decorated with mosaics and featuring heating systems.
Spain is the right place to understand life in the Roman Empire. The country is peppered with relevant archaeological sites: Tarraco, Mérida, Carranque, Baelo Claudia, and many others. A fascinating historical period for future generations to discover.