Thursday, October 27, 2016

0356 - New master thesis on Perdigões enclosure

In October 18th, a new master thesis on Perdigões enclosures was presented:

“Exploring Chalcolithic diet and mobility of humans and animals from Perdigões site”, by Indre Zalaite.

It was presented at University of Évora, in ARCHMAT program (ERASMUS MUNDUS MASTER IN ARCHaeological MATerials Science) and was also part of the project on mobility at Perdigões enclosures (see here) approved and financed by the Portuguese Science Foundation.

It is a first output of that project, which results will soon be published, product of the collaboration of the three institutions involved in the project integrated in the Global Program of Archaeological Research of Perdigões: ERA Arqueologia, Hércules Laboratory – Uévora and ICArEHB-UAlg. Center.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

0355 - My contribution to Enclosing Worlds meeting

"Enclosing Worlds. Comparative approaches to enclosure phenomena", a international meeting held at Reguengos de Monsaraz (12-14 October 2016) has just finished. My personal evaluation will be published, by invitation of  the editor, in next number of Almadan journal.

Until then, here it is the link to the draft text that I used in my presentation, "Prehistoric enclosures of Southwest Iberia: tangible expressions of Neolithic immateriality":

Friday, September 30, 2016

0354 - Meeting Enclosing Worlds

In 12 days will start the international meeting Enclosing Worlds, that will take place in Reguengos de Monsaraz, Évora, Portugal. The program can be seen here: (registration to assist in the same site).

For the first time in Portugal we are putting in confrontation historical trajectories from different continents where enclosure building had relevant social roles. It is an exercise of compared Archaeology to discuss social processes and enlarge horizons in the approach to this complex and fascinating expression of the humane: architecture as space organizer, as expression of cosmologies and as social synthesis.

An organization of Era Arqueologia S.A., ICArEHB centre and Municipality of Reguengos de Monsaraz (with the support of Esporão, FCT, DRCALEN, Municipality of Redondo) and with the enthusiasm of Perdigões project.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

0353 - Segments

For some time now I have been stressing the fact that some Portuguese ditched enclosures present evidences that the ditches are built by segments and/or are filled by segments. In this year campaign at Perdigões another situation was recorded, but for the first time to the early period of enclosure building in South Portugal (around 3500 BC).

Here is a section of Ditch 13 where a clear segmented filling can be appreciated. 

That tell us several things:
a) we cannot generalize to a ditch perimeter the observation done in one small section;
b) ditches have a complex biography of excavation, fillings, re-excavation and re-fillings;
c) those processes are mainly anthropic, intentional and meaningful;

d) as any other complex context, the excavation of ditches requires adequate inquiries, theoretical tools and methodological approaches.

Friday, July 15, 2016

0352 - Back to Perdigões

Next Monday we will start the second phase of this year campaign at Perdigões ditched enclosures. As usual it is possible to follow the results here.

Friday, July 8, 2016

0351 - Santa Vitória classified

Image taken from here

Having been excavated in the eighties of the twentieth century, only a few days ago the ditched enclosure of Santa Vitória was classified as an archaeological site of public interest (one of the protection ranks of the Portuguese heritage law).
It was the first ditched enclosure to be excavated in Portugal and stayed like that for more than a decade. It also stayed unpublished…

Image taken from here. When the site was visited in the contextof a meeeting organized by ERA in 2012 about Funerary Practices and Ditched Enclosures. We can identify Alex Gibson, Alasdair Whittle, Niels Andersen, Concha Blasco, etc.

But it still has a great potential for the research of the ditched enclosure phenomena and it would be good to go back there with the new views and inquiries that were developed in the last decades with the emergence of ditched enclosures as a structural expression of the Neolithic and Chalcolithic communities of Alentejo hinterland.

In fact, the site has at least two enclosures, both sinuous. The inside one, the one that has the entire plan defined, is well patterned, with the gate orientated to the Summer solstice.  As far as I know, the ditch was filled with significant accumulations of archaeological materials and faunal remains (maybe humans too), possibly through structured depositions. Lots of materials to be dated and to provide a good chronological sequence. Summing up, un important archive still with important information, that gained more importance when just 3km away the large and complex set of ditched enclosures of Monte da Conteda was discovered a couple years ago (See other posts on both sites in the blog).

