Andalucia’s Little-Known Roman Masterpiece

One Of Europe's Most Important Roman Sites In In Andalucia

Roman villa in Granada. Credit; villaromansalar/

According to one expert, Granada’s rich history is being overshadowed by famous attractions like the Alhambra.

Nearly two decades ago, in October, a construction worker in Salar, Granada, unearthed a mosaic while working on a wastewater treatment plant. The discovery led to the unearthing of one of Europe’s most significant Roman villas, rivalling many renowned sites from ancient Hispania, writes Nuis Diario.

A Dreamlike Discovery

By 2006, preliminary archaeological explorations began, but the true magnitude of the find wasn’t realised until 2010. Under the guidance of the University of Granada’s Julio Roman, a team of volunteer archaeologists began uncovering the villa’s secrets. ‘Everything was so well preserved that it seemed like a dream come true,’ Roman commented.

The initial excavation, termed ‘Deck 1’, revealed a Triclinium or dining room. Despite damage from the construction, a vibrant mosaic of plant and geometric designs remains a highlight. ‘This deck is the most advanced. In fact, this is where we found the first two statues. They were nymphs half a metre tall in perfect condition that decorated a fountain-spring where the water passed continuously and refreshed the environment of the dining room,’ said Roman.

Granada’s Overshadowed Treasures

While the villa is open to the public, Roman feels it’s under-promoted in the tourism sector. ‘On many occasions the spectacularity of the Alhambra tarnishes the impressiveness of other monuments,’ Roman lamented, emphasising the villa’s significance in studying rural Hispanic architecture.

The villa’s owner remains a mystery. Initial findings suggest it might belong to the influential Valeria Vegetti family. ‘In a column we have found some initials… although they are only suppositions because we still have a lot to discover about this Roman residence that was built between the 1st and 5th centuries,’ Roman noted.

Despite over a decade of excavations, only 15 per cent of the villa’s potential size has been uncovered. Current efforts are centred on ‘Deck 3’, believed to be a relocation of ‘Deck 1’s main residence. ‘The archaeological campaigns only last for the month of August. However, throughout the year we work on the reconstruction and documentation of the valuable pieces that we find.’

In May 2021, the Governing Council of the Junta de Andalucía recognised the Villa Romana de Salar as an Asset of Cultural Interest, highlighting its importance in Andalusian history.

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Written by

John Ensor

Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina. He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.