What is the LEMLA?


LEMLA. Laboratory for the study of the slippery materials in Antiquity




LEMLA was created at the end of the decade of 1970 when Professors Aureli Álvarez and Isabel Rodà started a very important collaboration between Geology and Archaeology, managing to consolidate a line of research: the study of stony materials used in the Antiquity in the Iberian Peninsula.


In the first stage, the study was focused on epigraphic foundations and  sculptural materials found in archaeological sites in the north-east of Spain. The first sampling was seen in 1978 in Terrassa, former Egara, where special attention was paid to the study of epigraphic foundations. This study was set up in 1981 under the title of Epigrafia Romana de Terrassa with an appendix: “Estudi dels materials de les inscripcions romanes de Terrassa”. 


Professor A. Álvarez working at LEMLA
Storage system of the LEMLA


In the 80s, samplings as much from archaeological objects as from quarries and possible extraction areas of raw material were carried out with the goal of having a reference collection which would allow a better investigation of the archaeological samples as objects of study.


Moreover, the sampling was not only focused on Catalonia, but also on the most important quarries alongside the Mediterranean basin, where other samples were obtained, making a more complete and wider collection.



The dynamic of collaboration between Geology and Archaeology was set in the early stages of the programme, when the basic protocols of the study were established and all the samples and reference samples were left in the Department of Geology at Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. This interdisciplinary nature would give rise to many publications and activities of scientific promotion as well as the creation of what has become an international reference collection of rock-filled materials used in the roman period.


Master class by Prof. I. Rodà at the warehouses of the



In 2000, the Generalitat de Catalunya and Universitat Rovira i Virgili, with the colaboration of Consell Interuniversitari de Catalunya, created the Institut Català d'Arqueologia Clàssica (ICAC) in Tarragona, whose statutes were published in the Diari Oficial de la Generalitat de Catalunya, edition number 3.143, 19th of May of 2000, last updated in 2005. ICAC’s main objective is the investigation, advanced training and spreading of the Mediterranean culture and civilisation, from the protohistory until the late Antiquity, in every material and immaterial expressions. It is the Catalan centre of reference in this sphere.


In 2005, the Unitat d'Estudis Arqueomètrics (UEA) is created in ICAC, which is focused on the implementation of analytical techniques in inorganic archaeological materials (ornamental stones, construction materials and ceramic).


Thin sections of  archaeological samples and quarries


The UEA’s scientific management was in charge of Professor Isabel Rodà. It is also in this year when a collaboration framework agreement between UAB and ICAC was signed, which allowed, amongst other things, the fusion of the collections of lapídeos materials from the LEMLA and ICAC under the supervision of the Unitat d'Estudis Arqueométricos team.

At that moment, a process of database digitalisation of all the compiled samples since the 70s by Aureli Álvarez began to take place.



Equally, the UEA was provided with instruments and equipment for the execution of analytical techniques. In addition, there was a process of moving the LEMLA’s collection from the Department of Geology to the Department of Antiquity Sciences and Middle Age at the Facultat de Filosofia i Lletres, UAB.

At the same time, thin layers of quarry and archaeological samples were moved to the ICAC, due to the fact that they were going to become a reference for the studies and projects which would be carried out at the UEA, while at LEMLA natural quarry samples, marble plaques and archaeological reference samples which had been already studied were reorganised.




Topography works in the Roca Plana    Sampling of the head of Apollo in the baths of Caldes de Montbui    Sampling of a white marble head at the MNAT          


In 2007, Professor Isabel Rodà was appointed Director at ICAC, a position that she practised until December of 2012. During this period, Professor Rodà played an all-important role in the strengthening of this line of investigation, not only at a national level but also internationally.


In 2006, a collaboration agreement with the Universidad de Zaragoza (UNIZAR) was signed, which made possible the welcoming of Professor Pilar Lapuente Mercadal to the research team at LEMLA, remaining as a consultant in the sphere of Geology at UEA, and the fusion of the collections of all three institutions, which helped the exponential expansion of the reference data of lapídeos materials in Hispania.