Well, at least now the site has legal protection.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

0350 - The solstice at Perdigões: new observations

Last May we put a large post in the NE entrance of the outside enclosures of Perdigões, the one that we have been saying that was orientated to the summer solstice. The goal was to confirm that with present direct observation and establish the possible relation with the semi-circular hut in the center of the enclosures.
Here are the results from today’s morning observation at sun rising (the solstice is from today until Tuesday).

Observed from the center of the enclosure, the sun appeared precisely over the post that was in the NE gate, confirming its orientation.

The sun just over the post at the gate NE

But the central post of the semi-circular hut is also aligned with the post in the gate and the sunrise, as we have suggested some posts ago. 

The alignment of the central post of the hut with the gate and the sunrise.

It is also quite probable that this same central post is also aligned with the SE gate to the Winter solstice at sunrise. We will be checking that next December (if the weather allows it). If that is confirmed, then this central hut of semi-circular plan that replicates de visibility of the natural theatre over the landscape to East, will show a central post that combines the axes of orientation with both gates to both solstices at sunrise.

So far, there is no doubt that there is an orientation of the axe hut-gate to the summer solstice.

The post at the gate.

The central semi-circular hut with its central post.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

0349 - I don't believe in witches, but...

Now tell me it wouldn’t be fun to do some geophysics in this field? I don’t believe in witches, but… 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

0348 - Enclosing Worlds Programme

The programme for oral presentations at the meeting Enclosing Worlds (to be held in Reguengos de Monsaraz, Portugal, 12-14 October 2016) is now available here.

Lower registration fees to attend until 31 July (here).

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

0347 - Remembering Moreiros.

Moreiros 2 is a set of ditched and probably palisade enclosures dating from the 4th millennium BC (but possibly also from the 3rd). Basically is still to be excavated. Only some sections of ditches were cleaned (where they were affected by a query) when the site was discovered by Rui Boaventura, and were dated from the Late Neolithic in the context of my project on ditched enclosures. The collected material was recently studied in a master thesis, hopefully to be published in the coming times. But the geophysics done in 2011 provided the main information about the site, showing its complex temporalities and plans (see here).  

Today I remembered those days, when a small and happy team was measuring Moreiros, escorted by the local cows.

Becker and the cows. 

The team: Rui Boaventura, Helmut Becker, António Valera. Nelson Cabaço.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

0345 - Enclosures and mobility: the case of Perdigões

Ditched enclosures, namely the large ones, are some of the best contexts to develope research on mobility, for they congregate numerous evidences of interaction and movement of people, animals and objects.

At an Iberian scale, Perdigões is now one of the main sites where this research is being developed.
There is a Portuguese Science Foundation project dedicated to this specific topic: “Mobility and interaction in South Portugal Recent Prehistory: the role of aggregation centers”. In this project participate the research unit of ERA Arqueologia, the research centre ICArEHB of university of Algarve and the laboratory Hércules of Évora University.

But this research has a wider projection, for this project is in articulated collaboration with several others related to the same topic.

We also integrate the project “Beyond migration and diffusion: peoples and technologies in prehistory”, financed by the Australian Research Council, and involve Era Arqueologia, the Australian National University, Griffith University and the Centro Nacional de Investigatión sobre l Evolución Humana. The goal will be research and compare mobility patterns between Prehistoric Iberia and the Pacific Islands.

Furthermore, we are establishing a partnership in this topic with another FCT project: “Beaker origins: Testing the hypothesis of late Neolithic dispersals from Iberia using both ancient and contemporary mitochondrial genomes” developed by Minho University with the collaboration of the doctoral scholarship programme at Huddersfield University (UK) entitled Genetic Journeys into History: The Next Generation (running 2015–2020).

Finally, we are engaged in other projects in phase of application, namely two on diets and mobility of animals in Iberia and another that will join the European Atlantic facade, “6,000 years of Farmers and Food: Reconnecting Atlantic Heritage” (working title), that will join institution from Ireland, Scotland, Wales, England, France, Portugal and Spain.

