El territorio de Buanga (Asturias). Génesis y formación de un alfoz altomedieval

Francisco Javier Fernández Conde, Jesús Fernández Fernández


Resumen: En este trabajo tratamos de explorar el territorio de un antiguo alfoz altomedieval, denominado Buanga, a través de distintos tipos de fuentes de información, complementando el uso de la documentación escrita con la prospección arqueológica y con diferentes técnicas de análisis geográfico desarrolladas en plataformas sig. Nuestra intención es crear un espacio de confrontación dialógica entre todas estas fuentes sin que unas subordinen a las otras. En este sentido, los resultados presentados aquí se suman a su vez a un conjunto más completo de análisis espaciales que también son complementarios entre sí, con los que intentamos construir un marco general de reflexión sobre la formación de los territorios medievales. El apoyo en los sig y los modelos locacionales y predictivos nos ha sido de gran utilidad para caracterizar y localizar diferentes tipos de yacimientos, algunos conocidos y otros inéditos. También resultó fundamental su uso para explorar el paisaje y para hacer una lectura diferente de la información que nos ofrece. Con los nuevos resultados y los ya publicados en otros trabajos, disponemos de un primer esquema diacrónico-evolutivo para el espacio analizado.

Palabras clave: alfoz, fortificaciones medievales, arqueología del paisaje, sig, modelos predictivos.

Abstract: In the previous issue of Territory, Society and Power, we considered the domain of the bishop Gladila. This important Asturian land-owner and future archbishop of Braga was able to establish an extensive domain in central Asturias, from the source of the river Trubia, a tributary of the river Nalón, to the heights of the land of Uviéu/Oviedo. When these territorial boundaries disintegrated following the death of Gladila, these lands formed an administrative district -territory>alfoz- called Buanga. It is not difficult to see a line of continuity between these two social and territorial phenomena. In the present article, we consider the evolution, organization and disintegration of this territory, whose spatial and symbolic focal point was castle of Buanga, recently discussed in connection with aristocratic rebellions during the twelfth century. Asturian medieval documents provide a great deal of information about administrative districts, known variously as territoria, commissa, alfoces, terrae, or valles, and generally defined with reference to common geographical features, such as rivers and valleys. Even before the Muslim invasion, many of these territoria were the domain of the local aristocracy, which received, over time, the more or less formal job of administering these lands (commissa). As feudal modes of production developed, these lands transformed into feudal domains in which landowners behaved like lords. This system, in turn, was advantageous for royal administration because these lords could easily be removed, since their positions were not hereditary. In many cases, the term «territorium» refers only to natural or geographical features. When, however, these early medieval districts are organized around a fortification (castrum > castellum), there is no doubt that we are dealing with true administrative territorial structure with a more or less developed conciliar organization. The territory of Buanga is one of many such structures documented in Asturias throughout the Middle Ages. It has not, however, been analyzed as such in the literature. Also lacking is a general study of this type of socio-legal entity, which is central for understanding the formation of large feudal domains -monastic or secular- in the medieval and modern periods. In the current study, we consider one of these territories from several vantage points. First, we use the Geographic Information System (gis) to analyze the landscape on a macro-spatial level. This largescale analysis informs the subsequent phase of work: prospection, which involves direct contact with the various material manifestations present in a more specific area of study. This process is fundamental to achieving a better understanding of social forms that produced these material remains. Finally, we review documentary sources in order to achieve a more dynamic view of this kind of territorial space that, above all, adjusts our understanding of their chronology. We consider alfoces not as static, but as entities in constant transformation over the centuries. It is thus useful to survey their boundaries, even if in a summary fashion. We believe that, rather than falling into premature generalizations about the formation of medieval territories in Asturias, we should approach the complex realities of each of these territories. We apply this dynamic approach that I highlighted above to the research process, during which we bring together different types of sources, be they written, archaeological, toponymic or deriving from GIS analysis. We believe such a methodology is necessary in order to create a space for discussion in which there is no subordination of one method or source of information to another. In this study, we outline the possible origins of this ancient territorial structure, finding various forms of territorial occupation in the premedieval period, which show a high degree of spatial complexity that is difficult to interpret. We identify at least two distinct types of enclosures or fortified areas. The first group consists of areas that are clearly defensive nature, but which also take into account issues of liveability, such as accessibility, habitable space, and proximity to arable land. Within this category are sites located in what our predictive associations related to traditional village settlements (eg. El Cogollu de Perlavia, El Castru de Busecu, El Curitu de Perlín). The second group of sites are largely inaccessible, located in steep areas, where no more than a few people could live and which do not have appropriate conditions for continued occupancy. These sites can be characterized as regional control centres, formed as the result of conflict between different social groups in the area (eg. Guanga, Castiellu in Perlavia). Based on these observations, we have characterized two major categories of archaeological landscapes: fragmented landscapes with multiple centres of power that are distributed more or less evenly throughout the territory, and hierarchical landscapes with specialized centres of power that exercise social and territorial control on a large scale. In each of these landscapes, we see different types of villages, whose development, we believe, can be associated with different types of economic activity, which in turn respond to the interests of dominant social groups. Conditions in villages located at higher altitudes favour the development of a more diversified economy. What we have identified as hierarchical territories mentioned in later medieval documentation are, we argue, the result of intensified agricultural production. Through the study of social structures and their territorial manifestation, we have traced in previous studies the  changes between different stages of territorial development, when an emerging aristocracy began to cross traditional spatial boundaries to consolidate segmented portions of the ancient landscape, thereby laying the groundwork for the formation of early medieval territorial units. The basis on which the aristocracy acted was the result of the first major concentration of productive land (around various villages), and from which the aristocracy was able to deploy a new conception of its areas of influence. In the specific case of Gladila, the new territory organized on the basis of his individual authority came to form the basis of a territory that later became a alfoz, whose administrative organization survived until the late Middle Ages. It is clear that these medieval territories emerged out of a complex set of processes that should be studied individually. As in the case of Guanga, these processes vary at an individual level, even though territories may share certain developmental influences and factors.

Keywords: alfoz, medieval forts, landscape archaeology, gis, predictive models.


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