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Études de cas au niveau de base

Geomorphology, geoarchaeology and ancient settlement in the Valencian Gulf (Spain)

Géomorphologie, géoarchéologie et occupation de l’espace dans le golfe de Valence (Espagne)
Pilar Carmona González and José Pérez Ballester
p. 61-72


Geomorphological evolution and changes in the coastal plains of the Valencia Gulf throughout the Late Holocene, and the repercussions on settlement organisation in historical times, are analysed. Data were sourced from a cross-platform Geographic Information System consisting of three thematic areas: (1) geomorphological cartography of the main coastal and fluvial Holocene morphogenetic elements; (2) geoarchaeological records; and (3) diachronic distribution of the ancient settlements. The information obtained allows to differentiate between three evolutionary stages during which coastal and fluvial settlement was structured over changing morphological elements. In an initial stage, fluvial terraces were incised in the alluvial plains and there were extensive lagoonal environments in the coastal area (Late Bronze – Early Iron Age). In the second stage, an alluvial covering of terraces and the formation of levees took place (Iberian and Roman Republican times). Throughout the final stage, the modern flood plains were shaped, coastal barriers prograded on the coastline and an accelerated process of infilling took place in wetlands and the lagoon (Roman Imperial and Middle Age times).

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Funding was provided by: Research Project HAR2009‑11116 “Cerdeña e Ibiza: dos modelos de ocupación rural en época púnica” (VI Plan Nacional de Investigación Científica, Desarrollo e Innovación Tecnológica 2008-2011; Ministry of Science and Innovation, Spain). The English text version was translated and revised by Blanca Ruiz and Neil Macowan.

1The coastal zone constitutes a very appealing geographical area for human populations, as it provides not only specific natural resources but the possibility to establish communication and exchange with distant and varied peoples and cultures. Along the Mediterranean shores, rivers mouths, coastal lagoons, and promontories are very favourable environments for port installations, which is why the settlement of this area is so ancient. The maximum Holocene marine transgression around 6000 BP created marine indentations along many of the Mediterranean shorelines that provided early Mediterranean societies with natural harbours. Through time, these palaeogeographic conditions were transformed. Research on these changes and their repercussions has been an important area of inquiry in geoarchaeological studies on the Mediterranean (De Maria and Turchetti, 2004; Marriner and Morhange, 2007).

2In the Western Mediterranean, many lagoons formed in coastal lowlands during the Holocene marine transgression became deltaic and floodplain environments during the Middle and Late Holocene. Sea-level stability and fluvial sedimentation led to lagoon infilling and deltaic progradation. In this respect, studies can be cited such as those carried out in the fluvial harbour of Ostia in Rome (Italy) which was buried by flood sediments of the River Tiber (Keay et al., 2005), or the works on the evolution of the Harbour of Claudius, which was buried by the progradation of beach ridges of the delta of the River Tiber (Giuliani, 1996). On the French Mediterranean coast, the research conducted into the geomorphologic evolution of the lower Rhône River during the Roman period (Bruneton et al., 2001) is worthy of note as is, among several others, the investigation into the Holocene sedimentation in the ancient port of Marseilles (Morhange et al., 2001 and 2003). On the Mediterranean coast of the Iberian Peninsula, Brill et al. (2010) investigated the deltaic plain of the Lower Ampurdán. In the Valencian area, work carried out in the submerged harbour of Torre la Sal (coast of Castellón) (Ruiz and Carmona, 2009) can be mentioned; in the Alicante coastal sector, the geoarchaeological and Quaternary evolutionary studies on the coast of Dianium (Ferrer, 1997), on the Quaternary lagoon of Elx and the Iberian site at Santa Pola (Fumanal and Ferrer, 1998 and 2000) are also relevant. It is also important to underline the research that analysed the silting during the Late Holocene in the mouth of the Segura River (Barrier et al., 2004; Barrier and Montenat, 2007). Finally, comparable geomorphologic changes have also been recognised at several sites in the far west of the Mediterranean around the Strait of Gibraltar. In this area, Phoenician, Punic and Roman colonies were settled on the Mediterranean coast in deep marine inlets which are now infilled by deltaic sediments (Hoffman and Schulz, 1988; Carmona, 1999a; Alonso et al., 2004).

