Zorita Castle perches on a plateau overlooking the tiny village of Zorita de los Canes. It sits on the banks of the Spain's longest river: The Tagus. The castle once controlled one of the three only bridges that crossed the river. Slightly smaller than an international football pitch, the original fortress was built by armies from North Africa during the Moorish and Berber conquest of Spain. For the foundations, the builders looted the stonework from the nearby ruins of the Visigothic city of Recópolis.
The Castle History.
Between the 9th and 13th centuries, Zorita Castle thrived as a focal point for commerce and military adventures during the wars to take control of Spain between Muslim and Christian armies. Since then, the castle has fallen into obscurity. Geographically unpopular, ignored by academia, and until recently left to crumble. Today the former headquarters of one of Spain's most important military orders is coming back to life. Since 2014 and overseen by the Heritage Office of the regional Castilla-La Mancha government, Zorita Castle field school teaches students and archaeology lovers from around the world how to conduct an archaeological excavation while uncovering part of the castle history.
The best preserved building inside the castle is the church of San Benito. The knights of the order of Calatrava built the church at the end of the 12th century when the castle became the order's headquarters. Documents mention a cemetery, but the only material evidence was a long stone slab, possibly a burial cover. When cleaning the stone, a Medieval Tic-Tac-Toe, a game we owe to the Arabs was discovered.
Throughout the fifteenth century and like other castles, Zorita was no longer the residence of Commanders of Calatrava Cavalry Order, whose preferred live in houses in nearby towns like Pastrana, becoming an arsenal castle, guarding firearms, propulsion, armor, ammunition and miscellaneous tools.
The Order of Calatrava and Zorita Castle
The Order of Calatrava was born in the actual region of Castilla-La Mancha, specifically in the province of Ciudad Real, where during the twelfth century intensified the struggle between the Berber villages arrived in Al-Andalus and the Christian of Castille. All Mancha region south of Almagro is known today as Campo de Calatrava, the first seat of the institution of monks warriors.
Alarcos, defeating in July 19th of 1195, saw the fall of the Guadiana frontier, with the loss of the Head Castle of the Order (Old Clatrava castle). This battle and abandonment of Salvatierra means an unprecedented crisis that brought the Order to the brink of extinction. The remains of the Order took refuge in Zorita castle, one of the few possessions that kept the calatravos under their control. In Zorita, the Order was again organized, rearmed and once strengthened was delivered to new strategies for the recovery and control of territory. After the Christian victory in the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa against the Almohad in 1212, the Order settled permanently based in New Calatrava castle, construction designed to support a large-scale siege avoid Alarcos surprises like.
Order of Calatrava text about Zorita castle from 1518
The state of the castle was revised on March 25, 1518 in detail by the visitors accompanied by Miguel de Echeverría, a neighbouring stonemason from Almonacid; Damián, a neighbor of Pastrana, master of Carpentry and plasterwork. The expenses that were suggested include a considerable budget: In the wall, the door to the Jewish quarter was burnt, as was the White Tower, by the part of Badujo river, 8,000 Maravedíes. Wall of the Jewish quarter, 2,000 Maravedíes – Moat an Wall between the fortress and the Jewish quarter 4,000 Maravedíes. Iron door, small repairs, without price, second door with a hand mill, 6,000 Maravedíes. -Stables passing these doors, 500 Maravedíes. -New room, in the new kitchen, in front of the church, 25,000 Maravedíes. The corral of the Counts, which was cemetery, clean it of ground, 1,000 Maravedíes. The Keep, demolished in part, for demolishing it completely and removing the stone, 10.000 Maravedíes
Our first goal for 2018 is to arrive to the castle rock in an area of the cemetery to study its chronology. We already have a sequence of more than five tombs, one on the top of the other, and some of them with more than one burial. The discovery of two coins in the hands of two of the skeletons at different depths, provide us with clues for the understanding of the history of the cemetery and the castle.
The excavation of new graves will be combined with that of the porch next to the courtyard to investigate the water collection system for the cistern. Our third goal is to continue the excavation of the small chapel discovered in 2014 next to the graves.
Theory and practice:
The Archaeology and Osteology program at Zorita Castle is focused on teaching archaeological methodology and is specially focused on the excavation of graves. Mornings will be dedicated to excavation. Fully recovered after a bath in the river, lunch and siesta, afternoons will be dedicated to seminars and workshops.