The participation of Perdigões complex of enclosures in all these projects, some of them already with preliminary results, puts it in a unique position (in Iberian terms) in the context of the actual focus of research in mobility in Prehistory at an international level.

But this is the result of the way the Global Program of Research of Perdigões was conceived and is being developed.

(post taken from:

Monday, May 9, 2016

0344 - Beakers and enclosures

In the next 12 and 13 of May, in a Iberian meeting taking place at the Faculdade de Letras of Lisbon University, I will be talking about beakers and their social roles in two different enclosures: Fraga da Pena in Central/North Portugal and Perdigões in the South. A walled enclosure and a ditched one. 

Some International beakers from Perdigões enclosures

Nailed impressed Beakers from Fraga da Pena walled enclosure.

There are many differences between these two contexts and between their “beaker expressions”. But there are also some similarities: the ways the characteristics of both sites are intrinsically related to the social roles that beakers seem to have been performing there. Two good examples of a contextualism sound bite: that objects and contexts are meaningfully bonded.  Discussing beakers as an entity regardless their contextual specificities is a possible approach at a large scale of analysis, but it would hardly enlighten on the diverse ways they were historically active and regionalized.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

0343 - Perdigões enclosure and the Guadiana river

A paper about the exploitation of Guadiana river resources in the enclosure of Perdigões was recently published (and it is available here). It is a paper about a unique decoration inside a pot.

To interpret this decoration two hypothesis were suggested. It could be a representation of a river raft (similar to present reed rafts of the Southwest coast of Portugal) or it could be a representation of a fishing trap (my first bet).

Comparing the Perdigões image with ethnographic fishing traps.

In favour of this last possibility the presence of fish bones of river species in Perdigões was underlined, revealing the exploitation of Guadiana river resources by the communities that circulated in the enclosure.

This paper has already generated some comments from colleagues and one of them (Gabriel Martinez, from Granada University) alerted me for this evidence: a Neolithic fishing trap recovered in Russia that seems to be very similar to the ethnographic ones presented above, reinforcing the possibility that the image from Perdigões is evoking the importance of the river Guadiana to these communities.

Fishing trap from the Neolithic site of Zamostje (Russia). Taken from here

Sunday, April 10, 2016

0342 - The diversity of ditched enclosures

Area of interaction of Perdigões. Image taken from VALERA, A.C. (no prelo), “The “exogenous” at Perdigões. Approaching interaction in the late 4th and 3rd millennium BC in Southwest Iberia”. Proceedings of the Meeting Resource Cultures (June 2015), Alcalá de Henares/Madrid.

It is clear that ditched enclosures present significant differences between them: size, location, temporality, complexity, etc. So, if at a very general scale they can be addressed as a whole, sharing some general principals, it remains to be established by research if they correspond to a useful formal category. We can talk about religious architectures, but putting cathedrals, monasteries and small chapels in the same bag is not particularly useful for understanding the historical processes of Christianity. They played structural different social, cultural, political, symbolic and economic roles in those processes.
Regarding the Portuguese prehistorical enclosures one significant difference (that can be extended to the southern Spanish ones) is the evidence for interaction. This evidence is intense in the large ditched enclosures and scarce or absolutely absent in smaller enclosures, according to actual available data. For instance Perdigões has a significant amount of exogenous materials squandered in funerary contexts that show relations with the entire Southwest quarter of Iberia and North Africa, while the neighbours smaller enclosures of Montoito, Torre do Esporão or Luz 20 do not present evidences of such interaction or evidences that they were stages for funerary practices. And we could extend these differences to temporality, intensity and periodicity of construction, evidences of rituality and feasting, etc.

Are these differences corresponding just to a variability range inside a coherent category of “ditched enclosures”? Or are they showing us a category enclosing different historical entities sharing some general structural principles (that are also shared with other architectures of the time), but that played significant different historical roles? Are the differences of scale and complexity only quantitative or also qualitative? Those are not axioms, they are questions for research.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

0341 - Brasilian (Proto) Jê enclosures come to Enclosing Worlds

(Image taken from

The brasilian Jê enclosures will be present at the meeeting Enclosing Worlds, where the enclosing phenomena will be discussed by confronting different historical situations and trajectories from different parts of the world. You may see the abstracts as they are being progressivelly dislayed at

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Friday, March 25, 2016

0339 - And another paper on Portuguese Ditched Enclosures

Now about the relations of those sites with funerary contexts at several scales (from cosmology and landscapes to specific funerary structures). It is available in Academia and Research Gate.