3Systematic archaeological surveys carried out in recent years in the Gulf of Valencia show the diachronic distribution of the ancient settlements. Geomorphological and geoarchaeological studies have provided data on morphological changes on these plains during the Late Holocene (Carmona, 1990; Ruiz, 2002; Pérez Ballester et al., 2010; Carmona and Ruiz, 2011). The aim of the present study is to analyse the geomorphological evolution and changes on the coastal alluvial plains of the Gulf of Valencia in historical times and the repercussions on the organisation and consolidation of the ancient settlements.

1 - Methods and techniques

4Geomorphological, stratigraphic, sedimentological and geoarchaeological methods and techniques were used in this research. The geomorphological study was carried out through fieldwork, interpretation of 1:5,000 scale orthophotos, 1:33,000 scale aerial photos from 1956 and 1:2,000 scale topographic maps from 1980, in vectorial format, with 1 m contour lines and with additional elevation points in some aeras. The sedimentary record of the alluvial plain was taken from a database of more than 250 geotechnical drillings ranging from 20 to 30 m thickness, numerous urban excavations in the plains and manual drillings with an Eijkelkamp drill up to 4-5 m deep. Moreover, numerous records of coastal and fluvial archaeological sites were analysed. The chronological framework was provided by 11 radiocarbon dates (Table 1), accurately supported by archaeological building and ceramic remains from archaeological sites. With regard to settlement, the study focused on systematic archaeological surveys carried out in the valleys of the rivers Palància, Turia, Magro, Júcar, Cànyoles and Albaida, reinforced by aerial photography 1: 33,000, topographic maps 1:50,000, 1: 25,000 and 1: 10,000, and, in some cases, with GIS resources. Data taken from several archaeological sites in the studied areas were also included. Finally, all the data were georeferenced on a digital vectorial base (Microstation V8), enabling cartography to be drawn up on a very detailed scale.

2 - Geomorphological setting of the study area

5From a structural perspective, Valencia’s coastline is formed by the union of the Iberian and Betic alpine systems, respectively oriented NW-SE and SW-NE, in the eastern‑central sector of the Iberian Peninsula (fig. 1).

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

Location of study area

Cartography: Carmona and Ruiz

6The distensive tectonics from the end of the alpine orogeny (Tertiary Era) compartmentalised the relief forming outlined Mesozoic blocks and large basins covered with Neogene sediments (Tertiary basins). The coastal area shows subsidence between the Plio-Pleistocene and the present, suggesting structural control both in depositional behaviour and in coastal morphology. The geomorphology of the coastal strip consists of several levels of Pleistocene and Holocene alluvial fans and plains deposited along a subsiding tectonic axis (NNE-SSW). A sand barrier and backbarrier lagoonal-marshy environments shape the coastline, which is well regularised by longshore currents from the north. The most characteristic and extensive morphologic feature of the Valencia Gulf is the coastal alluvial plain belonging to the Turia and Jucar Rivers, and the barrier lagoon system of the Albufera of Valencia. Currently, the Jucar River floodplain, with a drainage basin three times larger than that of the Turia River, presents a meander train typology and a marked alluvial ridge.

3 - Geomorphology, geoarchaeology and evolution of coastal settlement

3.1 - Previous geomorphological work

7Previous geomorphological work has already established the Late Holocene stratigraphic sequence of the alluvial plains of the Rivers Turia and Júcar, and the Albufera of Valencia (Carmona, 1999b; Ruiz, 2002; Carmona et al., 1994; Ruiz and Carmona, 2005; Carmona and Ruiz, 2011). During the maximum Holocene transgression, a barrier lagoon environment much more extensive than the current one was formed. This palaeolagoon covered a coastal strip, several kilometres in width, between the Rivers Júcar and Turia (fig. 1). The maximum marine transgression is detected in the Turia River area at the beach level in the Pinedo section (fig. 3) (sands with Cerastoderma, Glycimeris and Arca noae shells 5550-5350 cal. year BC), at -1m bsl and 800 m inland to the present coastline (figs 2 and 4).