Proof samples of stones
From the UNIZAR collection


Professor Lapuente is specialised in the use of Petrology and Geochemistry and in the characterisation of rock-filled archaeological material, with the aim of knowing the origin quarries and completing the knowledge of material culture of different eras, specially that of the Roman period. Professor Lapuente’s incorporation allowed to combine efforts for international projects following this line of investigation.


The year 2009 was a turning point for the team of investigation due to the organisation of the Congrés Internacional de la Association for the Study of the Marble and Other Stones In Antiquity (ASMOSIA) IX.


ASMOSIA is an association which focus on promoting the exchange between members of all study fields related to marble and other ornamental stones with an artistic or historical interest.

In that meeting, 3 important publications produced by ICAC, and specifically by the UEA-LEMLA team, were introduced: the monograph El marmor de Tarraco/Tarraco Marmor. Explotació, utilizació i comercialització de la pedra de Santa Tecla en època romana /The Quarrying, Ús and Trade of Santa Tecla Stone in Roman Times, (Álvarez et al. 2009a); a catalogue of an exposition that was going to be held on the occasion of the congress: Marbles and Stones of Hispània. Exhibition catalogo (Álvarez et al. 2009b); and the doctoral thesis of Doctor Anna Gutierrez: Roman Quarries in the Northeast of Hispània (Modern Catalonia).





Collection of polished samples of stones preserved in the Archaeometric Studies Unit (UEA) of the ICAC



It should be noted the effort of the organisation which counted on the presence of 219 interventions, together with oral communications and posters. ASMONIA helped making the great number of studies that were being carried out in the Iberian Peninsula public, as well as consolidating the lines of investigation of Hispanian materials. That was when the importance of said materials was reinforced and the great advances of this field of study in our country became public to the rest of the scientific community.

The ASMOSIA IX minutes were published by ICAC in 2012.

Nowadays, the investigation team of LEMLA perform several own research projects, as well as very active collaborations with external projects.




The LEMLA collection is composed of, as aforementioned, samples of quarries of the Iberian Peninsula and the whole Mediterranean basin, as well as a great variety of archaeological samples resulting from both national and international archaeological sites. In addition to these samples, there is also a collection of samples coming from marble workers of present commercial varieties.



Characterization reference table for cathodoluminescence
 of white marble



The collection is made up in all by:

• 2630 quarry samples

• 556 samples of marble workers, that is, samples of materials utilised nowadays

• 4746 archaeological samples, provided by LEMLA and UEA members, as well as samples of external studies

• There are 239 registered towns, that is, places where samples were taken from (both quarries and sites), of which 188 belong to the national territory


There is a total of 7417 samples put between LEMLA and the UEA from ICAC, with the addition of samples belonging to the collection of UniZar. This abstract of samples results in one of the largest collections in Europe regarding the study of rocky materials in the Antiquity.




Magnifying glass ZEISS Stemi 2000-C

ZEISS KL 1500 LCD and KL 2500 LCD (Cold Light Sources)

Camera SPOT Insight 2 Mp CCD for the binocular with prorama SPOT Advanced (4.0.5)

Microscope of polarised light NIKON Eclipse 50iPOL, a 30x, 60x and 150x

Microscope of polarised light NIKON Eclipse 50iPOL, a 30x, 60x and 150x, with an attached device CITL CL8200 Mk5-1

Microscope of polarised light NIKON Eclipse 50iPOL, a 30x, 60x and 150x, with an X-ray detector Amptek Axis SDD attached

Camera NIKON DS-Fi2 with the programme format of image treatment NIS-Elements D

Saw RUBI DR-350

Drill with a crown diamond bit adaptor (8-15 mm) compact without DeWALT DC 722

Material for samplings of archaeological and quarry pieces

Material for the preparation of samplings to carry out analysis of the stable isotopes C and O




































Campus d'excel·lència internacional U A B