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Lost Landscape: A Combination of LiDAR and APSFR Data to Locate and Contextualize Archaeological Sites in River Environments

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Over the last few decades, river landscapes have been significantly transformed as a result of increased human impact. This transformation is evident in areas such as the middle Guadiana basin, where the impact of both agricultural and hydraulic infrastructures has led to the decontextualization of archaeological sites, resulting in a disconnection between archaeological sites and their own physical environment. In order to analyse the location and geographic contexts of sites from the first Iron Age in the middle Guadiana basin and to detect the existence of human settlement patterns, we designed a methodological approach that combines LiDAR and APSFR data (areas with potential significant flood risk). The main purpose of this method is to detect flood areas and assess the relationship between them and archaeological sites. The result allowed us to obtain a clearer understanding of these societies, their knowledge of the physical environment, and the causes and reasons behind their occupation of certain sites. The validation of the results demonstrated the versatility of this methodological approach, which can be extrapolated to analysing other regions and historical periods.
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remote sensing
Article
Lost Landscape: A Combination of LiDAR and APSFR Data
to Locate and Contextualize Archaeological Sites in
River Environments
Esther Rodríguez González * , Pablo Paniego Díaz and Sebastián Celestino Pérez


Citation: Rodríguez González, E.;
Paniego Díaz, P.; Celestino Pérez, S.
Lost Landscape: A Combination of
LiDAR and APSFR Data to Locate
and Contextualize Archaeological
Sites in River Environments. Remote
Sens. 2021,13, 3506. https://
doi.org/10.3390/rs13173506
Academic Editors: Antonio
Monterroso Checa and Dimitrios D.
Alexakis
Received: 16 June 2021
Accepted: 31 August 2021
Published: 3 September 2021
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with regard to jurisdictional claims in
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iations.
Copyright: © 2021 by the authors.
Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.
This article is an open access article
distributed under the terms and
conditions of the Creative Commons
Attribution (CC BY) license (https://
creativecommons.org/licenses/by/
4.0/).
Instituto de Arqueologia (CSIC—Junta de Extremadura), 06800 Mérida, Spain; pablo.paniego@iam.csic.es (P.P.D.);
scelestino@iam.csic.es (S.C.P.)
*Correspondence: esther.rodriguez@iam.csic.es
Abstract:
Over the last few decades, river landscapes have been significantly transformed as a
result of increased human impact. This transformation is evident in areas such as the middle
Guadiana basin, where the impact of both agricultural and hydraulic infrastructures has led to the
decontextualization of archaeological sites, resulting in a disconnection between archaeological sites
and their own physical environment. In order to analyse the location and geographic contexts of
sites from the first Iron Age in the middle Guadiana basin and to detect the existence of human
settlement patterns, we designed a methodological approach that combines LiDAR and APSFR data
(areas with potential significant flood risk). The main purpose of this method is to detect flood areas
and assess the relationship between them and archaeological sites. The result allowed us to obtain a
clearer understanding of these societies, their knowledge of the physical environment, and the causes
and reasons behind their occupation of certain sites. The validation of the results demonstrated the
versatility of this methodological approach, which can be extrapolated to analysing other regions
and historical periods.
Keywords:
LiDAR; potential flood risk; aerial archaeology; landscape archaeology; Tartessos; middle
Guadiana basin
1. Introduction
The middle basin of the River Guadiana is an extensive area in the southwest of the
Iberian Peninsula (Figure 1). It is structured around one of the main rivers of the peninsula,
the Guadiana, which has a hierarchical network of tributaries that make it a fundamental
artery of communication. The Guadiana is a low-lying river, shallow and easy to ford [
1
]
(p. 29), making it an essential element that must be present in any analysis of ancient
settlement in this region, given the migratory role the river played.
The fertility of the soil along the Guadiana River has favoured the occupation of the
area from prehistoric times to the present day. However, local archaeological remains are
in a poor state of preservation, due to agricultural work carried out in the area, which has
led to the transformation of the landscape and the destruction of a large number of sites
that are hidden under the current croplands. To overcome this situation, archaeologists
use different landscape analysis tools and methodologies and remote sensing to facilitate
our work by creating predictive models that give us a better understanding of how the
landscape functioned in ancient times. The final aim of this work is to historically interpret
the cartographic data to understand the relationships that ancient societies in the area had
with the landscape in which they lived.
Given the close relationship between the Guadiana River and the settlement of this
territory, in order to determine to what impact the river course has had on the settlements,
and more specifically settlements from the first Iron Age, we designed an analysis strategy
that incorporates data from the calculation of Areas with Potential Significant Flood Risk
Remote Sens. 2021,13, 3506. https://doi.org/10.3390/rs13173506 https://www.mdpi.com/journal/remotesensing
Remote Sens. 2021,13, 3506 2 of 28
(APSFR) provided by the Guadiana River Hydrographic Confederation (CHG, dependent
on the Spanish Ministry for Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge); the tradi-
tional study carried out from the review of current and historical aerial photographs, and
the spatial analysis made from the data provided by LiDAR flights.
Calculating the flood areas of the Guadiana riverbed and of some of its main tributaries
allows us to delimit the area within which the course of the river shifted, hence the
importance of this study and of the methodology it contains. With this image, we can
determine the position of the sites with respect to the river, their distance or proximity, and
estimate to what extent a site is impacted, or the symbolic significance of the places that
were chosen to locate a site.
Although the working methodology presented in this article can be applied to any
chronology, since the main variable of this formula is the location of the sites with respect
to the watercourses in each historical moment, we selected the period comprising the first
Iron Age in the middle Guadiana basin, between the seventh and fifth centuries BC. At
this moment in time, the area was experiencing demographic growth as a result of the
crisis that occurred in the heart of Tartessus, the Guadalquivir valley [
2
], which would
result in the appearance of a new model of settlement that was unparalleled in other
Mediterranean regions.
Remote Sens. 2021, 13, 3506 3 of 29
Figure 1. Map showing settlements in the middle Guadiana basin during the first Iron Age. 1. Huerta de Don Mateo; 2.
Casas del Cerro de la Barca; 3. Cañada la Virgen; 4. Miraflores; 5. Lácara; 6. Turuñuelo de Mérida; 7. El Tiriñuelo; 8. Turu-
ñuelo (Villagonzalo); 9. Las Madalenas; 10. Casas del Turuñuelo: 11. Las Lomas; 12. La Aliseda; 13. La Mata; 14. Cancho
Roano; 15. El Tamborrio; 16. Escuela de Hostelería (Mérida); 17. El Chaparral; 18. El Palomar; 19. La Marquesa; 20. Mede-
llín; 21. La Veguilla; 22. Cerro Manzanillo; 23. Cerro de la Barca—Torruco; 24. Media Legua; 25. La Carbonera; 26. La Mata
de Cancho Roano; 27. Las Reyertas; 28. Necropolis of Aljucén; 29. Necropolis of El Pozo; 30. Necropolis of Valdelagrulla.
2. The Middle Guadiana Basin: An Anthropized Territory
In order to understand the importance of this study, it is important to consider the
profound changes that the landscape of the central Guadiana basin has undergone over
the last century, and how this process has affected the archaeological record.
The transformation of the Vegas del Guadiana experienced a major boost in the 1950s,
when the General Economic and Social Development Plan for the Province of Badajoz,
known as the Badajoz Plan, began to be implemented [4]. The work plan included the
construction of hydraulic infrastructures, the adaptation of the necessary roads in the ir-
rigation area, and the construction of new villages to house workers. The project included
the irrigation of more than 120,000 hectares, the construction of 60 villages, and the plan-
ning of 8 reservoirs and 4 irrigation canals [5].
This colossal project entailed a radical change in the structure and image of the land-
scape, which went from being represented by large expanses of unirrigated land to being
a green, irrigated landscape with alternating crops of tomato, rice and maize. This change
also entailed the replacement of the native vegetation of the territory and the destruction
of a large number of enclaves, irretrievable information that has left little trace in the ar-
chaeological record (Figure 2).
Figure 1.
Map showing settlements in the middle Guadiana basin during the first Iron Age. 1. Huerta de Don Mateo; 2. Casas
del Cerro de la Barca; 3. Cañada la Virgen; 4. Miraflores; 5. Lácara; 6. Turuñuelo de Mérida; 7. El Tiriñuelo; 8. Turuñuelo
(Villagonzalo); 9. Las Madalenas; 10. Casas del Turuñuelo: 11. Las Lomas; 12. La Aliseda; 13. La Mata; 14. Cancho Roano;
15. El Tamborrio; 16. Escuela de Hostelería (Mérida); 17. El Chaparral; 18. El Palomar; 19. La Marquesa; 20. Medellín; 21. La
Veguilla; 22. Cerro Manzanillo; 23. Cerro de la Barca—Torruco; 24. Media Legua; 25. La Carbonera; 26. La Mata de Cancho
Roano; 27. Las Reyertas; 28. Necropolis of Aljucén; 29. Necropolis of El Pozo; 30. Necropolis of Valdelagrulla.
The population of the middle Guadiana basin during the first Iron Age was charac-
terised by the presence of large structures at the confluence of the Guadiana and some
Remote Sens. 2021,13, 3506 3 of 28
of its main tributaries. There is only one exception to this pattern: the sites of Cancho
Roano (Zalamea de la Serena, Badajoz, Spain) and La Mata (Campanario, Badajoz, Spain)
located inland to the south of the river. All these structures have several characteristics
in common, starting with the material used for their construction (adobe) and the way in
which they were re-used. After their destruction and abandonment, these buildings were
hidden under a large artificial mound that helped to conserve them until the present day.
Along with the so-called Tartessian buildings hidden under tumuli, the settlement model
is completed with the presence of settlements on high ground, village and farm-type sites
on plains, and the necropolis (Figure 1). All of them form a hierarchical settlement model
in which the Cancho Roano and Casas del Turuñuelo-type buildings play an important
political and economic role [3].
Therefore, in order to demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed methodological
model, we selected several case studies that include examples corresponding to each of
the settlement categories presented in the middle Guadiana basin. In the case of the
necropolis, we present the results of El Pozo—Medellín, and the nearby settlement of
Medellín (Badajoz, Spain); a village- or farm-type settlement represented by Cerro de
la Barca—Torruco (Villanueva de la Serena, Badajoz, Spain), and an overview of the
results obtained after applying the proposed methodology to the location of the so-called
Tartessian buildings hidden under tumuli.