Fig. 2

Fig. 2

Palaeogeography of the Holocene marine transgression in the alluvial coastal plains of Turia and Jucar rivers

Cartography: Carmona and Ruiz

Fig. 3

Fig. 3

Stratigraphy of the Turia River coastal plain

Cartography: Carmona and Ruiz

Fig. 4

Fig. 4

Sedimentary record of geoarchaeological and sedimentological cores

Carmona and Ruiz 2011

8Southward, another Holocene transgressive marine level consisting of sands with Glycimeris and Arca noae is identified near the mountainous relief of Bairén, to an absolute level of 2 m bsl (5030-4830 cal. years BC), meaning that the coastline of the maximum transgression was along the mountainous relief in the Betic area. In the central sector, on the coast of the modern Albufera lagoon, the early transgressive barrier was supported by Pleistocene sandstone levels. It was a narrow and permeable barrier which allowed marine water to enter the inland palaeolagoon. In this area, behind the initial transgressive barrier there are no Holocene marine sediments (Ruiz and Carmona, 2005).

9The sedimentological records and 14C dates (Table 1) provide information about the subsequent evolution.

Table 1

Table 1

Radiocarbon dates from the cores

CNR: Consiglio Nazionale Delle Ricerche, Centro di Studio per la Geochimica Applicata alla Stratigrafia Recente, Università La Sapienza, Rome, Italy. BETA: Beta Analytic Inc. Miami (Florida ) USA. NTCAL98 Radiocarbon Age Calibration: Stuiver M. et al., (1998), Radiocarbon 40 (3) p. 1041-1083

10During the Late Holocene, a brackish lagoonal environment spread along the modern coastal alluvial plains of the Turia and Júcar River (sections in figure 4 and geomorphological maps figures 5 and 6).

Fig. 5 - Geomorphological map of the Late Bronze-Early Iron Age period. Geoarchaeological and sedimentological cores.

Fig. 5 - Geomorphological map of the Late Bronze-Early Iron Age period. Geoarchaeological and sedimentological cores.

Main archaeological sites: 1: Pic dels Corbs, 2: Vintihuitena Alter, 3: Alzira, 4: Carcaixent, 5: Xàtiva, 6: Sagunt, 7: Grau Vell, 8: Cabanyal-Malvarrosa, 9: Pinedo,10: Saler, 11: Sant Miquel-Llíria, 12: Carència, 13: Valiente, 14: Creu, 15: Punta l’Illa, 16: Tos Pelat

Cartography: Carmona and Ruiz

Fig. 6 - Geomorphological map during the Iberian and Roman times. Geoarchaeological cores

Fig. 6 - Geomorphological map during the Iberian and Roman times. Geoarchaeological cores

Main archaeological sites: 1: Pic dels Corbs, 2: Vintihuitena Alter, 3: Alzira, 4: Carcaixent, 5: Xàtiva, 6: Sagunt, 7: Grau Vell, 8: Cabanyal-Malvarrosa, 9: Pinedo, 10: Saler, 11: Sant Miquel-Llíria, 12: Carència, 13: Valiente, 14: Creu, 15: Punta l’Illa, 16: Tos Pelat, 17: Puig, 18: Calderona, 19: Paterna. 20: Ruaya, 21: Valentia, 22: Perelló

Cartography: Carmona and Ruiz

11Around 4960-4730 cal. years BC, a deltaic channel of the Júcar River (Llonga) flowed into the palaeolagoon and by 2380-2360 cal. years BC another deltaic channel of the River Júcar was formed over the southern wetland (Allargats). The stratigraphic record and geoarchaeological data provide information on the evolution of alluvial plains and coastal areas during the Late Holocene and historical times. Three geomorphological stages are elucidated from the Bronze Age to medieval times, which can be related to the presence of archaeological sites in the coastal area.

3.2 - Late Bronze Age (10th to 8th centuries BC) and Early Iron Age (from the end of the 8th century to the middle of the 6th century BC)

12At the end of the Bronze Age, an important change in the location of settlements took place in this area of the Iberian Peninsula. The higher areas occupied in the Late and Middle Bronze age were abandoned, with new settlements appearing on the hillsides, always located in proximity to communication routes. The materials found at these sites denote contacts and interchanges with the inland Peninsula, the Plateau (Cogotas Culture), the Ebro River valley and Catalonia (Urnfield Culture) and Andalusia. Moreover, a series of manufactured elements from overseas appears, indicating contacts with peoples from Mediterranean areas (Sardinia, Sicily, Eastern Mediterranean zones) (Gil mascarell, 1981; Martí Oliver and De Pedro, 1997; Hernández, 2005; Vives, 2005).