Participants will take part in all the excavation process, they will keep a field journal and clean, identify, and catalogue artefacts. We will learn to define a burial, the right way to dig a skeleton and how to remove it from the ground: how to deal with the body, what tools to use, how to remove the bones in anatomical units with the right and left sides individualized, what is the correct packaging, how to register everything in situ (practice with photogrammetry for recording).
seminars and workshops
Afternoon workshop on osteology
Afternoons will be dedicated to lab work. Cleaning and cataloging ceramics and bones will be part of your daily schedule, combined with workshops on:
- Introduction to osteology: the human skeleton
- Anthropometry. Systematic measurements of standard parameters
- Determination of variability. Epigenetic characters (non-metric).
- Determination of size and sex.
- Determination of age of death
- Health of the population: degenerative diseases, deficiency diseases, infectious diseases, traumatic pathologies.
Zorita de los Canes is a tiny village (population: 70) in Guadalajara province, a 90-minute-drive east from Madrid. Located between the castle and the river Tajo, It has a charming little hotel, a restaurant over an old tower and a nice beach next to the remains of an old bridge.
The group, including ArchaeoSpain staff, will be staying at Posada de Zorita Hotel, just five-minute walk down from the castle. The students will be sharing double rooms with bathroom and air conditioning.
Meals will be done at the restaurant, where we are fortunate to have one of the best cooks in the region, who works hard to make us feel like at home wile enjoyong a wide diversity of spanish traditional dishes.
dates & fees
June 30 – July 20
• Full Room and Board
• Fieldwork training
• Seminars and workshops
• Excursions and other activities
• Medical Insurance
• Transportation to and from airport
• Application fee
• Administrative costs
Fees DO NOT include airfare
To reserve a space, you must pay a $300 application fee.
The remainder of the program cost will be due by May 15.
Application fees will be refunded if the applicant is not selected.
Rolling application. We accept applications until all spaces are filled.
Cancellation and Refund Policy:
• Before April 1: All payments, except for $50 from the application fee, are refundable.
• Between April 1 and May 15: Application fee non-refundable. The balance is refundable.
• After May 15: All payments are non-refundable unless your application is rejected by the program director.
You should begin making travel plans as soon as your place in the group is reserved, and you should complete them upon being notified of your selection. We strongly recommend that participants purchase travel insurance to cover all needs including medical, accident, baggage loss, delays and personal liability. ArchaeoSpain is not a travel provider nor is a registered travel agent. Your travel arrangements to and from Spain are subject to the terms and conditions of your travel agency. In the rare event that the program is cancelled, ArchaeoSpain will refund program fees, but is not responsible for non-refundable airline or other tickets or payments or any similar penalties that may be incurred. It is your responsibility to protect yourself against airline and travel agency cancellation fees.
All ArchaeoSpain participants at Pollentia are covered with an insurance packet that provides medical and surgical treatment and prescription drugs in case of accident or sudden illness. This insurance also provides some compensation for baggage loss or theft. With your program packet we will send you more details regarding this coverage, but you may contact our staff for more information.
European students should bring an EHIC card with them.
Cistern in Zorita CAstle
Right of Refusal:
ArchaeoSpain reserves the right to refuse an applicant’s selection. This is a rare occurrence and is most likely due to a person’s inability to meet health requirements or in the interest of group compatibility. Once in the field, the program director and ArchaeoSpain reserve the right to send a student away from the program should that person’s behaviour compromise the safety, research objectives and general performance of the group, or violate Spanish laws, regulations or customs.
You will be inmersed in a research project and live in a different country for some weeks. On the weekend excursions you will have the opportunity to meet different aspects of the Spanish culture and traditions, visiting historical cities, picturesque villages and archaeological sites.
Whole day excursions:
Toledo, declared World Heritage City, is a very unique place. It is known as the city of the three cultures: Muslim, Christian and Jewish. You will have the opportunity to visit some examples like the mosque of the Cristo de la Luz, the synagogue of The Tránsito or the Cathedral of Toledo. We’ll get lost in its narrow streets, have tapas at its terraces and we will also have time for some shopping.
Sigüenza, was an ancient Bishopric and a university town. It played an important role in the civil wars during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Sigüenza has a very large Gothic cathedral and a big castle, with foundations from the 5th century. A very colorful and interesting Medieval Festival takes place in July and it will be a great opportunity for our visit.
Visigothic town of Recopolis / Renaissance city of Pastrana where the princess of Eboli spent part of her life /
Canoing at Bolarque lake