2. The Middle Guadiana Basin: An Anthropized Territory
In order to understand the importance of this study, it is important to consider the
profound changes that the landscape of the central Guadiana basin has undergone over the
last century, and how this process has affected the archaeological record.
The transformation of the Vegas del Guadiana experienced a major boost in the 1950s,
when the General Economic and Social Development Plan for the Province of Badajoz,
known as the Badajoz Plan, began to be implemented [
4
]. The work plan included the
construction of hydraulic infrastructures, the adaptation of the necessary roads in the
irrigation area, and the construction of new villages to house workers. The project included
the irrigation of more than 120,000 hectares, the construction of 60 villages, and the planning
of 8 reservoirs and 4 irrigation canals [5].
This colossal project entailed a radical change in the structure and image of the
landscape, which went from being represented by large expanses of unirrigated land to
being a green, irrigated landscape with alternating crops of tomato, rice and maize. This
change also entailed the replacement of the native vegetation of the territory and the
destruction of a large number of enclaves, irretrievable information that has left little trace
in the archaeological record (Figure 2).
In addition to the transformation of the landscape, the construction of the reservoirs
that currently regulate the Guadiana River has led to a reduction in its volume, the drying
up of many of its tributaries that were operational in ancient times, and the displacement
and channelling of others to use their waters for irrigating crops. The impact of this
anthropization process is so considerable that in many cases, it is not even possible to
locate the paleochannels of the rivers with the aid of current aerial photography, let alone
to define the width of the original course of such important arteries as the Guadiana itself.
The vast majority of these branches have been filled in with soil, and are currently occupied
either by buildings or farmland (Figure 3).
Perhaps the closest example we have to appreciate the impact of the Badajoz Plan on
cultural heritage is the Alqueva Dam Construction Plan in the Portuguese Alentejo region,
inaugurated in 2002. This project has had an enormous impact on the landscape, the environ-
ment, and heritage assets; however, in contrast to the Alqueva Project, its execution included
a programme to minimise the impact of the work on heritage assets, making it possible to
document and safeguard a large number of settlements that were previously unknown, as
well as to reduce the damage that this type of infrastructure causes to these remains [6].
Remote Sens. 2021,13, 3506 4 of 28
Remote Sens. 2021, 13, 3506 4 of 29
Figure 2. Aerial photographs of the section of the Guadiana between the Búrdalo and Ruecas tribu-
taries showing the impact on the landscape caused by the implementation of the Badajoz Plan. (A)
Photograph from the American flight of 1945/1946. (B) Still from the PNOA Máxima Actualidad.
In addition to the transformation of the landscape, the construction of the reservoirs
that currently regulate the Guadiana River has led to a reduction in its volume, the drying
up of many of its tributaries that were operational in ancient times, and the displacement
and channelling of others to use their waters for irrigating crops. The impact of this an-
thropization process is so considerable that in many cases, it is not even possible to locate
the paleochannels of the rivers with the aid of current aerial photography, let alone to
define the width of the original course of such important arteries as the Guadiana itself.
The vast majority of these branches have been filled in with soil, and are currently occu-
pied either by buildings or farmland (Figure 3).
Perhaps the closest example we have to appreciate the impact of the Badajoz Plan on
cultural heritage is the Alqueva Dam Construction Plan in the Portuguese Alentejo region,
inaugurated in 2002. This project has had an enormous impact on the landscape, the en-
vironment, and heritage assets; however, in contrast to the Alqueva Project, its execution
included a programme to minimise the impact of the work on heritage assets, making it
possible to document and safeguard a large number of settlements that were previously
unknown, as well as to reduce the damage that this type of infrastructure causes to these
remains [6].
In light of this, the main objective of this study is to contribute to the reconstruction
and comprehension of the ancient landscape of the middle Guadiana basin. Only in this
way will we be able to understand how this area was structured in ancient times, and
assess the areas chosen for the location of the enclaves. We will also be able to evaluate
the role the river played in the life of the societies that inhabited this area. What are the
Figure 2.
Aerial photographs of the section of the Guadiana between the Búrdalo and Ruecas
tributaries showing the impact on the landscape caused by the implementation of the Badajoz Plan.
(
A
) Photograph from the American flight of 1945/1946. (
B
) Still from the PNOA Máxima Actualidad.
In light of this, the main objective of this study is to contribute to the reconstruction
and comprehension of the ancient landscape of the middle Guadiana basin. Only in this
way will we be able to understand how this area was structured in ancient times, and
assess the areas chosen for the location of the enclaves. We will also be able to evaluate the
role the river played in the life of the societies that inhabited this area. What are the reasons
or determining factors that led a group to select certain spaces as ideal sites to establish
their settlements or necropolises?
To date, in order to achieve this objective and to approach the configuration of the
landscape during antiquity, we resorted to different disciplines such as carpology and
palynology, thanks to which we managed to identify the plant species found in this area
during protohistory and to reconstruct, approximately, the palaeoenvironment of this
territory during specific periods of history, such as the Iron Age [
7
]. We also undertook
costly geomorphological work. In regions as transformed as the middle basin of the River
Guadiana, this work must be accompanied by geotectonic analysis and OLS dating in order
to date and reconstruct the structure of the geological model of the environment of the sites,
or the terraces that the riverbeds have shaped over the years. These methods complicate the
task of analysing large swathes of territory that may contain a significant number of sites. In
this sense, for the time being in the middle Guadiana basin, we only carried out work in the
area of Medellín, aimed at providing an approximate characterisation of its morphogenetics
through the analysis with GIS tools. More detailed and complete field work is still pending
that will make it possible to verify the data collected from the cartography [8,9].
Remote Sens. 2021,13, 3506 5 of 28
Despite the changing and dynamic environment that characterises alluvial land-
scapes [
10
], it is not uncommon to use the current state of the landscape as a reference point
and insert ancient populations into it, without assessing to what extent this space has been
transformed over time. Detailed studies on these morphological changes have revealed
how conditions in ancient times were different from those of today, and this is reflected
in the detection, preservation and interpretation of sites, as well as in the documentation
of flood events [
11
13
]. Unfortunately, studies of this kind are still lacking in the middle
Guadiana basin.
Remote Sens. 2021, 13, 3506 5 of 29
reasons or determining factors that led a group to select certain spaces as ideal sites to
establish their settlements or necropolises?
Figure 3. Comparison between a still from the American Flight of 1945/1946 (A) and an image cor-
responding to the PNOA Máxima Actualidad (B), where we can see the impact that the Badajoz Plan
caused by cutting off paleochannels that were filled in and are now used as farming areas. The
images show how two branches of the River Ortigas, a tributary of the Guadiana which flowed next to
the Iron Age necropolis of Valdelagrulla, have been eliminated and are now occupied by orchards.
To date, in order to achieve this objective and to approach the configuration of the
landscape during antiquity, we resorted to different disciplines such as carpology and
palynology, thanks to which we managed to identify the plant species found in this area
during protohistory and to reconstruct, approximately, the palaeoenvironment of this ter-
ritory during specific periods of history, such as the Iron Age [7]. We also undertook costly
geomorphological work. In regions as transformed as the middle basin of the River Gua-
diana, this work must be accompanied by geotectonic analysis and OLS dating in order
to date and reconstruct the structure of the geological model of the environment of the
sites, or the terraces that the riverbeds have shaped over the years. These methods com-
plicate the task of analysing large swathes of territory that may contain a significant num-
ber of sites. In this sense, for the time being in the middle Guadiana basin, we only carried
out work in the area of Medellín, aimed at providing an approximate characterisation of
its morphogenetics through the analysis with GIS tools. More detailed and complete field
Figure 3.
Comparison between a still from the American Flight of 1945/1946 (
A
) and an image
corresponding to the PNOA Máxima Actualidad (
B
), where we can see the impact that the Badajoz
Plan caused by cutting off paleochannels that were filled in and are now used as farming areas. The
images show how two branches of the River Ortigas, a tributary of the Guadiana which flowed next
to the Iron Age necropolis of Valdelagrulla, have been eliminated and are now occupied by orchards.
3. Materials and Methods
Traditionally, laboratory studies aimed at obtaining geomorphological data in certain
geographic areas begin by comparing current aerial photographs, available in the National
Aerial Orthophotography Plan (PNOA), with the photograms obtained from the American
Flight, both Series A, taken between 1945 and 1946, and Series B, corresponding to the years
1956–1957. This latest series of photogrammetric flights contain the oldest images available
of the Iberian Peninsula to determine the state and structure of the territory, in our specific
Remote Sens. 2021,13, 3506 6 of 28
case, prior to the implementation of the Badajoz Plan. As such, these are the images that
come closest to the configuration that the territory would have had in ancient times.
As a complement to the comparative study between historical and current aerial
photograms, we now present a new methodology in which two types of data are combined:
LiDAR and the Areas with Potential Significant Flood Risk (APSFR), specifically those
regions that are confined to the middle Guadiana river basin. The combination of both
sources of information constitutes a new approach to geoarchaeological studies and the re-
construction of the paleo-landscape of a region, by allowing us to explore the configuration
that fluvial arteries such as the Guadiana would have had in ancient times.
The use of LiDAR technology for the remote sensing of archaeological sites is a regular
process in any archaeological project, whether in settlement or landscape studies [
14
16
].
This is due to the usefulness of the results provided by this tool in providing a precise
image of the ground surface. Their level of detail makes it possible to document surface
anomalies by algorithmically removing excess information, such as vegetation, which
eliminates background noise when interpreting the presence of structures that belong to an
archaeological site. The combination of Digital Elevation Models (DEMs) obtained from
the processing and filtering of the point cloud acquired in the LiDAR flight with other tools,
such as historical photography or filtering programmes that allow the presence of these
anomalies in the terrain to be highlighted by shading, has emphasised the suitability of this
technology within the field of archaeology. Its use for detecting sites is widely known [
17
];
however, there are fewer studies that use it for the topographical characterisation of a
terrain or for the reconstruction of the ancient landscape [1824].
In contrast to the usual use of LiDAR, data from the Preliminary Flood Risk Assess-
ment (PFRA) have never been applied in western Europe in a study whose main objective
is to reconstruct the ancient landscape. Mapping the regions defined as Areas of Potential
Significant Flood Risk (APSFR) makes it possible to assess the expected depth in the event
of flooding. These data, therefore, reflect the difference between the ground elevation at
the time of the simulation and the height that the water would reach in the return periods.