13In the study area, the most important archaeological sites are Pic dels Corbs, by the Palencia River, and the Vintihuitena Alter, in the Júcar area and towards the south, in the towns of Alzira and Carcaixent. On the other bank of the Júcar River, there is an important settlement at the Solana Castell (Xàtiva town) (Pérez Ballester et al., 2007 and 2008) (figure 5). In general, the Late Bronze Age archaeological sites are located on fluvial terraces, Pleistocene levels (Alzira and Carcaixent) or on high relief areas on the alluvial plain, always surrounding the deltaic and lagoonal areas (Pic dels Corbs). Modern flood plains were not formed, and the channels of the Rivers Turia and Júcar were still incised in fluvial terraces (figure 5). The Holocene terrace of the Júcar River is present in the substratum of the Vintihuitena Alter site, where Late Bronze – Early Iron materials are located at 1.6 m depth (geoarchaeological core 2 figures 4 and 5) (Ruiz, 2002).

14In the Early Iron Age, the settlements from the Late Bronze remained and new ones sprang up along the coastline, where direct or indirect presence of western Phoenician peoples is noted (Pérez Ballester et al., 2010). The arrival of products and technological innovations such as iron metallurgy, the potter’s wheel, vine and olive crops (Pérez Jordá et al., 2000) took place by sea. Thus, from the Palància River mouth to the south, trace remains of ancient anchorages are present: Grau Vell, Cabanyal-Malvarrosa, Pinedo, Saler and Punta l’Illa, where Phoenician amphoras appeared. Furthermore, amphoras were found in what would be large native settlements, such as the Sagunt Castell, (occupied after the Pic dels Corbs site was abandoned), the Vintihuitena Alter, the Hill of Sant Miquel (Llíria), the Carència (Turís), the Solana Castell (Xàtiva), and others (Alt of Valiente and Alt of the Creu) (Rodríguez, 2008) (figure 5).

15For this period there are some data on the evolution of the coastline. The study of the harbour of the Grau Vell site provides data on a process of coastal barrier progradation (core 3 in figure 4) (south of the Palancia River mouth). The archaeological port site of the Grau Vell (figures 4 and 5) was settled over a spit barrier by the end of the 6th century BC. The barrier closed a 2-m deep freshwater lagoon, preventing direct marine influence. This lagoon was fed by groundwater from the Palancia river aquifer, in such a way that it constituted a good location for ships to replenish their freshwater supplies (Aranegui et al., 2005). Archaeological findings indicate that this lagoon could also have sheltered an inner lagoonal port in the Middle Iberian period (De Juan, 2003).

3.3 - Iberian (mid-6th century to the early 2nd century BC) and Roman times (2nd century BC to the 3rd century AD)

16In the Early Iberian period, Phoenician imports diminished drastically and others began to be detected (Mata and Burriel, 2001). Within the main coastal sites where the commercial activity is recorded, there is the Castell of Sagunt and its port, the Grau Vell, which controlled overseas trade towards the Turia basin; the Malvarrosa‑Cabanyal anchorage, with wine amphoras of Attican, Corinthian, Ionian, Massaliot and Etruscan origin, similar to those found in the settlement of Tos Pelat (Moncada) and subsequently in Sant Miquel (Llíria) (Mata and Burriel, 2001). It is worth mentioning that the activity in the Pinedo and Saler anchorages continues to this day. In the Júcar River sector, the Vintihuitena Alter site remains (no 2 in figure 6), possibly connected to the coast through the Júcar River’s deltaic branches and strategically located in a natural ford at the confluence between the Júcar and Magro Rivers. The River Magro valley constitutes a natural transport route to the interior, as verified by the ancient relations and interchanges from La Vintihuitena to Carència (Kili), and from there to Villares (the ancient Kelin) at 100 km from the coast. In the Solana Castell zone (Xàtiva), others of less significance are consolidated (Pérez Ballester and Borredá, 2008) (figure 6).

17In the Middle Iberian, oppida or cities of similar size or over 10 Ha were developed as broad territorial seats (between 600 and 1500 km²) and organised into a hierarchy with several smaller, dependent settlements. In the study area, it is worth highlighting Arse (Castell of Sagunt), Edeta (Sant Miquel), Kili (Carència), perhaps Sucro (Vintihuitena Alter) and Saitabi (The Solana Castell, Xátiva), (Bonet, 1995; Bonet and Mata, 2001; Mata, 2001; Pérez Ballester et al., 2008) (figure 6). During this period, imports mainly arrived through the Grau Vell port. Punic salting amphoras from the Gibraltar Strait (Cadiz Bay) and Tunisia (Carthage) and wine and oil amphoras from Ebusus (Ibiza, Balearic Islands) are predominant. From the end of the 5th century BC, numerous Attic Red-Figure Vases arrived through complex trade routes, where Punic people played an important role, as attested by the Sec shipwreck (Arribas et al., 1987; Rouillard and Villanueva, 1989).