Friday, March 18, 2016

0337 - Enclosures, Identity and heritage: The Fraga da Pena case.

Fraga da Pena (Fornos de Algodres, Guarda) was discovered for Archaeology by me (and two “Isabels”) in 1991. Between that year and 1998 I excavated the site and produced a scientific discourse about it (part of my PhD thesis). It is now an important context in Portuguese archaeology regarding the bell beaker phenomena and the late 3rd millennium BC, as well as for the debate regarding enclosures in Iberia.

That work gave way to a project of public display that tried to bring the site back to a socially active role (see here what was done). Today, it is used as the main banner of the Municipality page on Facebook (where we can read “A history that touch us”) and its profile is in the logo (left side) of the municipality (curiously with the representation of the sun, something that might have been important in the site’s role in Prehistory (see here).
I am happy. The Fraga is back as a meaningful place and not just for archaeologists. Job done. My thanks to all that have contributed to this, and they were many: from Portugal (obviously the majority), Spain, Czeck Republic, Hungary, Turkey, France, Belgium, USA, Norway, Wales, Poland…

Thursday, March 17, 2016

0336 - Big, but maybe not so big

One of the issues to be discussed today at Oporto meeting about enclosures and methodologies: the need for complete plans in order to interpret these sites. Especially those that seem to be enormous: Being huge, recent data regarding large plans suggest that they might not be so big. The surface distributions might rather correspond to successive constructions through time that have lateral displacements, giving the perception of sites bigger than they in fact were.

Monday, March 7, 2016

0335 - The twilight of enclosures

A paper that was recently published about the trajectory of ditched enclosures in western Iberia:

Valera, A.C. (2015), "Social change in the late 3rd millennium BC in Portugal: The twilight of enclosures". In: H. Meller/R. Risch/R. Jung/H. W. Arz (eds.), 2200 BC – Ein Klimasturz als Ursache für den Zerfall der Alten Welt? 2200 BC – A climatic breakdown as a cause for the collapse of the old world?. 7. Mitteldeutscher Archäologentag vom 23. Bis 26. Oktober 2014 in Halle (Saale). 7th Archaeological Conference of Central Germany October 23-26, 2013 in Halle (Saale). Tagungen des Landesmuseums für Vorgeschichte Halle 13,1–2 (Halle [Saale].

Bela Vista 5. One of the latest ditched enclosures of western Iberia 3rd Millennium BC.

Here are the Final Remarks:

