HISTORICAL EARTHEN WALLS: FROM KNOWLEDGE TO CONSCIOUS CONSERVATION
Keywords: Conservation, Earthen walls, Knowledge, Historical restorations, brick-faced rammed earth
Abstract. Centuries-old earthen masonry presenting various stages of degradation, earthen walls that have been restored several times: these are the archeological phases of the city walls of Mascarell, on the Spanish Mediterranean coast. Founded in the first half of the 13th century, this town is the only complex in Castellon Province that preserves all its ancient walls, which were built entirely by means of the brick-faced rammed-earth technique (clay with bricks and lime). This article reports the first results of a research project conducted on the multiple information available on these artifacts: bibliographic, archival and iconographic sources and the results of direct material analysis, stratigraphic analysis and archeological analysis. The situation is complex, as these walls have undergone a long sequence of transformations, including interventions carried out since the 18th century and multiple restorations in the period 1942–2015. The research developed and refined architecture archeology tools in order to analyze the rammed-earth techniques adopted during restoration work (similar but not identical to the historical technique), to characterize the materials used in restoration, to evaluate their resistance to degradation over the years, to define a sort of ‘critical evolutionary line’ of rammed-earth restoration, and to conduct a cross-sectional study of this building technique from the Middle Ages to the present. Finally, we drafted some guidelines for future interventions for conservation and enhancement.