18Over this period, the export of local surplus products is attested by classical sources and archaeological evidence (Aranegui, 2004; Mata and Bonet, 1995). Iberian writing, preserved on ceramics, stones and lead sheets appears almost exclusively in the great oppida and, among other purposes, was used to write lists of goods and their quantities. Iberian settlement was very extensive and well-known at this time. There are approximately twelve settlements around Arse, some fifty around Edeta, and almost twenty in the territory of Kili. In the Turia valley, some of them are near the coast (Calderona) or next to the river (Paterna and Ruaya). South of the Júcar River, there are almost a hundred of them among the valleys of Sellent, Albaida and Cànyoles rivers, highly reliant on the oppidum of the Solana Castell (Xàtiva, Saitabi) (Martí Bonafé, 1998; Bonet, 1995; Mata, 2001; Orengo et al., 2009; Pérez Ballester and Borredá, 2008) (figure 6).

19During the Roman Period, especially from the Augustan Era onwards, an obvious territorial reorganisation took place by turning the main centre into a municipia. In the territory under study, the colony of Valentia founded in 138 BC, Edeta, Arse changes denomination to Saguntum; the Iberian city of Saitabi will be known as Saetabis Augustanorum in the Xàtiva Castle, and Sucro (according to classical sources) is likely to be consolidated (Vintihuitena Alter) (figure 6). The Vintihuitena Alter site became a passage of the Via Augusta towards Saetabis Augustunorum (Xàtiva) (Pérez Ballester and Arasa, 2010).

20Within the port areas, the Grau Vel, Portus Saguntum, remains the principal port infrastructure of our study area, and its activity continued until the Late Roman Imperium. On the coast adjacent to this site, a drowned rectilinear structure of more than 100 m length has been recorded, which might be considered a 2nd century BC pier, perhaps with a lighthouse at its end (De Juan, 2002 and 2003). It is also worth mentioning the fluvial port of the River Turia in Valentia (Burriel et al., 2003 and 2004; Ribera, 2007; Ruiz and Carmona, 1999), and the Portus Sucronem, around the Júcar mouth, for which records of the port facilities are available. Meanwhile, several anchoring areas near the coast were active (Cabanyal, Malvarrosa, Pinedo, Saler and Perelló) (figure 6).

21Farming swiftly adopted the Roman agricultural model, and throughout the territory there were settlements near the coast where amphorae for wine were made. Some research on possible centuriations in the northern (Horta Nord) and southern (Horta Sud) areas of the city of Valentia, as well as towards the western zone, have been carried out based on cadastral studies (Arasa, 2009) and on the numerous remains of villae. A dense rural occupation around Carència, by the River Magro, has been noted, as well as in what were the Júcar River banks (figure 6). Before the Era change, trade relations flowed mainly eastwards from the west, attested by the Italic wine amphorae and fine pottery which were found in the settlements. During the Imperial Period, Hispanic wine exportation to Rome is recorded, as well as an intensification of relations with the north of Africa and the Cádiz area.

22The change in the productive model, increasingly oriented towards surplus production for export and the considerable expansion of cultivated land must have accelerated the erosion processes in the fluvial basins and increased the sedimentary load of the fluvial channels during the flooding episodes. Indeed, sedimentation provided by the River Turia and Júcar floods is well-recorded in the geoarchaeological records, meaning that many sites of this period appear buried under several metres of sediments (figures 4 and 6). On the alluvial plain of the Júcar, a sequence of alluvial filling in several geoarchaeological sites is noted (core 2: Vintihuitena, core 4: Benivaire, core 5: Ternils, core 6: Sequer, core 7: Torreta in figure 4). On some occasions, the thickness of the Post-Iberian sedimentation is over 4 m (geoarchaeological core of Benivaire). During this stage, fluvial sedimentation gradually buried fluvial terraces and littoral lagoonal environments. Data enable us to conclude that by 2000 BP at least the base of the current flood plain and alluvial ridge had been established (figure 6).