In the data provided by the Guadiana River Basin Authority (CHG), three return
periods are grouped together: T10, T100 and T500, pointing towards the existence of events
that would potentially occur once every 10, 100 or 500 years. Although this information is
available for all the rivers of the Iberian Peninsula and in each region, they have a different
recording pattern: the first floods documented by the CHG date back to the year 620 CE.
Since that date, many events have been recorded, although data were not systematically
gathered until 1935.
Although we are aware of the current nature of the data and the need to perform
geomorphological studies in order to confirm the hypotheses, the use of ARSPI allows
us to make a first contact with the ancient topography of the Guadiana and the areas
through which the river and its tributaries must have flowed. At this point, it is necessary
to highlight the restricted mobility of the Guadiana over the last few millennia due to the
topography of the territory. This fact is reinforced by the absence of archaeological sites
under alluvial formations, and also by the existence of remains of Roman bridges in Mérida
and Medellín [
25
]. Although the construction of dams has affected the flow of the river and
its regulation, the comparison with the photograms of the American Flight reveals the absence
of significant changes in its course as a result of these works. In this way, ARSPI allows us, for
example, to identify small clogged branches, and the area where the minor variations in their
course occurred within a delimited area, possibly restricted to the T10 events.
As we can see below, the application of these data and their superimposition on a
DTM allows us to accurately approach the palaeogeography of the Guadiana and some of
its tributaries, in order to analyse the position that the sites of the first Iron Age occupied in
the landscape, and how they may have been affected by flooding.
Fortunately, this archaeological work can be carried in Spain at no cost. All the
data, both aerial photographs and LiDAR, are available to download from the server of
the National Geographic Information Centre (CNIG), which depends on the National
Remote Sens. 2021,13, 3506 7 of 28
Geographic Institute (IGN) [
26
], as well as on the website of Spatial Data Infrastructures of
Extremadura (IDEEx) [
27
], for the region in which our study area is located. Additionally,
the Ministry for Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge, within its Spatial Data
Infrastructure (SDI), makes the APSFR cartography available to users [
28
]. In our specific
case and for the drafting of this study, the APSFR information was provided directly by the
Guadiana River Basin Authority (CHG).
The first step in our methodology (Figure 4) corresponds to downloading the data.
Although the National Geographic Institute has two LiDAR flights, the first from 2008 to
2015 and the second from 2015 to the present day, we selected the data from the first flight
for our study, as the second flight is not yet available for the entire peninsula. Although
the IGN has the LiDAR data already classified, we selected the raw data in order to
include the mechanisms that we use in the classification and transformation of the data
and the subsequent obtaining of the Digital Terrain Model (DTM) in the workflow, which
is mapping that serves as the basis for the visualisation of the results of our study.
Remote Sens. 2021, 13, 3506 7 of 29
Although we are aware of the current nature of the data and the need to perform
geomorphological studies in order to confirm the hypotheses, the use of ARSPI allows us
to make a first contact with the ancient topography of the Guadiana and the areas through
which the river and its tributaries must have flowed. At this point, it is necessary to high-
light the restricted mobility of the Guadiana over the last few millennia due to the topog-
raphy of the territory. This fact is reinforced by the absence of archaeological sites under
alluvial formations, and also by the existence of remains of Roman bridges in Mérida and
Medellín [25]. Although the construction of dams has affected the flow of the river and its
regulation, the comparison with the photograms of the American Flight reveals the absence
of significant changes in its course as a result of these works. In this way, ARSPI allows us, for
example, to identify small clogged branches, and the area where the minor variations in their
course occurred within a delimited area, possibly restricted to the T10 events.
As we can see below, the application of these data and their superimposition on a
DTM allows us to accurately approach the palaeogeography of the Guadiana and some of
its tributaries, in order to analyse the position that the sites of the first Iron Age occupied
in the landscape, and how they may have been affected by flooding.
Fortunately, this archaeological work can be carried in Spain at no cost. All the data,
both aerial photographs and LiDAR, are available to download from the server of the
National Geographic Information Centre (CNIG), which depends on the National Geo-
graphic Institute (IGN) [26], as well as on the website of Spatial Data Infrastructures of
Extremadura (IDEEx) [27], for the region in which our study area is located. Additionally,
the Ministry for Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge, within its Spatial Data
Infrastructure (SDI), makes the APSFR cartography available to users [28]. In our specific
case and for the drafting of this study, the APSFR information was provided directly by
the Guadiana River Basin Authority (CHG).
The first step in our methodology (Figure 4) corresponds to downloading the data.
Although the National Geographic Institute has two LiDAR flights, the first from 2008 to
2015 and the second from 2015 to the present day, we selected the data from the first flight
for our study, as the second flight is not yet available for the entire peninsula. Although
the IGN has the LiDAR data already classified, we selected the raw data in order to in-
clude the mechanisms that we use in the classification and transformation of the data and
the subsequent obtaining of the Digital Terrain Model (DTM) in the workflow, which is
mapping that serves as the basis for the visualisation of the results of our study.
Figure 4. Workflow scheme.
The coverage corresponding to the first LiDAR flight has a resolution of 2 m2 of sur-
face per point or 0.5 points/m2. This resolution was more than enough to carry out the
study proposed here, as it dealt with an extensive territory, but for the detection of certain
archaeological remains, greater precision is required. The downloaded raw data are in
.LAZ format, which requires decompression and transformation. For this purpose, we
used the ARCGIS 10.5 program and the LASTool extension. The latter programme was
developed by Martin Isenburg for LiDAR data processing and is free to download [29].
Of the tools contained in the LASTool extension, we used the Blast2dem extension. For its
processing we left the default parameters, only modifying the triangulate variable, as our
objective was to eliminate excess information, such as buildings or vegetation, in order to
Figure 4. Workflow scheme.
The coverage corresponding to the first LiDAR flight has a resolution of 2 m
2
of
surface per point or 0.5 points/m
2
. This resolution was more than enough to carry out
the study proposed here, as it dealt with an extensive territory, but for the detection of
certain archaeological remains, greater precision is required. The downloaded raw data are
in .LAZ format, which requires decompression and transformation. For this purpose, we
used the ARCGIS 10.5 program and the LASTool extension. The latter programme was
developed by Martin Isenburg for LiDAR data processing and is free to download [
29
]. Of
the tools contained in the LASTool extension, we used the Blast2dem extension. For its
processing we left the default parameters, only modifying the triangulate variable, as our
objective was to eliminate excess information, such as buildings or vegetation, in order to
only obtain an image of the terrain surface. The final result is a Digital Elevation Model
(DEM) which was exported in georeferenced .tif format.
The spatial data provided by the IGN are distributed in several grids. Specifically,
the data required for our study are distributed between MTN50 grids 776, 777, 778, 779,
752, 753, 754, 804 and 805, divided between zones 29 and 30 in an ETRS 89 coordinate
system (Figure 5). In order to be able to work with a cartographic base that includes the
entire territory under analysis, we have to paste the grids together and create a mosaic. To
do this, we used another free downloadable tool, Relief Visualization Toolbox (RVT) [
30
],
developed by the Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Science and Arts. The
final result is a 2 m resolution DTM with hillshade from a single direction (Azimuth 315,
Altitude 45). The aim of this analytical shading was to simulate an illumination of the
terrain in order to enhance the visualisation of the relief.
The reclassified APSFR data were introduced on the base cartography that was created.
The data provided by the CHG are in .shp polygon format. A 35% transparency was applied
to them so that the topography of the DTM used as a topographic base was visible. By
incorporating the APSFR data into the DTM, we generated the definitive model that we
could analyse to see how the river flood events affected the different sites, and compared
the dispersion of these events with the historical photography in order to detect and define
the presence of palaeo-channels that are currently non-existent or imperceptible.
By reviewing the resulting models, we detected some alterations in the final results
that can be interpreted as distortions. This localised deformation in some of the case studies
Remote Sens. 2021,13, 3506 8 of 28
is due to the fact that the CHG, when calculating the APSFR data and assessing the extent of
each of the events, takes the current topography as a reference. Contemporary geographical
features, many of them caused by agricultural activities, can be detected, which distort the
result of the study, as they would not have existed in the past. For this reason, and with the
aim of obtaining a vision as close as possible to the orography of the terrain during the first
millennium BC, we drew up a protocol for correcting these distortions.
Remote Sens. 2021, 13, 3506 8 of 29
only obtain an image of the terrain surface. The final result is a Digital Elevation Model
(DEM) which was exported in georeferenced .tif format.
The spatial data provided by the IGN are distributed in several grids. Specifically,
the data required for our study are distributed between MTN50 grids 776, 777, 778, 779,
752, 753, 754, 804 and 805, divided between zones 29 and 30 in an ETRS 89 coordinate
system (Figure 5). In order to be able to work with a cartographic base that includes the
entire territory under analysis, we have to paste the grids together and create a mosaic.
To do this, we used another free downloadable tool, Relief Visualization Toolbox (RVT)
[30], developed by the Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Science and Arts.
The final result is a 2 m resolution DTM with hillshade from a single direction (Azimuth
315, Altitude 45). The aim of this analytical shading was to simulate an illumination of the
terrain in order to enhance the visualisation of the relief.
The reclassified APSFR data were introduced on the base cartography that was cre-
ated. The data provided by the CHG are in .shp polygon format. A 35% transparency was
applied to them so that the topography of the DTM used as a topographic base was visible.
By incorporating the APSFR data into the DTM, we generated the definitive model that we
could analyse to see how the river flood events affected the different sites, and compared the
dispersion of these events with the historical photography in order to detect and define the
presence of palaeo-channels that are currently non-existent or imperceptible.
Figure 5. Mosaic of grids that contain our study territory. In order to have a basic cartography that covers the entire
territory under analysis, we have to paste each one of the grids together.
By reviewing the resulting models, we detected some alterations in the final results
that can be interpreted as distortions. This localised deformation in some of the case stud-
ies is due to the fact that the CHG, when calculating the APSFR data and assessing the
extent of each of the events, takes the current topography as a reference. Contemporary
geographical features, many of them caused by agricultural activities, can be detected,
which distort the result of the study, as they would not have existed in the past. For this
reason, and with the aim of obtaining a vision as close as possible to the orography of the
terrain during the first millennium BC, we drew up a protocol for correcting these distortions.
Figure 5.
Mosaic of grids that contain our study territory. In order to have a basic cartography that covers the entire territory
under analysis, we have to paste each one of the grids together.
