This archeological site, of an early medieval Muslim city in the Iberian Peninsula, constitutes a real gem for Romangordo. The site is only open to the public during the months of August and September. Which coincides with the archeological excavation schedule of the site, bringing to the north of Extremadura, Spanish and French experts and volunteers. During this time a number of collateral activities are planned, making a visit to Romangordo an interesting project for children and adults. Visitors may take part in guided tours of the site, conferences and work- shops planned for all age groups. This is a way that the township has of presenting its past, through the remains of a Muslim city that disappeared during the early part of the XII Century because of the invasion of the Christians. This is an opportunity to become an amateur archeologist at the one thousand square meters that have been excavated since year 2009, when the project started near the national park of Monfragüe.
The “Madinat Al-Balat” archeological site has an easy access if you follow road A-5 from Madrid to Trujillo and exit at either 200 or 207. After you leave the high way there are clear indications on the road to reach the site, an ample parking lot and an easy walk to the excavation. After the end of summer, the volunteers and the specialist carefully remove the findings to the analyzed at laboratories and offices. And then, the site is closed until next year.
There are plans to keep Madinat Al –Balat open to the public all year around, making this old treasure of recent discovery accessible. It was an old Muslim city that disappeared in the region of North Extremadura, between Madrid and the neighboring Portuguese border. Only in 2009 were archeologists actually able to verify its existence. The excavations have actually unearthed a well-planned city, with important buildings that were well equipped, showing us the sophisticated level of life that was enjoyed by the inhabitants. Up until the excavations started there were rumors that something was under the Torrejón marsh but without any official recognition. The very first excavations proved the existence of the Muslim city, in the early middle ages, a jewel of unquantifiable importance, which has been declared a “Bien de Interés Cultural” (Asset of Cultural Interest) in 2014 by the Junta de Extremadura.
Excavations at Madinat Al-Balat since 2009
There have been continuous excavations at this site since 2009, lead by archeologist Sophie Gillote, who considers this opportunity as a real gift based on the findings. Fish bones, seeds and other animal bones say a lot about the diet and the occupation of the inhabitants. Remains of ceramics tell us their methods for caring of food and also, tell us about the routes of commerce. The remains of homes provide important information on life style, which shows how intimacy was valued. Homes are separated from the public areas of the city by internal portals and gardens. Some houses even display metal workshops that were used to repair domestic items or even manufacture weapons that were used for the defense of the city. Internal cisterns were, also discovered. Archeologists believe the cisterns were used to reduce the dependency of the population on the waters of river Tajo.
Madinat Al-Balat from Romangordo to the world
Madinat Al-Balat has been shown at important museums such as the Louvre and The National Museum of Contemporary Art at Rabat. The finding of ceramics, coins, and chess figurines are part of the valuables of the Museum of Cáceres. The archeological experience has been shared at forums such as the “Encuentro de Gestión Intergrada del Paisaje Cultural de Portugal”. The historical, cultural and scientific importance of the site makes it a priority for the UNESCO Center of Extremadura.
Madinat Al-Balat can be reached through highway A-5, between kilometers 200 and 207. The directions to the site are clearly indicated
The site can only be visited during the summer months
The site is close to the town of Romangordo, in the province of Cáceres. A region of Spain in the North of Extremadura, between Madrid and neighboring Portugal. Romangordo is a small town, with a population just over 250 people.
Original article by Pilar Armero
Translated by Susana Windt
Published in September, 2015