23One of the most complete paleohydrological records is that of the River Turia in the city of Valencia. It has been shown that the ancient Roman city of Valencia was built on a Holocene terrace of the Turia River (geoarchaeological core 1, figures 4 and 6) (Carmona, 1990; 1991; 1999b; Carmona et al., 1990; Carmona et al., 1994; Carmona and Ruiz, 2002; Carmona and Ruiz, 2011). In some of the archaeological excavations, at the top of this terrace level, Late Bronze Age ceramics (2800-2700 BP) are present. In the geoarchaeological record, a progressive aggradation process took place during Roman times. For the whole period (700 years), overbank sedimentation consisting of brown sandy silts reaches 1.3 m thickness in the sections nearest to the Turia riverbed, and aggradation processes in the channel of the river are confirmed. From a dynamic and morphogenetic perspective, this phase corresponds to a progressive levee formation, covering or burying the Holocene terrace and forming the alluvial banks of the navigable Turia River from Roman and Islamic times (palaeochannel of La Punta) (figure 7) (Ruiz and Carmona, 1999b; Burriel et al., 2004; Lerma and Pascual, 2007: Carmona and Ruiz, 2011).

Fig. 7

Fig. 7

The Punta: Turia River palaeochannel. Roman and Islamic fluvial harbours in Valencia city

Cartography: Carmona and Ruiz

3.4 - Late Roman times to the Middle Ages: flood plain formation and barrier progradation

24An important alluvial phase which began around the 11th century AD is confirmed in the geoarchaeological record of the city of Valencia (core 1 in figure 4). Sedimentation of flooding events in this archaeological level corresponds to breach flows which deposited bedload (medium to coarse gravel) and crevasse splay sediments (sets of medium sand) on the channel banks ( Carmona, 1991; 1999; Carmona and Ruiz, 2011). This phase is related to a change in channel morphology, which gradually turns into a shallow river overloaded with sediments. Due to this alluvial process, the River Turia was no longer navigable during the Middle Ages (Ruiz and Carmona, 1999). The foundation of the Islamic city of Alzira (geoarchaeological core 8 in figure 4) in one of the meanders of the River Júcar, as well as the creation of multiple Islamic farmhouses on the coast (figure 8), suggests that formation of meander trains and the alluvial ridge of the river Júcar were well-developed by Islamic times. In the geoarchaeological core sample from Alzira (core 8 in figure 4), a Middle Ages alluvial phase similar to that described for the Turia plain is observed (Butzer et al., 1983).

Fig. 8

Fig. 8

Geomorphological map of the Júcar River flood plain during the Middle Age

Cartography: Carmona and Ruiz

25Fluvial sedimentary contribution to coastal barriers increased. Deltaic ridges prograded consecutively, fed by fluvial mouths, and the sediments were redistributed along the coast by the north-south longshore drift current (figure 8). Geomorphological features and variable width of the different sections of the coastal barrier are closely related to fluvial contribution patterns and changes of position of mouths throughout historical times ( Carmona and Ruiz, 1999; Ruiz, 2002; Ruiz and Carmona, 2005).

4 - Discussion and conclusions

26The coastal alluvial plain of Valencia shows a great geomorphological dynamism on a millennial and centennial timescale with obvious implications for the geomorphology, geoarchaeology and settlement patterns. The archaeological sites with trading and port activities located in fluvial and coastal areas were adapted to the changing physical conditions. After the Post-Glacial marine transgression, the deltaic plains of the Rivers Júcar and Turia sheltered extensive lagoons, in such a way that the Pre- and Proto-Historic settlements were located on promontories and fluvial Pleistocene terraces. Some fluvial axes, such as the Palància, Turia and Magro Rivers, are set as territorial corridors between the coast and inland areas. From the phase of colonial relations, river banks are occupied in order to take advantage of the ease of communication with inland valleys. From Iberian and Roman Republican times, the burying of Holocene and Pleistocene terraces, formation of alluvial navigable channels and beginning of flood plain formation is observed in both river environments, in such a way that many archaeological sites near the rivers were gradually buried beneath the fluvial sedimentation. From Roman Imperial and Islamic times, modern flood plains were consolidated, making an effective agricultural colonisation of the deltaic coastal plains possible.