The first cause of distortion are the plots of land used for growing maize at the time of
the LiDAR flight. Given the density of this crop, it is impossible to eliminate this vegetation
layer in the process of reclassifying the LiDAR data, because given its compactness, the
tool identifies it as a solid surface, which takes the height of the maize at that moment as a
reference. As this is sometimes up to two metres high, this distortion stops the flood event
in its tracks, represented in the cartography with a square (Figure 6).
The second reason for distortion is due to the tumuli under which the Tartessian
buildings are hidden. As we noted in the introduction to this work, one of the characteristics
of these buildings is the way in which they were buried and hidden under a mound of
earth which, like the corn, slows the spread of flooding events by having a level that is
sometimes 5 or 6 metres above ground level (Figure 7). To see how the flood events directly
affect the buildings, the mound must be eliminated, making this space’s height equal to
the height of the surrounding territory.
In order to eliminate both the vegetation of the plots sown with maize and the tumulus
cover, we interpolated the values of the adjoining areas. The final result is a DTM in
which the raster cells corresponding to the spaces occupied by the distortions in the base
cartography have been reclassified with similar height values to those surrounding them,
minimising the impact of the distortion.
Remote Sens. 2021,13, 3506 9 of 28
Remote Sens. 2021, 13, 3506 9 of 29
The first cause of distortion are the plots of land used for growing maize at the time
of the LiDAR flight. Given the density of this crop, it is impossible to eliminate this vege-
tation layer in the process of reclassifying the LiDAR data, because given its compactness,
the tool identifies it as a solid surface, which takes the height of the maize at that moment
as a reference. As this is sometimes up to two metres high, this distortion stops the flood
event in its tracks, represented in the cartography with a square (Figure 6).
Figure 6. APSFR analysis corresponding to the territory where the Turuñuelo tumulus is located
(Mérida, Badajoz, Spain). When observing the area affected by the T500 flood event, some infor-
mation gaps can be detected (marked with a black rectangle), with a rectangular pattern, which are
identified with the plots planted with maize. The density of this crop means that during the data inter-
polation exercise for the elimination of vegetation, the programme interprets it as a solid surface.
The second reason for distortion is due to the tumuli under which the Tartessian
buildings are hidden. As we noted in the introduction to this work, one of the character-
istics of these buildings is the way in which they were buried and hidden under a mound
of earth which, like the corn, slows the spread of flooding events by having a level that is
sometimes 5 or 6 metres above ground level (Figure 7). To see how the flood events di-
rectly affect the buildings, the mound must be eliminated, making this space’s height
equal to the height of the surrounding territory.
In order to eliminate both the vegetation of the plots sown with maize and the tumu-
lus cover, we interpolated the values of the adjoining areas. The final result is a DTM in
which the raster cells corresponding to the spaces occupied by the distortions in the base
cartography have been reclassified with similar height values to those surrounding them,
minimising the impact of the distortion.
Although this method allows us to eliminate the distortion generated by these topo-
graphic anomalies, which were absent in ancient times, the reprocessing of the DTM im-
plies a loss of quality and accuracy in the final model. Therefore, we recommend that in
the event of having to reclassify parts of the terrain to eliminate the distortions, these
should be restricted as much as possible, only covering the areas affected by the distor-
tions, in order to prevent the models from losing visualisation quality. To do this, it would
be best to have the real elevation level of the site under study, i.e., its ground level, so that
the APSFR analysis would approximate the real orography of the terrain, which would
avoid having to make an interpolation. The modifications to the model would be re-
stricted to reclassifying it using the value of the real elevation that the base of the site had
when it was in use in ancient times, only having to remove the artificial tumulus that seals
Figure 6.
APSFR analysis corresponding to the territory where the Turuñuelo tumulus is located
(Mérida, Badajoz, Spain). When observing the area affected by the T500 flood event, some information
gaps can be detected (marked with a black rectangle), with a rectangular pattern, which are identified
with the plots planted with maize. The density of this crop means that during the data interpolation
exercise for the elimination of vegetation, the programme interprets it as a solid surface.
Figure 7.
APSFR analysis corresponding to the territory where the Casas del Turuñuelo burial
mound is located (Guareña, Badajoz, Spain). Although the entire area to the west of the burial
mound, including the site, is affected by the T500 flood event, the elevation of the burial mound
under which the Tartessian building is hidden means that this part of the terrain is not affected.
Although this method allows us to eliminate the distortion generated by these to-
pographic anomalies, which were absent in ancient times, the reprocessing of the DTM
implies a loss of quality and accuracy in the final model. Therefore, we recommend that
in the event of having to reclassify parts of the terrain to eliminate the distortions, these
Remote Sens. 2021,13, 3506 10 of 28
should be restricted as much as possible, only covering the areas affected by the distortions,
in order to prevent the models from losing visualisation quality. To do this, it would be
best to have the real elevation level of the site under study, i.e., its ground level, so that
the APSFR analysis would approximate the real orography of the terrain, which would
avoid having to make an interpolation. The modifications to the model would be restricted
to reclassifying it using the value of the real elevation that the base of the site had when
it was in use in ancient times, only having to remove the artificial tumulus that seals the
site. However, and given that this would require the excavation of all the sites under study,
which is quite complicated, the best option is to take the contour of the distortions with a
differential GPS in the field, refining the area of affection and reclassification as much as
possible. Finally, and in order to obtain the final model, both the DTM and the APSFR data
are reclassified so that the flood data present their correct extension, thereby excluding
modern-day obstacles (Figure 8).
Remote Sens. 2021, 13, 3506 11 of 29
Figure 8. APSFR analysis corresponding to the territory where the Turuñuelo tumulus is located
(Villagonzalo, Badajoz, Spain). (A) Calculation of APSFR zones prior to the reclassification of the
land. (B) Representation of the territory affected by the APSFR zones after reclassification of the
terrain and correction of the distortions.
Finally, it should be noted that there is a geographical feature, caused by anthropic
action, which generates a distortion in the models, but which we do not believe needs
correction: the artificial terraces created during the re-division of the territory, which led
to the existence of different levels within the same space or region. These anomalies in the
orography of the terrain are detected by the presence of straight cuts in the models that
stop the extension of the events in their tracks. Of the ten cases analysed in our study, this
event is detected in only one of them, which we consider better not to correct for a very
simple reason: we do not know which of the two elevations, the lower or the upper one
of the terrace, was the original elevation (Figure 9).
Figure 8.
APSFR analysis corresponding to the territory where the Turuñuelo tumulus is located
(Villagonzalo, Badajoz, Spain). (
A
) Calculation of APSFR zones prior to the reclassification of the
land. (
B
) Representation of the territory affected by the APSFR zones after reclassification of the
terrain and correction of the distortions.
The resolution and correction of these distortions is fundamental in a project of this
kind, as it allows us to prove the existence of situations in which the flood events directly
Remote Sens. 2021,13, 3506 11 of 28
affected the settlement, causing it to be partly or completely flooded. As we can see below,
in the case of the middle Guadiana basin during the first Iron Age, the observation of
events affecting the development of the sites has been fundamental in order to historically
interpret them.
Finally, it should be noted that there is a geographical feature, caused by anthropic
action, which generates a distortion in the models, but which we do not believe needs
correction: the artificial terraces created during the re-division of the territory, which led to
the existence of different levels within the same space or region. These anomalies in the
orography of the terrain are detected by the presence of straight cuts in the models that
stop the extension of the events in their tracks. Of the ten cases analysed in our study, this
event is detected in only one of them, which we consider better not to correct for a very
simple reason: we do not know which of the two elevations, the lower or the upper one of
the terrace, was the original elevation (Figure 9).
Remote Sens. 2021, 13, 3506 12 of 29
Figure 9. APSFR analysis corresponding to the area where the La Aliseda tumulus is located (Don
Benito, Badajoz, Spain). It shows how both the T100 event and the T500 event stop just on the west
and south faces of the mound, creating a straight distortion that marks the boundary of the plot.
Therefore, the plot on which the settlement is located is at a higher elevation so that the flood event
has its limits at the contour of the plot.
4. Results
The overall interpretation of the results allows a homogeneous interpretation to be
drawn from the study, defining the clear relationship between the Guadiana settlements
and the different watercourses (Table 1). In order to present the results obtained after the
integration of APSFR data and reconstruction of the paleo-landscape of the middle Gua-
diana basin, we selected several examples in order to analyse the usefulness of the tool
depending on the category of settlement to which it is applied. Given the heterogeneity of
the locations of the necropolises, we selected the necropolis of El Pozo, since it is the best-
known site of its kind, and the interpretation derived from its study is highly significant.
For the analysis of the village-type settlements, we selected the enclave of Cerro de la
Barca—Torruco, for one main reason: it is the only enclave known to date to be located in
the vicinity of the Guadiana River, since, as can be seen in Figure 1 of this paper, the rest
of the examples are located far inland. Finally, the Tartessian buildings hidden under tu-
muli were analysed as a whole, given that their location in the landscape is one of the
characteristics shared by these constructions, which allows us to obtain an overall assess-
ment of the case studies.
Figure 9.
APSFR analysis corresponding to the area where the La Aliseda tumulus is located (Don
Benito, Badajoz, Spain). It shows how both the T100 event and the T500 event stop just on the west
and south faces of the mound, creating a straight distortion that marks the boundary of the plot.
Therefore, the plot on which the settlement is located is at a higher elevation so that the flood event
has its limits at the contour of the plot.
4. Results
The overall interpretation of the results allows a homogeneous interpretation to be
drawn from the study, defining the clear relationship between the Guadiana settlements
and the different watercourses (Table 1). In order to present the results obtained after
the integration of APSFR data and reconstruction of the paleo-landscape of the middle
Guadiana basin, we selected several examples in order to analyse the usefulness of the tool
depending on the category of settlement to which it is applied. Given the heterogeneity of
the locations of the necropolises, we selected the necropolis of El Pozo, since it is the best-
known site of its kind, and the interpretation derived from its study is highly significant.
For the analysis of the village-type settlements, we selected the enclave of Cerro de la
Barca—Torruco, for one main reason: it is the only enclave known to date to be located
in the vicinity of the Guadiana River, since, as can be seen in Figure 1of this paper, the
Remote Sens. 2021,13, 3506 12 of 28
rest of the examples are located far inland. Finally, the Tartessian buildings hidden under
tumuli were analysed as a whole, given that their location in the landscape is one of
the characteristics shared by these constructions, which allows us to obtain an overall
assessment of the case studies.
