Location: Oviedo, Asturias, Spain
During nearly one year, the city of Oviedo suffered one of the biggest battles of the spanish civil war. Our project in Paisano´s Hill, tries to turn a trench complex into the first touristic site of the Civil War in the city.
It may be that none of the daily tourists going up to view the city of Oviedo from Paisano Hill, at the summit of Mount Naranco, are aware that they are treading on the battleground of one of the numerous battles that took place for control of Oviedo during the Spanish Civil War.
At eight o'clock in the evening, on 20th February 1937, the republican army forces of the Basque Larrañaga Battalion launched an attack on the nationalist troops from Africa, who were defending Paisano Hill. The aim of the attack was to take the hill, and then proceed downward toward Oviedo, blocking the pathway to the city allowing withdrawal and arrival of reinforcements. According to the Logos Agency correspondent at the Asturian front, the African troops allowed the Basque troops to approach to a tactical distance, from which their hand grenades could not reach the nationalist trenches. After opening fire on the attacking republican troops from a close distance, the Moroccan soldiers burst upon them en masse attacking with bayonets, forcing them downhill, and leaving three hundred corpses on the slopes of Paisano Hill. Minutes later, according to the journalist, "a deathly silence fell on Mount Naranco as the Muslims set about gathering up the enemy dead".
The aim of the project financed by the Oviedo City Council and the New York International School of Archaeology is to make the fortifications located at the summit of Paisano Hill accessible to visitors, taking into consideration the constant stream of tourists in the lookout area for Oviedo. At the same time, students, researchers and amateurs in archaeology will be able to learn techniques for archaeological documentation of military conflicts, applicable to sites in other parts of the world.
Due to the large amount of war debris and personal objects found so far in the trenches examined, stemming from the soldiers who fought at the summit of Mount Naranco, a further objective of the project has eventuated - that of a prospective exhibition devoted to the Battle of Oviedo, making use of many of the pieces from Paisano Hill.
Located on the upper part of the hill, just fifty metres from the Sacred Heart lookout, and zig-zagging downward to the first line of fire, the trenches under study during our seasonal excavations consisted of firing posts and dugouts where the soldiers would have been under cover from the artillery of the Popular Front.
Our archaeological excavations have led to the confirmation that the republican troops managed to take this nationalist trench and attempted to defend it from the attack by the African troops. The large quantity of Popular Front ammunition imported from outside of Spain, from countries such as Mexico, France, Poland and others, fired from the trenches, demonstrates the resistance against losing the position, only metres from Paisano Hill, the objective of the republican troops.
Before the attack that night the nationalist soldiers left the ground covered with debris and personal objects they could not carry. These, in the form of tins, bottles and clothing, and their dugouts with open fires and benches dug into the rock for bunks and seating, fell into republican hands, at least for a few minutes.
Our excavations show that, in effect, the republican troops were less than forty metres from taking the nationalist positions on Paisano Hill. If this had occurred, there might have been a different result to the Battle of Oviedo.
Period(s) of Occupation: historical war archaeology
Minimum Length of Stay for Volunteers: 2 weeks.
Room and Board Arrangements
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