In February 2018, a cold wave from Siberia struck Europe, bringing strong winds and snowstorms. While northern and western Europe, including Great Britain and Ireland, faced a significant drop in temperature, the Mediterranean was caught up in raging storms coming from the sea.
In the midst of this mild catastrophe, a strange piece of history was revealed after the storm hit the ancient Spanish seaside city of Cádiz.
The storm removed tons of sand from Cortadura beach, a popular tourist attraction in the city, uncovering the remains of a Roman aqueduct from the 1st century, together with a 16th-century road that eventually ran alongside it.
The city of Cádiz, which would have been known as Gades when the aqueduct was built, has a history dating back 3,500 years and has been a vital port for many civilizations, including the ancient Greeks, Phoenicians, Carthaginians, and, of course, the Romans. The city had a well-developed infrastructure during Roman times, for it was the principal city of the Roman colony of Augusta Urbs Julia Gaditana.
Upon the discovery of the aqueduct fragments, local residents hurried to the beach, beating the authorities to it, but the site was soon safe from curious and potentially harmful visitors. Moisés Camacho, president of the Association for the Investigation and Dissemination of Cádiz’s Heritage, told El Pais in an interview concerning the discovery: “We were alerted to the presence of these remains, and to the fact that people were digging in the area, so we went there, warned people to stop what they were doing, and called city officials.”
Police soon showed up with a team of archaeologists to safeguard the stretch of beach that was now laced with ancient pillars and stone bricks. The road is believed to have connected the city of Cádiz with the nearby town of San Fernando in the period between the 16th century and the year 1755, when a catastrophic earthquake hit Lisbon, triggering a tsunami which crashed upon the coast of Cádiz, rendering the road useless.
It was also concluded that the road was possibly built on the foundation of a much older path constructed during the Roman era. Another assumption is that the Roman road ran parallel to this one, and its remains are currently somewhere under the sea.
What makes the aqueduct a priceless archaeological discovery is the fact that two of the fragments belonging to the Roman water supply structure are still joined together with the original mortar, which isn’t so common, considering that it’s almost 2,000 years old.
Although it was revealed quite recently, historians were aware of both the road’s and the aqueduct’s existence from ancient records, but this stroke of luck did the job for them in locating the structures.
By their estimations the aqueduct stretched for more than 45 miles, making it the longest in Spain and one of the longest in the world. It was used for providing water to a settlement in today’s San José del Valle, drawing water from the springs of Tempul.
It is considered to be one of the greatest Roman engineering efforts in Hispania, and proves once again the ingenuity of ancient architects and the durability of their creations. The Romans constructed aqueducts throughout their empire. By the 3rd century A.D., the many aqueducts in the city of Rome meant it could sustain a population growth that would exceed 1 million.
Fragments of the aqueduct were found earlier and are today exhibited in Cádiz’s Plaza de Asdrúbal. Whether or not the remaining fragments will also be placed on display there is yet to be seen.