Table 1. List of sites analysed with respect to the nearest watercourse, their height and the flood events that affect them.
Archaeological Site Settlement Category River Distance River Height Difference Affection Event
Necropolis of El Pozo Necropolis c. 160 m c. 6 m T100
Medellín Flat settlement c. 360 m c. 6 m -
Cerro de la Barca Flat settlement c. 130 m c. 28 m -
Huerta de Don Mateo Tumuli c. 365 m c. 4 m -
Casas del Cerro de la Barca
Tumuli c. 180 m c. 8 m -
Cañada de la Virgen Tumuli c. 705 m c. 4 m T100/T500
Turuñuelo (Villagonzalo) Tumuli c. 125 m c. 3 m T500
Casas del Turuñuelo Tumuli c. 775 m c. 4 m T500
Turuñuelo (Mérida) Tumuli c. 1200 c. 8 m -
La Aliseda Tumuli c. 1030 m c. 8 T500
4.1. The Necropolis of El Pozo and the Settlement of Medellín (Badajoz, Spain)
The necropolis of El Pozo is located in the municipality of Medellín, in the province of
Badajoz, on the left bank of the Guadiana, some 500 m to the west of the elevation where
it has traditionally been assumed that the settlement was located at the same time as the
necropolis (Figure 10). It was discovered in 1969, and to date, a total of five archaeological
excavations have been carried out, which have documented a necropolis with three phases
of occupation between the seventh and fifth centuries BC, and in which three types of
burial have been identified: in urns, in a pit, in busta, or a combination of both types. [31].
Remote Sens. 2021, 13, 3506 14 of 29
Figure 10. Location of the Cerro del Castillo and the Necropolis of El Pozo (Medellín, Badajoz, Spain).
To complete the study of the palaeolandscape of the El Pozo necropolis, we analysed
its fluvial environment using APSFR data. The mapping generated shows that the space
occupied by the necropolis would have been submerged in events T10 and T100. In the
T10 events, the only variation detected is that the distance between the riverbed and the
necropolis is reduced, while in the T100 events, the necropolis would be completely sur-
rounded by water, suggesting that the necropolis, while in use, may have always been
surrounded by water; nevertheless, this is difficult to prove.
In contrast, only event T500 would have affected the tombs, submerging the remains
under the waters of the Guadiana, because although the necropolis stands on a slight ele-
vation, its level would not be high enough to protect it from flooding (Figure 12). These
floods, which occurred every 500 years, have been fossilised in the archaeological record.
In the stratigraphic sequence of the necropolis, there are traces of some events. Specifi-
cally, Stratum II, 0.25 m thick, has been related to the flooding of the river between 1940
and 1941, while Stratum III, which is thicker, reaching up to 2 metres in some points and
covering the entire area of the necropolis, would be the result of various periods of flood-
ing [33]. Today, this process still occurs, with the last event documented in the 2013 floods.
The process documented in the necropolis of El Pozo is not an isolated event, but is
repeated in other case studies documented in the middle Guadiana around its Iron Age
necropolises. This is the case for sites such as the necropolis of Valdelagrulla (Medellín,
Badajoz, Spain) or Aljucén (Mérida, Badajoz, Spain), where the application of APSFR data
corroborated the existence of watercourses that surrounded these funerary spaces in an-
cient times.
Figure 10. Location of the Cerro del Castillo and the Necropolis of El Pozo (Medellín, Badajoz, Spain).
Remote Sens. 2021,13, 3506 13 of 28
The combination of historical photography, LiDAR data, and APSFR has led to the
reveal of results in this particular case study, making it possible to corroborate a hypothesis
proposed years ago by the researchers in charge of the excavation of this burial site. Proof
of this is a statement from the topographical study carried out in the 1980s, which notes
that it occupies a strip of land forming a small elevation above the surrounding area,
imperceptible to the naked eye, as it barely stands out 1 metre above the surrounding area.
This area, approximately 1 ha in size, must have been located in antiquity between two
branches that ran southwards from the current course of the Guadiana, located some 200 m
to the north [...]. Both channels are nowadays enclosed and barely visible, as they only
resurface during major floods, such as those that occurred in 1969 and 1979, which made it
possible to confirm the quasi-island character of the land occupied by the necropolis, an
area which, in antiquity, must have been within the riverbed flooded by the usual floods of
the Guadiana river.” [32] (p. 894).
However, the combination of LiDAR and APSFR data, in this case accompanied
by geological mapping and historical photography, allowed us to verify the previous
hypothesis and to observe that the floods of the Guadiana caused the area occupied by
the necropolis to become a small island. This can be corroborated both by consulting the
geological map of the Geological and Mining Institute of Spain (2008), which shows the
presence of two branches of the Guadiana that run to the south of the necropolis, currently
dried up, and by consulting Series A of the American Flight, where the presence of this
small island can be identified, covering an area of 12-13 hectares (Figure 11).
To complete the study of the palaeolandscape of the El Pozo necropolis, we analysed
its fluvial environment using APSFR data. The mapping generated shows that the space
occupied by the necropolis would have been submerged in events T10 and T100. In the
T10 events, the only variation detected is that the distance between the riverbed and
the necropolis is reduced, while in the T100 events, the necropolis would be completely
surrounded by water, suggesting that the necropolis, while in use, may have always been
surrounded by water; nevertheless, this is difficult to prove.
In contrast, only event T500 would have affected the tombs, submerging the remains
under the waters of the Guadiana, because although the necropolis stands on a slight
elevation, its level would not be high enough to protect it from flooding (Figure 12). These
floods, which occurred every 500 years, have been fossilised in the archaeological record.
In the stratigraphic sequence of the necropolis, there are traces of some events. Specifically,
Stratum II, 0.25 m thick, has been related to the flooding of the river between 1940 and 1941,
while Stratum III, which is thicker, reaching up to 2 metres in some points and covering the
entire area of the necropolis, would be the result of various periods of flooding [
33
]. Today,
this process still occurs, with the last event documented in the 2013 floods.
The process documented in the necropolis of El Pozo is not an isolated event, but is
repeated in other case studies documented in the middle Guadiana around its Iron Age
necropolises. This is the case for sites such as the necropolis of Valdelagrulla (Medellín,
Badajoz, Spain) or Aljucén (Mérida, Badajoz, Spain), where the application of APSFR
data corroborated the existence of watercourses that surrounded these funerary spaces in
ancient times.
Before concluding the presentation of the results of the study of the palaeolandscape
of the necropolis of El Pozo, we would like to highlight an aspect revealed by an analysis
of the topography of its surroundings, in relation to a decades-long debate on the location
of the settlement associated with this necropolis. Traditionally, an area of scientific research
defended the presence of a protohistoric settlement in Medellín, contemporary to the
necropolis, which would have been located on the nearest elevation, the hill of Medellín
Castle [
34
]. A review of the 21 interventions carried out on this elevation revealed that
there are no occupation levels that allow us to confirm that this elevation was inhabited
during the first Iron Age [
3
], leading us to consider that it was occupied in the Chalcolithic
period [35] and Roman period [36].
Remote Sens. 2021,13, 3506 14 of 28
Remote Sens. 2021, 13, 3506 15 of 29
Figure 11. (A) National geological map (IGME, sheet 778) showing the location of the necropolis of
El Pozo. It shows the presence of a branch of the Guadiana running to the south of the necropolis,
which no longer exists. (B) Photograph of American Flight A (1945/1946) showing the location of
the necropolis of El Pozo. The white arrows show the traces of the paleochannels of the Guadiana,
which have now dried up.
Before concluding the presentation of the results of the study of the palaeolandscape
of the necropolis of El Pozo, we would like to highlight an aspect revealed by an analysis
of the topography of its surroundings, in relation to a decades-long debate on the location
of the settlement associated with this necropolis. Traditionally, an area of scientific re-
search defended the presence of a protohistoric settlement in Medellín, contemporary to
the necropolis, which would have been located on the nearest elevation, the hill of Medel-
lín Castle [34]. A review of the 21 interventions carried out on this elevation revealed that
there are no occupation levels that allow us to confirm that this elevation was inhabited
during the first Iron Age [3], leading us to consider that it was occupied in the Chalcolithic
period [35] and Roman period [36].
In contrast to this proposal, previous studies have alluded to evidence that locates
the protohistoric settlement of Medellín beneath the current town, at the foot of the south-
ern slope of the hill [2,3] (p. 106) (Figure 13). This hypothesis gains strength after applying
our spatial analysis methodology combining LiDAR and APSFR data. Interestingly, the
proposed location of the settlement is the only point that is safe from flood events. At the
same time as the settlement was protected from the floods, it took advantage of the fertile
Figure 11.
(
A
) National geological map (IGME, sheet 778) showing the location of the necropolis of
El Pozo. It shows the presence of a branch of the Guadiana running to the south of the necropolis,
which no longer exists. (
B
) Photograph of American Flight A (1945/1946) showing the location of the
necropolis of El Pozo. The white arrows show the traces of the paleochannels of the Guadiana, which
have now dried up.
In contrast to this proposal, previous studies have alluded to evidence that locates the
protohistoric settlement of Medellín beneath the current town, at the foot of the southern
slope of the hill [
2
,
3
] (p. 106) (Figure 13). This hypothesis gains strength after applying
our spatial analysis methodology combining LiDAR and APSFR data. Interestingly, the
proposed location of the settlement is the only point that is safe from flood events. At the
same time as the settlement was protected from the floods, it took advantage of the fertile
lands of the river plain. Thanks to the insight provided by this working methodology, we
can now reaffirm our hypothesis about the location that the settlement of Medellín must
have occupied during the first Iron Age, while waiting for the archaeological studies of the
projects carried out in the area to confirm it.
Remote Sens. 2021,13, 3506 15 of 28
Remote Sens. 2021, 13, 3506 16 of 29
lands of the river plain. Thanks to the insight provided by this working methodology, we
can now reaffirm our hypothesis about the location that the settlement of Medellín must
have occupied during the first Iron Age, while waiting for the archaeological studies of
the projects carried out in the area to confirm it.
Figure 12. APSFR analysis corresponding to the territory where the necropolis of El Pozo (Medellín,
Badajoz) is located. It shows how the necropolis was affected by event T500.
Figure 13. Cartography showing the hypothetical location of the first Iron Age settlement of Medel-
lín, marked with a black rectangle (Badajoz, Spain).
Figure 12.