"In Portugal, especially in the Centre-South, the end of the 3rd millennium BC also marks the terminus of the social path that was developing since the Late Neolithic. Is this a direct consequence of a climate break down, of incompatibilities of the global social system or both?
What follows immediately at the beginning of the 2nd millennium BC shows that the operated change was of structural scale, affecting the social and the economic, but also the ideological, the cosmological and the ontological dimensions of communities, their ways of organizing the territories and building meaningful landscapes (as it happens with the enclosures of Perdigões and the megalithic monuments in the Ribeira do Álamo valley) and, most probably, affecting their demographic composition. Some of those changes can be traced back to the third quarter of the 3rd millennium BC, namely the increase of social differentiation and a progressive emergence of individuality in funerary practices. But during that second half of the millennium enclosures, one of the emblematic expressions of Neolithic trajectories, maintain their social role and through their architectures and social practices, were still organizing the landscapes and the social life. So structural changes were in course during the second half of the 3rd millennium BC and these changes cannot be explain by hexogen conditions to the social system.
            However, the abrupt disappearance of enclosures in the last centuries of the 3rd millennium BC is suggesting that some event-like situation may have interfered with that trajectory of social change, but the archaeological record, namely the anthropological one, do not show signs of clear generalized conflict or disease and evidence of climate changes significant enough to be responsible for triggering structural social changes are not suggested by the scarce available palaeoenvironmental data. An environmental impact in the last centuries of the 3rd millennium may not be ruled out, but is not yet demonstrated in this region and especially would not justify the social changes already in course (like the structural ideological changes behind the progressively substitution of collective burials by individual ones). It could however help to understand a sudden demographic break down, a reorganization of settlement patterns and territorialities and a temporary collapse of large scale trade networks. But why enclosures, namely the ditched enclosures, were built no more? For that we must have a cultural answer: the social reasons that were behind their appearance and development (and that were related to the Neolithic cosmologies and to the ways they embodied the social life – Valera, 2012b) were no longer there in the first half of the 2nd millennium BC. Immanent social developments and external environmental causes may be combined to explain the abrupt changes and the outcome observable at the beginning of the 2nd millennium BC, but the relative weight of each element is difficult to evaluate at the moment.
There is also the question of the divergent trajectories presented by some walls enclosure in the Center and North Portugal, namely Zambujal, Castanheiro do Vento and Castelo Velho, where these sites remain occupied and wall construction continues. It is not clear, however, if this traduces in fact continuity or if the occupations present different characteristics and are in some way integrated in new forms of territorial organization. In fact, these continuities are the exception, not the rule and like in the South, changes in several dimensions of the social organization can be appreciated by the beginning of the 2nd millennium: the abandonment of the practice of collective burials, the end of the production of iconographic materials, the decay of large scale trade networks, a profound transformation of the ceramic equipment and an increase of the production of metal weaponry frequently associated to individual status is also documented, especially in Estremadura. So it is not totally clear if the continuity of the occupation with building activity in some walled enclosures is traducing different regional socio-economic trajectories or just local and punctual peculiarities of a more general trend of social change.
            In spite of the significant developments of the last decades in the research of social complexity in the Late Neolithic and Chalcolithic of western Iberia, there is still missing important and consistent information about what happened in the last quarter of the 3rd millennium BC and about the nature of the break of the previous social trajectories. Answers, therefore, have been relaying essentially in the logical formats of theoretical models, frequently with weak empirical support. Interdisciplinary research specifically orientated to this problem is needed, namely to obtain well dated and characterized site occupations of the last quarter of the 3rd millennium BC, to appraise the population of the period in demographic terms and to adequately evaluate and measure climate trends, before we can more confidently talk about this process of social change."

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

0334 - Human remains in ditches at Porto Torrão

The revision that is being done to materials from the excavations of Era Arqueologia in Porto Torrão is providing new information.

As in other ditches of the site, the Chalcolithic ditch 2 has also human remains deposited together with faunal remains and other archaeological materials.

The deposition of scattered human remains in ditches is a practice that is being more and more frequent in Iberian large enclosures, such as Perdigões, Valencina de la Concepción, Pijotilla and naturally Porto Torrão. Something that is well known in European ditched enclosures, confirming social practices that have a wide distribution, possibly related to shared cosmologies at a large scale.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

0333 - Excavating at Montoito ditched enclosure

The site of Montoito has recently been affected again by deep plouwing. Before planting the vineyard and, taking into account the results obtained on site by the geofisic survey, we decided to conduct a small test-pit in the second ditch in order to get a stratigraphic reading. Although a bigger excavation was recommended the circumstances did not make it possible. Nevertheless the results of this small intervention improved the knowledge of the site. 

The excavation has identified a ditch with the V shape, 3 meters wide and 3 deep, cut in the bedrock at a ratio of 1:1. The ceramic collected lets us propose the occupation of the site in the middle of the 3rd millennium BC, or possibly soon after. Thus, the small enclosure ditches of Montoito must have been contemporary of the latest ditches of Perdigões that lies just 8km South.

Rui Mataloto

Monday, February 22, 2016

0332 - New paper on portuguese ditched enclosures

About the large ditched enclosures of Salvada and Monte das Cabeceiras 2 (Beja) and the interesting questions they put by being so close to each other.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

0331 - Meeting about enclosures and methods

In the sequence of the research developed about the subject in NIA-ERA, I'll be participating in a workshop at Oporto University (next March 17th) dedicated to debate the relations between the research of enclosures and methodological options and approaches. Here is the program (in Portuguese):

Recintos peninsulares da Pré-História Recente. Métodos multidisciplinares de investigação.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

0330 - The exhibition of Perdigões: the posters

For those who cannot go to Évora and visit the temporary exhibition about Perdigões ditched enclosures the posters that go along with the archaeological materials may be seen here.

