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OUTSTANDING FIND. Last September 23, while ARCHAEOLOGY FIELD SCHOOL students were digging in their assigned sectors, a wonderful bronze Roman pilum (a legionary javalin) head was found in one of the rooms. The room is in one of the buildings thought to be the soldiers accommodations, storehouses, kitchen and supplies.
Artefact description. Upper part of a bronze Roman Pilum (of the Talamonaccio type?). The object has a trapezoid shaped body with a diamond section and a triangle relief on each side. Sides are unequal and the relief shows better on one side than the other. Also, the object has two barbs (10 mm long) on the lower part of each side. Only some 22 mm of the shaft are preserved, of round section. The tip is broken in antiquity and was not found.
Find location an circumstances. The artefact was found during the excavation work within the international ARCHAEOLOGY FIELD SCHOOL organized by the Ecomuseum de Cap de Cavalleria. The exact location was Sector 11, stratigraphic unit 322, with an approximate chronology between 123 and 50 BC, in the area defined as the Roman military fortress.
Find date: September 23, 2004.
Inventory number: STE04-322-33
Chronology: 2nd century BC.
Measurements: 56 mm x 23 mm x 12 mm
Pieces of reference:
Pila of Ephyra, Greece (Les armes des romains, page 100).
Possible pilum of Iruña, Basque Country (Estudios de arqueología alavesa, Issue 17, pages 154, 155).
Pila of Castellruf, Catalonia (Lauro, revista del museo de Granollers, Issue 18, pages 9-14).
Pila of Smihel, Slovenia (L'equipement militaire et l'armament de la Republique, pages 43, 45).
Pila of Entremont, France (Les armes des romains, page 100).
Pila of Les Pennes, France (Les armes des romains, page 100).
Dr. Eberhard Sauer, Edinburgh University (United Kingdom).
Dr. Victor Guerrero Ayuso, Universitat de Illes Balears.
Mr. Simón Gornés Hachero, Universitat de Illes Balears.
Mr. Joan C. de Nicolás, archaeologist, IME.
Ms. Joana Gual, archaeologist, IME/CIM.
The Roman Pilum
The pilum was a throwing weapon introduced in the Roman army with the deep structural and equipment changes started at the end of the 5th century BC in the Roman military. The development of the pilum (together with the introduction of the scutum and the evolution of the gladius ) contributed to the change in the Roman way of making war. In this time the use of the Greek phalanx was abandoned to adopt a more flexible manner and the use of clearly offensive weaponry.
Originally, the pilum was a weapon carried by the hastati and the principes , more experienced and better armed units than other in the legions. In time, and especially as we get closer to the imperial time, the pilum became one of the standard weapons of Roman legionaries (although not usually carried by the auxiliarii , the non Italian troops that fought along the Romans).
In the beginning, the legionaries armed with the pila ( hastati and principes ) were grouped in units of 120 soldiers, a relevant piece of information for future calculations on the garrison size at the Sanisera Roman Fort, although at the time of the Roman occupation of the island (123 BC), the situation was not exactly the same, and the weapon was more equally distributed among the diverse unit types, while, at the same time, rigid lines between the military categories was getting more and more relaxed.
The way the pilum was used is also of interest. This weapon was a type of javalin that the legionaries would throw as a previous action to the hand to hand fight. Oftentimes, the throwing of the pila did not only attempt to reach the enemy's body, but to render the shield and other defensive elements useless. In this way, the fighter would be exposed in the subsequent direct fight.
The pilum was unique in many ways. When thrown and on reaching the target, the upper part of the pilum would break away from the lower part, to which it was attached in different ways. In this manner, the rain of pila would not be used by the enemy to gain weapons that then would be used against the Roman soldiers.
To date, there are no other examples of pila in the Balearics that we are aware of, what makes this artefact a unique Late Republican Roman pilum, pending future research, and would confirm the presence of Roman military garrisons in Sanisera harbour.