APSFR analysis corresponding to the territory where the necropolis of El Pozo (Medellín,
Badajoz) is located. It shows how the necropolis was affected by event T500.
Remote Sens. 2021, 13, 3506 16 of 29
lands of the river plain. Thanks to the insight provided by this working methodology, we
can now reaffirm our hypothesis about the location that the settlement of Medellín must
have occupied during the first Iron Age, while waiting for the archaeological studies of
the projects carried out in the area to confirm it.
Figure 12. APSFR analysis corresponding to the territory where the necropolis of El Pozo (Medellín,
Badajoz) is located. It shows how the necropolis was affected by event T500.
Figure 13. Cartography showing the hypothetical location of the first Iron Age settlement of Medel-
lín, marked with a black rectangle (Badajoz, Spain).
Figure 13.
Cartography showing the hypothetical location of the first Iron Age settlement of Medellín,
marked with a black rectangle (Badajoz, Spain).
Remote Sens. 2021,13, 3506 16 of 28
4.2. The Village Type Settlement of Cerro de la Barca—Torruco (Villanueva de la Serena,
Badajoz, Spain)
The site of Cerro de la Barca—Torruco is located in the municipality of Villanueva de
la Serena, on a low hill overlooking the Guadiana River, on its right bank [
37
]. Its location in
the landscape, given that it is a small village on a plain, differs markedly from the previous
case study, so that the results present us with a very different situation.
Despite the fact that this site has never been excavated, its occupation is well defined
and delimited both by the presence of abundant archaeological material, which allows
for its functional and chronological characterisation, and by the presence of documented
remains of structures on the current surface. As far as the dimensions of the enclave are
concerned, the survey work allowed us to define a settlement with an approximate surface
area of 3 hectares [
3
] (p. 137). The chronology of the was also determined thanks to the
discovery of a bronze plaque with zoomorphic decoration, whose closest parallels have
been documented at the site of Cancho Roano (Zalamea de la Serena, Badajoz, Spain). This
piece and the presence of type CR-1B amphorae allow us to date the site to between the
sixth and fifth centuries BC.
The distance between the Cerro de la Barca—Torruco site and the Guadiana River is
very close, as the site is currently located 130 m from the riverbank. This led us to consider
the possible effect that the river floods could have on the site. The combination of LiDAR
and APSFR data allowed us to verify that none of the documented flood events would have
affected the site, as it is located at a high enough point to protect it from these events. We
can see how the layout of the riverbank at this point has not changed over the years, with
the northern end, i.e., the fields or plots located beyond the opposite bank, usually being
affected by the increased flow of the river, given that it is in this area where the river’s flood
plain is located. The photograph of American Flight B (1956–1957) reveals the presence
of several branches of the Guadiana located to the north of the site, which are currently
dried out (Figure 14). The presence of both watercourses means that the space between
them falls within the area affected by events T10, T100 and T500 (Figure 15). In the past, the
regular flooding of the land to the north of the site meant control over fertile stretches of
plain that would have favoured the development of agriculture. The position occupied by
the enclave, on the slope of the hill overlooking the river, would have allowed it to control
both the fertile lands in front of it and the course of the river, whose role as a fundamental
artery for the connection between the different enclaves located in the surroundings of its
course within the middle section of the River Guadiana is becoming increasingly clearer.
4.3. Tartessian Buildings Hidden under Tumuli in the Middle Guadiana Basin
At present, the archaeological work carried out in the middle basin of the Guadiana
allowed us to discover a total of 13 tumuli [
3
] (p. 164). Only three of them have been
excavated to date; however, all the information recovered from these interventions pro-
vided us with extensive knowledge of the architectural and physical characteristics of
these buildings. Cancho Roano (Zalamea de la Serena, Badajoz, Spain) [
38
] and La Mata
(Campanario, Badajoz, Spain) [
39
] have already been fully excavated, while the structure
of Casas del Turuñuelo (Guareña, Badajoz, Spain) [
40
] is currently in the process of being
excavated and studied.
As we noted in the introduction to this paper, what we refer to as Tartessian buildings
hidden under tumuli are a characteristic system of settlements exclusive to this region
during the Iron Age. Their closest parallels are to be found in the Guadalquivir valley, the
heartland of Tartessus. They share architectural and material characteristics with these
buildings, although the particular feature that makes the Guadiana buildings different
from their neighbours in the area of the Guadalquivir is their spatial distribution and the
system of destruction and abandonment they suffered at the end of the fifth century BC.
The buildings of the middle Guadiana basin were intentionally sealed, destroyed, set on
fire, and then covered with earth to effectively conceal them under an artificial mound
that protected them from the passage of time. This method of concealment helped to
Remote Sens. 2021,13, 3506 17 of 28
preserve both the constructive remains and the materials, allowing us to discover aspects
of Tartessian culture that were hitherto unknown.
Remote Sens. 2021, 13, 3506 18 of 29
Figure 14. Comparison between the orthophotographs of the American Flight B, made between
1956/1957 (A) and the PNOA Máxima Actualidad (B) of the territory that extends to the north of the
village of Cerro de la Barca (Villanueva de la Serena, Badajoz, Spain). It shows how some branches
of the Guadiana have dried out.
Figure 14.
Comparison between the orthophotographs of the American Flight B, made between
1956/1957 (
A
) and the PNOA Máxima Actualidad (
B
) of the territory that extends to the north of the
village of Cerro de la Barca (Villanueva de la Serena, Badajoz, Spain). It shows how some branches of
the Guadiana have dried out.
Remote Sens. 2021,13, 3506 18 of 28
Remote Sens. 2021, 13, 3506 19 of 29
Figure 15. APSFR analysis corresponding to the territory in which the settlement of Cerro de la
Barca—Torruco (Villanueva de la Serena, Badajoz, Spain) is located. It shows that none of the rec-
orded events affect the site.
4.3. Tartessian Buildings Hidden Under tumuli in the Middle Guadiana Basin
At present, the archaeological work carried out in the middle basin of the Guadiana
allowed us to discover a total of 13 tumuli [3] (p. 164). Only three of them have been ex-
cavated to date; however, all the information recovered from these interventions provided
us with extensive knowledge of the architectural and physical characteristics of these
buildings. Cancho Roano (Zalamea de la Serena, Badajoz, Spain) [38] and La Mata (Cam-
panario, Badajoz, Spain) [39] have already been fully excavated, while the structure of
Casas del Turuñuelo (Guareña, Badajoz, Spain) [40] is currently in the process of being
excavated and studied.
As we noted in the introduction to this paper, what we refer to as Tartessian build-
ings hidden under tumuli are a characteristic system of settlements exclusive to this region
during the Iron Age. Their closest parallels are to be found in the Guadalquivir valley, the
heartland of Tartessus. They share architectural and material characteristics with these
buildings, although the particular feature that makes the Guadiana buildings different
from their neighbours in the area of the Guadalquivir is their spatial distribution and the
system of destruction and abandonment they suffered at the end of the fifth century BC.
The buildings of the middle Guadiana basin were intentionally sealed, destroyed, set on
fire, and then covered with earth to effectively conceal them under an artificial mound
that protected them from the passage of time. This method of concealment helped to pre-
serve both the constructive remains and the materials, allowing us to discover aspects of
Tartessian culture that were hitherto unknown.
The proximity of these constructions to the Guadiana River is one of the characteris-
tics shared by the Tartessian buildings of the Guadiana. All except four are located at the
confluence of the river with one of its main tributaries (Figure 16). This position gave the
buildings a strategic position that allowed them to dominate extensive areas of land, in-
cluding fertile plains for the development of agriculture; at the same time, they controlled
one of the main means of communication in this territory: the rivers. In previous works,
we defended the importance of the Guadiana as the backbone of the territory on which
Figure 15.
APSFR analysis corresponding to the territory in which the settlement of Cerro de la
Barca—Torruco (Villanueva de la Serena, Badajoz, Spain) is located. It shows that none of the recorded
events affect the site.
The proximity of these constructions to the Guadiana River is one of the characteristics
shared by the Tartessian buildings of the Guadiana. All except four are located at the
confluence of the river with one of its main tributaries (Figure 16). This position gave
the buildings a strategic position that allowed them to dominate extensive areas of land,
including fertile plains for the development of agriculture; at the same time, they controlled
one of the main means of communication in this territory: the rivers. In previous works,
we defended the importance of the Guadiana as the backbone of the territory on which
the main trade of this region would have been based [
2
] (p. 256). This hypothesis has
been supported by the appearance of the first images of boats found at the site of Casas
del Turuñuelo [
41
], as well as in the analysis of the amphorae documented in each of
the excavated sites. The analysis of the clays made it possible to verify the existence of
small-scale commerce that connected these sites along the Guadiana [42].
The prominent role these buildings played in the political and territorial organisation
of this area was not only due to their location in the landscape, but also to their architectural
and material wealth. Alongside the monumental architecture, there are also groups of
Mediterranean imports that emphasise the important political role that these enclaves
played in this area between the sixth and fifth centuries BC [3].
Of the total number of documented tomb elevations in the Middle Guadiana, we
managed to examine a total of nine using the APSFR methodology proposed in this paper:
Cancho Roano, La Mata, Las Lomas and Lácara, as they are four enclaves located in the
interior of the Guadiana, next to one of its tributaries, but far from the main artery of
the Guadiana. As we do not have predictive models to evaluate the areas with poten-
tial flood risk in the cases corresponding to the tributaries of the Guadiana, we do not
have sufficient information to evaluate the spatial relationship between them and their
nearby watercourses.
Remote Sens. 2021,13, 3506 19 of 28
Remote Sens. 2021, 13, 3506 20 of 29
the main trade of this region would have been based [2] (p. 256). This hypothesis has been
supported by the appearance of the first images of boats found at the site of Casas del
Turuñuelo [41], as well as in the analysis of the amphorae documented in each of the ex-
cavated sites. The analysis of the clays made it possible to verify the existence of small-
scale commerce that connected these sites along the Guadiana [42].
Figure 16. Maps (A,B) showing the location of the Tartessian buildings hidden under tumuli in re-
lation to watercourses. The layout of these constructions always places them next to a watercourse,
mainly along the Guadiana, the main communication artery of this territory.
The prominent role these buildings played in the political and territorial organisation
of this area was not only due to their location in the landscape, but also to their architec-
tural and material wealth. Alongside the monumental architecture, there are also groups
of Mediterranean imports that emphasise the important political role that these enclaves
played in this area between the sixth and fifth centuries BC [3].
