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First towns in Rías Baixas: pre-Roman and Roman settlements

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Small and large settlements emerged in the northwest of the Peninsula in the form of castros (pre-Roman settlements) and many of them were preserved until the arrival of the Roman Empire. This heritage can be admired in museums and visited in the existing archaeological sites in rías Baixas.

Castros (pre-Roman settlements)

During the Celtic period (9th century BC-1st century AD) villages were situated in high strategic places so as to defend their lands against a potential attack. The fact they were located in such places makes this visit even more attractive to the tourist.

The enclosures of these pre-Roman buildings, known as castros, or citanias if they were large, were surrounded by walls and moats and had very small circular stone houses with a thatched roof. The layout of the houses was completely irregular because it was adapted to the terrain.

The most impressive, the largest and best preserved castro, with stunning views to the mouth of the Miño River, is castro de Santa Tegra, in the municipality of A Guarda, right on the border with Portugal. It dates from the 1st century BC-1st century AD and it was first excavated by chance in 1913. This castro is surrounded by a wall with a north and a south access and has both circular and rectangular buildings. Here you can visit two rebuilt buildings and a museum, where you can learn more about the site, and also stroll around the village.

West of O Morrazo Peninsula, in O Hío parish, in Cangas municipality, an excursion in search of the castro in Monte do Facho will take you to the top of this mountain with stunning views to Cíes and Ons islands. Surveys conducted in this area show that this was an extensive and a long-term settlement. There is evidence of a first occupation, which took place from the 10th century to the 7th century BC, and, thanks to the latest excavations in the area, of a subsequent occupation, from the 6th century to the 1st century BC. After the Roman conquest people abandoned the mountain and in the place a sanctuary devoted to the domestic god Lar was built. More than 160 votive altars devoted to this deity were found, whose replicas can be seen in the site itself (the originals are displayed in the Museum of Pontevedra and in the Municipal Museum of Vigo "Quiñones de León"). Later, with the continuous pirate raids in the 17th century it was used again as a lookout post, building a curious gatehose which is still preserved.

In the north of the province, in the muncipipality of Ribadumia, there is O Castro mountain, also known as castro de Besomaño, listed as an asset of cultural interest and preserved in good condition. Several tools and weapons were found in this site, which was abandoned after a great fire in the 1st century AD (maybe started by a fight); excavations are being continued at the site to shed light to the mystery surrounding this site.

In the thermal bath town of Cuntis we find castro Castrolandín, dating from the second half of the Iron Age, from the 2nd century BC. After excavating in the area in three different stages it was found that a hundred people may have lived there and that this settlement was surrounded by a defensive moat and a large wall of soil.

The city of Vigo has recovered in recent years two castros in two places that worth a visit by themselves, castro de Vigo in O Castro hill, the highest point in the city, where several ancient buildings have been recovered and with the best views of the city. Inside the facilities of the Museo do Mar de Galicia there is castro da Punta do Muíño do Vento, right on the outer area of the building, which was once a canning factory and the city slaughterhouse, recovered by architect César Portela to be used as a museum and located in the surroundings of Samil Beach, a major tourist attraction in the city.

Apart from these outstanding castros, there are many others in Rias Baixas, such as castro de Alto dos Cubos, in Tui; castro de A Subidá (or Cividá), in Marin; castro de As Croas, in Pontevedra; castro de A Lanzada, in Sanxenxo; and castro de Alobre, in Vilagarcía de Arousa. Leaving the coast, the inland of the province also surprises you with important buildings: castro de Toiriz, in Silleda, a place full of popular legends; castro de Troña, in Ponteareas, with a distinctive urban planning and famous for the petroglyph A Serpe de Troña; castro de Alto da Cruz do Castro, in Cotobade, has houses with a rectangular base, which are a evidence of a Galician-Roman settlement built on the grounds of the original pre-Roman settlement. Undoubtedly, it is a journey to the past.

Roman settlements

People who lived in castros succumbed to the Roman advancing troops. Some of them were Romanized (hence the presence of square structures in some castros) whereas others were abandoned. New villages near the shore or in river valleys were certainly favoured by the security of the Roman empire, as well as influenced by their customs, uses and architecture.

Many of the existing towns and cities have their origin in these villages, but there are also several archaeological remains of settlements and buildings of industrial nature, some of them now a museum, where we can enjoy the mark Romans left in this part of the old Gallaecia.

In the heart of the city of Vigo there is the Museo das Salinas (Salinae), the remains of an old salt factory built right on the river's edge that operated from the 1st century to the 3rd century AD. A journey to a not so distant past where you can witness the advances made by this civilization that laid the foundations of most of the industrial life in Rías Baixas. Apart from this museum, located in Rosalía de Castro Street, Vigo has a Roman, in Toralla. The archaeological site has been recently open to the public and it is found in a garden area in O Vao Beach. It comprises the main house, servants' quarters, warehouses and barns. 

In O Salnés peninsula you can stroll through important Roman remains very close together. They are the site of A Lanzada in Sanxenxo, and Adro Vello, in San Vicente do Grove. The former was restored in 2010 and has a seafood factory, several pre-Roman settlements and remains of a Galician-Roman settlement.

In Adro Vello there are remains of buildings from different times, dating from the Roman as well as from the high and late Middle Ages and also from the early modern period (16th- 18th centuries). A Roman villa was built on the grounds of a 2,000 year-old factory. Then the Visigoth church was moved by the continuous pirate attacks. The name Adro Vello dates from this time. In the Middle Ages it began to be used as a burial place, as it is evidenced by the numerous simple slabs. In the medieval period a defensive tower with a square base was built, which was used as a cemetery until the 18th century.

The end of our tour is the site of de A Igrexa Vella , in the town of Valga. This site will take you from Roman times to the modern age. Burial, industrial and wall remains make way to the remains of a basilica church, which was later replaced by a larger one.

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