27On the floodplain formation of both rivers and high rates of sediment flux must be considered alongside a series of natural factors, such as catchment relief and rainfall intensity and amount, as well as anthropogenic pressure. Nevertheless, the sedimentation shown in the geoarchaeological records of Iberian and Roman times must be related to human impacts on the environment, as it is in this period that a large number of archaeological sites appeared throughout the coastal area. Anthracological studies also show the progressive introduction of crops for export (wheat, vines and olives) (Perez Jordá et al., 2000; Grau Almero, 2002; 2003) and the expansion of farmland into dry land areas and slopes which are now terraced. All this agricultural activity runs parallel to the progressive deforestation and degradation of the forest cover related to the increased use of wood for combustion in ceramic furnaces (production of wine and oil amphorae), spas and urban constructions reflected in the anthracological studies (Grau Almero, 2002; 2003).

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List of illustrations

Title Fig. 1
Caption Location of study area
Credits Cartography: Carmona and Ruiz
File image/png, 176k
Title Fig. 2
Caption Palaeogeography of the Holocene marine transgression in the alluvial coastal plains of Turia and Jucar rivers
Credits Cartography: Carmona and Ruiz
File image/png, 76k
Title Fig. 3
Caption Stratigraphy of the Turia River coastal plain
Credits Cartography: Carmona and Ruiz
File image/png, 87k
Title Fig. 4
Caption Sedimentary record of geoarchaeological and sedimentological cores
Credits Carmona and Ruiz 2011
File image/png, 124k
Title Table 1
Caption Radiocarbon dates from the cores
Credits CNR: Consiglio Nazionale Delle Ricerche, Centro di Studio per la Geochimica Applicata alla Stratigrafia Recente, Università La Sapienza, Rome, Italy. BETA: Beta Analytic Inc. Miami (Florida ) USA. NTCAL98 Radiocarbon Age Calibration: Stuiver M. et al., (1998), Radiocarbon 40 (3) p. 1041-1083
File image/jpeg, 232k
Title Fig. 5 - Geomorphological map of the Late Bronze-Early Iron Age period. Geoarchaeological and sedimentological cores.
Caption Main archaeological sites: 1: Pic dels Corbs, 2: Vintihuitena Alter, 3: Alzira, 4: Carcaixent, 5: Xàtiva, 6: Sagunt, 7: Grau Vell, 8: Cabanyal-Malvarrosa, 9: Pinedo,10: Saler, 11: Sant Miquel-Llíria, 12: Carència, 13: Valiente, 14: Creu, 15: Punta l’Illa, 16: Tos Pelat
Credits Cartography: Carmona and Ruiz
File image/png, 230k
Title Fig. 6 - Geomorphological map during the Iberian and Roman times. Geoarchaeological cores
Caption Main archaeological sites: 1: Pic dels Corbs, 2: Vintihuitena Alter, 3: Alzira, 4: Carcaixent, 5: Xàtiva, 6: Sagunt, 7: Grau Vell, 8: Cabanyal-Malvarrosa, 9: Pinedo, 10: Saler, 11: Sant Miquel-Llíria, 12: Carència, 13: Valiente, 14: Creu, 15: Punta l’Illa, 16: Tos Pelat, 17: Puig, 18: Calderona, 19: Paterna. 20: Ruaya, 21: Valentia, 22: Perelló
Credits Cartography: Carmona and Ruiz
File image/png, 434k
Title Fig. 7
Caption The Punta: Turia River palaeochannel. Roman and Islamic fluvial harbours in Valencia city
Credits Cartography: Carmona and Ruiz
File image/png, 114k
Title Fig. 8
Caption Geomorphological map of the Júcar River flood plain during the Middle Age
Credits Cartography: Carmona and Ruiz
File image/png, 114k
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Bibliographical reference

Pilar Carmona González and José Pérez Ballester, « Geomorphology, geoarchaeology and ancient settlement in the Valencian Gulf (Spain)  », Méditerranée, 117 | 2011, 61-72.

Electronic reference

Pilar Carmona González and José Pérez Ballester, « Geomorphology, geoarchaeology and ancient settlement in the Valencian Gulf (Spain)  », Méditerranée [Online], 117 | 2011, Online since 31 December 2013, connection on 11 August 2022. URL : ; DOI :

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About the authors

Pilar Carmona González

Department of Geography, University of Valencia, Spain,

José Pérez Ballester

Department of Prehistory and Archaeology, University of Valencia, Spain,

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