Of the total number of documented tomb elevations in the Middle Guadiana, we
managed to examine a total of nine using the APSFR methodology proposed in this paper:
Figure 16.
Maps (
A
,
B
) showing the location of the Tartessian buildings hidden under tumuli in
relation to watercourses. The layout of these constructions always places them next to a watercourse,
mainly along the Guadiana, the main communication artery of this territory.
The application of the APSFR data to the DTMs generated after the processing of
the LiDAR flights allowed us to make some very interesting observations. First of all, it
should be noted that all the elevations are safe from the events that occur every 10 years.
This is quite logical, because if we take into account that the approximate lifespan of these
buildings is about 100 years on average, preventing the floods that occur every 10 years
from affecting the buildings, as well as the surrounding constructions where the production
areas would be located, is something that is quite controllable. All the examples under
study are located outside the T10 events, while still being located close to the land affected
by these floods, allowing the buildings to control areas of fertile land for agricultural
development (Figure 17).
Remote Sens. 2021,13, 3506 20 of 28
Remote Sens. 2021, 13, 3506 21 of 29
Cancho Roano, La Mata, Las Lomas and Lácara, as they are four enclaves located in the
interior of the Guadiana, next to one of its tributaries, but far from the main artery of the
Guadiana. As we do not have predictive models to evaluate the areas with potential flood
risk in the cases corresponding to the tributaries of the Guadiana, we do not have suffi-
cient information to evaluate the spatial relationship between them and their nearby wa-
tercourses.
The application of the APSFR data to the DTMs generated after the processing of the
LiDAR flights allowed us to make some very interesting observations. First of all, it should
be noted that all the elevations are safe from the events that occur every 10 years. This is
quite logical, because if we take into account that the approximate lifespan of these build-
ings is about 100 years on average, preventing the floods that occur every 10 years from
affecting the buildings, as well as the surrounding constructions where the production
areas would be located, is something that is quite controllable. All the examples under
study are located outside the T10 events, while still being located close to the land affected
by these floods, allowing the buildings to control areas of fertile land for agricultural de-
velopment (Figure 17).
Figure 17. Models obtained from the APSFR analysis of the tumuli of Huerta de Don Mateo (Tala-
vera la Real, Badajoz, Spain) (A) and Casas del Cerro de la Barca (Badajoz, Spain) (B) showing the
location of the buildings with respect to the three flood events.
Figure 17.
Models obtained from the APSFR analysis of the tumuli of Huerta de Don Mateo (Talavera
la Real, Badajoz, Spain) (
A
) and Casas del Cerro de la Barca (Badajoz, Spain) (
B
) showing the location
of the buildings with respect to the three flood events.
Only one of the examples seems to have been affected by the T100 event. This is the
tumulus of Cañada la Virgen (Puebla de la Calzada, Badajoz, Spain) (Figure 18), one of the
enclaves most affected by modern-day agriculture, as due to the Badajoz Plan, this site
has been completely razed, which is why the results obtained in this analysis have raised
some doubts, given the alteration that both the site and its surroundings have suffered. In
contrast, there are several examples which are either not affected by any of the events, or
which are only affected by T500 events, which, given the lifespan of these buildings, could
not possibly be controllable or predictable. We can point out examples such as the tumuli
of Turuñuelo de Villagonzalo or Casas del Turuñuelo, which would have been submerged
under the waters of the Guadiana in events occurring every 500 years (Figure 19).
Remote Sens. 2021,13, 3506 21 of 28
Remote Sens. 2021, 13, 3506 22 of 29
Only one of the examples seems to have been affected by the T100 event. This is the
tumulus of Cañada la Virgen (Puebla de la Calzada, Badajoz, Spain) (Figure 18), one of
the enclaves most affected by modern-day agriculture, as due to the Badajoz Plan, this site
has been completely razed, which is why the results obtained in this analysis have raised
some doubts, given the alteration that both the site and its surroundings have suffered. In
contrast, there are several examples which are either not affected by any of the events, or
which are only affected by T500 events, which, given the lifespan of these buildings, could
not possibly be controllable or predictable. We can point out examples such as the tumuli
of Turuñuelo de Villagonzalo or Casas del Turuñuelo, which would have been submerged
under the waters of the Guadiana in events occurring every 500 years (Figure 19).
Figure 18. Model obtained from the APSFR analysis of the area where the tumulus of Cañada la
Virgen (Puebla de la Calzada, Badajoz, Spain) is located, showing the effect of events T100 and T500
on the site.
At the Villagonzalo site, no archaeological work has been carried out to date to verify
the existence of stratigraphic units that can be identified with flooding events. However,
the work at the tumulus of Casas del Turuñuelo has provided evidence that it has been
affected by flooding events that have lasted for a considerable period of time. Evidence of
this has been found in the southern profile of the tumulus, where a sequence of sediment
deposits made by the river in the years following the concealment of the building has been
documented, and in the sequence of the courtyard, where there is evidence of a flooding
level beneath the ritual deposit of animals that is currently being analysed using micro-
morphology, to determine its chronology and scale. The fact that we now have evidence
that allows us to assess the effect that the river itself may have had on these constructions
leads us to begin a new line of work on the causes that led to these structures being aban-
doned and sealed.
Figure 18.
Model obtained from the APSFR analysis of the area where the tumulus of Cañada la
Virgen (Puebla de la Calzada, Badajoz, Spain) is located, showing the effect of events T100 and T500
on the site.
At the Villagonzalo site, no archaeological work has been carried out to date to verify
the existence of stratigraphic units that can be identified with flooding events. However,
the work at the tumulus of Casas del Turuñuelo has provided evidence that it has been
affected by flooding events that have lasted for a considerable period of time. Evidence of
this has been found in the southern profile of the tumulus, where a sequence of sediment
deposits made by the river in the years following the concealment of the building has
been documented, and in the sequence of the courtyard, where there is evidence of a
flooding level beneath the ritual deposit of animals that is currently being analysed using
micromorphology, to determine its chronology and scale. The fact that we now have
evidence that allows us to assess the effect that the river itself may have had on these
constructions leads us to begin a new line of work on the causes that led to these structures
being abandoned and sealed.
Remote Sens. 2021,13, 3506 22 of 28
Remote Sens. 2021, 13, 3506 23 of 29
Figure 19. Models obtained from the APSFR analysis of the tumuli of El Turuñuelo (Villagonzalo,
Badajoz, Spain) (A) and Casas del Turuñuelo (Guareña, Badajoz, Spain) (B) showing how the T500
event affected both the buildings and their surrounding land.
5. Discussion
The historical analysis of the landscape in regions such as the middle Guadiana basin,
which has been greatly altered by the impact of agricultural work, has always entailed
great difficulties. The orography and landscape of these territories is so seriously affected
that reconstructing their original morphology is, in many cases, an impossible task. The
transfer of land, the redistribution of plots and, above all, the levelling to which many of
these fields have been subjected, has led to the loss of valuable archaeological information,
especially that which corresponds to the so-called peasant settlements, since, in contrast
to the Tartessian buildings hidden under tumuli, the scarcity of their material and archi-
tectural remains means that the archaeological footprint they leave on the territory is very
small and easily destroyed.
In response to this, through archaeology and landscape analysis, we seek tools that
will help us to restore a territory to its original appearance, the structure it would have
had prior to the impact that agriculture has had on its configuration, and on the conser-
vation of the sites in its surroundings. This is the case of the methodology used in the
present study, through which we intend to identify the activity that the Guadiana River
Figure 19.
Models obtained from the APSFR analysis of the tumuli of El Turuñuelo (Villagonzalo,
Badajoz, Spain) (
A
) and Casas del Turuñuelo (Guareña, Badajoz, Spain) (
B
) showing how the T500
event affected both the buildings and their surrounding land.
5. Discussion
The historical analysis of the landscape in regions such as the middle Guadiana basin,
which has been greatly altered by the impact of agricultural work, has always entailed
great difficulties. The orography and landscape of these territories is so seriously affected
that reconstructing their original morphology is, in many cases, an impossible task. The
transfer of land, the redistribution of plots and, above all, the levelling to which many of
these fields have been subjected, has led to the loss of valuable archaeological information,
especially that which corresponds to the so-called peasant settlements, since, in contrast to
the Tartessian buildings hidden under tumuli, the scarcity of their material and architectural
remains means that the archaeological footprint they leave on the territory is very small
and easily destroyed.
In response to this, through archaeology and landscape analysis, we seek tools that
will help us to restore a territory to its original appearance, the structure it would have had
prior to the impact that agriculture has had on its configuration, and on the conservation
of the sites in its surroundings. This is the case of the methodology used in the present
Remote Sens. 2021,13, 3506 23 of 28
study, through which we intend to identify the activity that the Guadiana River has had
throughout its history and how this activity has affected the sites located in its immediate
surroundings, to the point of conditioning the development of its activities or determining
the moment of abandonment of the sites.
To do so, we used historical photography and LiDAR to identify the presence of
paleochannels or old branches of the Guadiana that were in operation in the past, possibly
prior to the regulation process that affected the river due to the construction of the reservoirs.
However, this analysis of the river network does not allow us to address the relationship
between the river and its settlements. For this reason, we have searched for a tool to help
us simulate flood patterns. In this way, overcoming contemporary obstacles such as the
tomb elevations, the terraces or the plots sown with maize, we can determine how the
settlements were affected by the flooding of the Guadiana in events occurring every 10,
100 or 500 years.
In light of the results obtained, we can confirm the usefulness of the methodological
proposal contained in this work. Thanks to it, and despite the fact that it is not an absolute
model, and that within it and depending on each geographical region, different variables
must be taken into account, we have managed to configure the most realistic possible image
of the structure that the middle Guadiana basin would have had in antiquity, using this as
the basis to analyse the relationship between the river, the areas for exploiting resources,
and the different settlements.
Perhaps the first idea to be drawn from this study is the importance of reconstructing
the palaeolandscape, as analysing the location of sites using the current landscape as a
reference point can result in a number of errors. This is especially the case in regions such as
the middle Guadiana basin, where the human impact on the territory is so significant that
many of the sites under study have lost their connection or relationship with the territory.
For this reason, it is necessary to define the original route of the river or to identify river
arteries that are currently silted up, which in ancient times must have played a fundamental
role in the organisation of the territory and in the choice of areas for building settlements.
