While the present-day ruins of ancient Lucentum bear an undeniably Roman character, its history harks back to a time when the Iberian peninsula (comprising modern-day Spain and Portugal) was connected to the Mediterranean world via the thriving trade routes of the Carthaginians. And it is this pre-Roman legacy of the ancient city, corresponding to what is now Spanish Alicante, that has come to the archaeological fore, with researchers from MARQ (archaeological museum at Alicante) being able to identify the oldest and longest road dating from the original Carthaginian settlement.
In fact, according to director of MARQ, Manuel Olcina, the sheer dimensions of the road suggests how the city of Lucentum was an important urban hub for the Carthaginians before and during the Second Punic War. To that end, the archaeologists could gather that the road was laid down from scratch as a dedicated thoroughfare of the settlement, as opposed to it covering a previously existing pathway. Even the defensive structures and the main city gate were constructed to the proximate right of the section of this ancient ‘highway’. Olcina added –
The quality of the paving stones that cover the road also reveals that the original city had an urban plan that is structured along two major thoroughfares, the widest of which would be this one. Moreover, the paved layers show that there were successive repairs and alterations, which means that the authorities were attentive to the road’s maintenance. This shows that it is a city built with urban criteria, planned and founded from scratch where there was nothing earlier, with important avenues that define the rest of the settlement.
The MARQ director also talked about the Carthaginian history of Iberian Lucentum –
The evidence for this road has led to a date of between 230 and 220 BC, the same as that seen at other sites dating back to the Carthaginian period, and the entire settlement was inhabited for only 25 years, since it was destroyed by the Romans in 209 BC. The event occurred during the Second Punic War, when other Carthaginian settlements in the Iberian peninsula were also destroyed. Following its destruction, the Romans did not occupy the site again until a hundred years later. Local conflicts led to the need to recover strategic sites and the Romans built Lucentum on the ruins of the Carthaginian city. The importance of the discovered road, which is going to be covered again so that the reconstruction project of the temple in the forum can be carried out, is demonstrated by the fact that the Romans then built one of their main thoroughfares on top of it.
Pertaining to the last part of the statement, the Roman made use of the positional aspect of the previous thoroughfare mainly because of its strategic value that accounted for an important mountain pass. And interestingly enough, upon their resettling, the Romans only made use of this main road, while altering the minor streets branching out of this major pathway. In any case, in spite of the incredible reveal of the infrastructural scope, the archaeologists still have to sift through the Roman layers to identify more of the Carthaginian elements of ancient Lucentum. As Antonio Guilabert, another researcher at MARQ said –
One of the important goals in the future is to locate the city gate and to expand excavation work in other parts of the site, but it is difficult because above the Carthaginian city lies the Roman city and you have to be very careful. Up until now, all you could see in Lucentum from the Carthaginian era were some house walls and cisterns about three meters deep.