Leaving aside the territory in which the necropolises are located, the application of
this methodology has made it possible to corroborate the relationship that existed between
the settlements of the first Iron Age and the Guadiana River. The position occupied by
both the settlements on the plains of the village or farm type, and the Tartessian buildings
hidden under tumuli in the territory, close to the watercourses and, mainly, to the areas
affected by the flooding of the rivers, allows us to consider the fundamental role that the
waterways played in the political and economic organisation of the territory. In addition
to controlling the passage of one of the main communication arteries, the Guadiana, the
proximity to the lands affected by the floods made it possible to control the most fertile
plots, those that were periodically affected by the floods, which led to an increase in the
productivity of the land. This model is by no means exclusive to this territory and is widely
attested in other parts of the Mediterranean.
The analysis of the resulting cartography allows us to observe how all the sites
documented to date are outside of the T10 events, which reveals the knowledge that the
societies that inhabited this area between the seventh and fifth centuries BC had of their
surroundings. Given that these are events that occur every ten years, control over them
would have been more effective. This would allow the sites to be located at a sufficient
distance to prevent the floods from affecting the buildings, while at the same time leaving
the fertile land near the riverbed under their control. In this way, the height/width
represented in the T10 events can be interpreted as the space within which the course of
the river would have been located during antiquity, prior to the regularisation of its course;
in other words, the shading that the T10 event occupies in the models corresponds to the
zone through which the course of the river may have potentially run, differing from the
current one. This idea does not mean that in the past, the river occupied the entire width
that the T10 shading shows in the models, but rather that this width defines the maximum
limits that the river would have reached and the space through which its course was
Remote Sens. 2021,13, 3506 24 of 28
diverted. This can be corroborated by superimposing the T10 event layer on the historical
photograph prior to the construction of the reservoirs and the current orthophotography,
where the narrowing of the river can be detected. To illustrate this idea, we selected one
stretch of the river between the towns of Medellín and Don Benito/Villanueva de la Serena
(Badajoz, Spain), as it contains a large number of sites (Figure 20).
Remote Sens. 2021, 13, 3506 25 of 29
limits that the river would have reached and the space through which its course was di-
verted. This can be corroborated by superimposing the T10 event layer on the historical
photograph prior to the construction of the reservoirs and the current orthophotography,
where the narrowing of the river can be detected. To illustrate this idea, we selected one
stretch of the river between the towns of Medellín and Don Benito/Villanueva de la Serena
(Badajoz, Spain), as it contains a large number of sites (Figure 20).
Figure 20. Cartography resulting from superimposing the T10 shading on a photogram of the AMS
(B) (1956–1957) (A) and a photogram of the most recent PNOA (B) to observe the impact that the
execution of the Badajoz Plan had on the course of the river.
The knowledge possessed by the societies that inhabited this area in antiquity about
the events that occurred every 10 years also seems to be in relation to the T100 events, as
we only have one case study, the tumulus of Cañada la Virgen (Puebla de la Calzada,
Badajoz, Spain), affected by this event.
In contrast, the degree of impact exerted by events occurring every 500 years is much
greater, which has allowed us to draw up a set of hypotheses. Given the chronological
Figure 20.
Cartography resulting from superimposing the T10 shading on a photogram of the AMS
(B) (1956–1957) (
A
) and a photogram of the most recent PNOA (
B
) to observe the impact that the
execution of the Badajoz Plan had on the course of the river.
The knowledge possessed by the societies that inhabited this area in antiquity about
the events that occurred every 10 years also seems to be in relation to the T100 events,
as we only have one case study, the tumulus of Cañada la Virgen (Puebla de la Calzada,
Badajoz, Spain), affected by this event.
In contrast, the degree of impact exerted by events occurring every 500 years is much
greater, which has allowed us to draw up a set of hypotheses. Given the chronological
extent of these events, which occurred every 500 years, it is coherent to think that the
Remote Sens. 2021,13, 3506 25 of 28
inhabitants of the different enclaves or settlements were not able to predict the arrival of
these events or floods. If we refer to the chronologies in which the sites of the first Iron
Age are active in the middle Guadiana basin, it is true that, with the exception of Cancho
Roano, which has several phases of occupation, it seems that the rest of the enclaves were
only in use between the sixth and fifth centuries BC, so that their activity does not seem
to exceed two centuries. Therefore, predicting or avoiding flood damage every 500 years
would not have been easy.
6. Conclusions
By applying this methodological model to a specific territory, such as the middle
Guadiana basin, and to a specific chronology, the first Iron Age (seventh to fifth century
BC), a series of historical conclusions can be drawn that help us to interpret the settlement
of this region during its protohistory. This is the ultimate goal of our work: to extrapolate
spatial data to a historical reality in order to assess how the physical environment has
conditioned the development of human activity.
Given that the study carried out concerns various categories of settlement, there are
several interpretations that can be drawn from this study. Nevertheless, it is true that the
sample we have available to analyse the location of village or farm settlements is too small
to draw general conclusions; however, the location of the Cerro de la
Barca—Torruco
site
reveals the interest in these enclaves regarding their location near watercourses with the aim
of exploiting the fertile land left in their wake, as well as in using them as communication
routes for the transport of goods.
As far as the necropolises are concerned, the application of APSFR data has allowed
us to confirm the relationship between watercourses and the location of these funerary
spaces [
43
]. The analysis of all the known cases has confirmed the presence of a watercourse
that separates the necropolis from the settlement with which it would have been connected.
This evidence is not exclusive to the middle Guadiana, but dates back in time to the
Phoenician necropolises both in the east and west [
44
], and is also present in the Tartessian
necropolises of the Guadalquivir valley [
45
]. Detecting this pattern in the Guadiana basin
confirms the survival of a tradition, the roots of which go back to the arrival of eastern
populations in the Iberian Peninsula.
However, undoubtedly the most significant data are derived from the spatial analysis
of the territory occupied by the Tartessian buildings hidden under tumuli. In this sense,
one of the debates still pending in the research on this type of settlement refers to why
these structures were suddenly abandoned and concealed at the end of the fifth century
BC. This was an event that occurred at the same time as all the constructions, resulting
in a massive abandonment of this area, the middle Guadiana basin, which remained
practically uninhabited until the arrival of the Romans. Traditional literature has sought
an explanation for this exodus in the arrival of populations from the north, specifically
of Celtic origin [
46
]. However, archaeology shows that the sealing and concealment of
these structures would have taken days of work and required the help or collaboration
of a large part of the surrounding population. It is therefore inconceivable that under
the pressure of a siege or conquest, such a task could be carried out. It should also be
remembered that in examples such as Cancho Roano or Casas del Turuñuelo, the sealing of
the buildings was accompanied by a ritual that included a mass sacrifice of animals, which
requires even more time to be carried out; a ritual that fits perfectly with the occurrence of
an environmental catastrophe. It is also striking that remains of weapons, or evidence of
looting or violence were found in none of the contexts analysed, which undermines the
hypothesis of pressure from populations from the Meseta.
For some time, we have considered the possibility that a change in climate, possibly
in the rainfall pattern, caused these settlements to be abandoned, and their populations
to move to other parts of the Iberian Peninsula. However, the application of this APSFR
methodology has allowed us to add another cause or hypothesis that we will have to
corroborate with the help of disciplines such as microstratigraphy and carpology. This
Remote Sens. 2021,13, 3506 26 of 28
refers to the possible effect that the T500 event had on these structures, corroborated in
examples such as the site of Casas del Turuñuelo, in whose lower courtyard the remains of
a flood have been documented, over which animals were sacrificed prior to the building
being sealed [47].
As the life span of these structures was around a century between the sixth and fifth
centuries BC, we can assume that the societies who occupied these buildings were able to
predict events occurring every 10 to 100 years, but not to calculate events occurring every
500 years. This leads us to suppose that one of these events caused the collapse of the
territorial system, forcing these populations to abandon their buildings and move to other
parts of the Iberian Peninsula, putting an end to the territorial model of this region during
the first Iron Age. The power that these constructions held and their symbolic importance
led their inhabitants to conceal them and protect them from looting or destruction, allowing
many of them—those unaffected by agricultural work—to reach us in an excellent state
of preservation.
Author Contributions:
Conceptualization, E.R.G., P.P.D. and S.C.P.; methodology, E.R.G. and P.P.D.;
software, P.P.D.; validation, E.R.G. and P.P.D.; formal analysis, P.P.D.; investigation, E.R.G. and
S.C.P.; resources, E.R.G., P.P.D. and S.C.P.; data curation, E.R.G. and P.P.D.; writing—original draft
preparation, E.R.G.; writing—review and editing, E.R.G., P.P.D. and S.C.P.; visualization, E.R.G. and
P.P.D.; supervision, S.C.P.; project administration, S.C.P.; funding acquisition, S.C.P. All authors have
read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.
Funding:
This works has been partially supported by the research project “Construyendo Tarteso
2.0. Análisis Constructivo, Espacial y Territorial de un modelo arquitectónico en el valle medio del
Guadiana” (PID2019-108180GB-100) funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation. The
funder had no role in the design of the study; in the collection, analyses, or interpretation of data; in
the writing of the manuscript; or in the decision to publish the results.
Data Availability Statement:
The base cartography used for this study in available at the following
web links: http://www.ign.es/web/ign/portal (accessed on 3 September 2021) and http://ideex.es/
Geoportal/pages/ideex (accessed on 3 September 2021).
Acknowledgments:
The authors would like to thank the reviewers for their valuable feedback on an
early draft of this manuscript.
Conflicts of Interest: The authors declare no conflict of interest.
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In this paper we show the background, objectives and first results of a regional research project focused on the evolution of the agrarian landscape in the Medellin alluvial plain (Badajoz province, Spain). From several work fronts we face the task of analyzing the changing role of this settlement as a political and administrative center placed in a key point in communications of the Peninsular southwest. At the same time we assess methodological challenges that pose a proper territorial understanding grounded on an archaeological record severely affected by geomorphologic processes combined with an intense agricultural activity in recent years. First, basic criteria for the surface survey are explained. We will see the workflow from the definition of survey areas to the analysis of spatial distribution of finds. Secondly, we will show the preliminary results of the geomorphologic interpretation and mapping of the study area. This is the starting point for a suitability model for the analysis of the interaction between factors that determine our perception of surface archaeological evidence. The objective is the elaboration of a cartography that would help to evaluate the degree of terrain stability, as a mean to assess representativeness of surface record and potential risks for conservation.