Monday, February 8, 2016

0329 - Enclosing is organizing the world

Creating borders, opposing spaces with different meanings: the organization of space is an expression of human forms of cognition. Enclosing is a structural phenomenon, a way of thinking and organizing the world that cannot be reduced to a defence strategy.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

0328 - Perdigões in Évora next week

Perdigões: an aggregation centre in Prehistory and in the Present

15.00 – 16.00
Perdigões: a synthesis of 18 years of research of an exceptional site
António Carlos Valera

16.30 – 17.30

The display of Perdigões: limitations and potentials
Miguel Lago
The anthropological record of Perdigões: evaluation from the case study of tomb 1
Lucy Shaw Evangelista

The faunal record of Perdigões: data from the study of 15 000 studied bones.
Cláudia Costa

The research of ditched enclosures in Portugal: reasons for the exceptional status of Perdigões.
António Carlos Valera

 Followed by a debate and visit to an exhibition of Perdigões contexts and materials.

Friday, January 29, 2016

0327 - Abstracts for the meeting Enclosing Worlds

The preparation of the meeting Enclosing Worlds is going on. Paper proposals are being received and analysed. Abstracts will be progressively displayed in the web page during the next months.
You may check the abstracts here.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

0326 – Portuguese ditched enclosures in intercontinental project

After obtaining the approval and funding for a FCT project on mobility, the enclosure of Perdigões (but also others that were researched by Era Arqueologia, like Bela Vista 5 and Porto Torrão) will be part of an intercontinental research project on prehistoric mobility. The project, titled “Beyond migration and diffusion: The prehistoric mobility of people & ideas”, is funded by the Australian Research Council and has a leading team composed by Catherine Frieman, Rainer Grun, Matthew Springgs, Rachel Wood (from Australian National University), Mathieu Duval (from Centro Nacional de Investigación sobre Evolución Humana, Spain) and António Valera (Era Arqueologia, S.A.).

The main goal is to see how the movement of individuals and groups of people is both an instigator and a response to sociocultural change, utilizing both key European and Pacific Island examples to help build a truly comparative archaeology of rapid social and economic change, with pertinence to general theories of innovation and adoption.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

0325 - Still the manipulation of human remains at Perdigões

A new paper has been accepted for publication (it will be available soon) about a human bone used as a tool recovered at Perdigões ditched enclosures: it is a fragment of a femur turned into an awl, recovered in the context of the cremated human depositions in the central area of the site. A new dimension on the manipulations of human remains that are being documented at Perdigões.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

0322 – Architectures of shared cosmological principals

In 2011 Era Company made an excavation of a large area of the construction of a residue treatment facility near Vila Nova de Mil Fontes, where a chalcolithic occupation was already known. There, amongst several archaeological evidences (fire places, pits, deposits of shells, post holes), a chalcolithic circular hut with a diameter of about 10 meters was discovered. It had a large entrance (4 meters wide) with a post in the middle. This large entrance was facing SW with the alignment of the entrance post and the two central posts that sustained the hut’s roof oriented at 121º, that is to say, basically to the winter solstice.

This is suggesting that the place was visited during the winter (which the main consumed mollusk, Monodonta lineata, also suggests). Ideotechnic items (such betil idols and stone vessels) were also identified, showing that ritual practices were associated to this space, reinforcing the possible symbolic meaning of the orientation of the hut, possibly used in periodically collective ceremonies where the consume of certain mollusks would be relevant).

This unusual hut, certainly unique in shell midden contexts of the Portuguese coast, shows how different architectures, like megalithic passage graves, megalithic cromlechs, ditched enclosures, and now a hut may share similar cosmological principles during the Neolithic and Chalcolithic. And it also underlines that the segmentation of the social phenomena in subsystems, with well compartmentalized scenarios and architectures, is not the best approach to these prehistoric communities.

A paper regarding the results of this work has just been delivered for publication in the proceedings of the meeting Encontro de Arqueologia do Sudoeste Peninsular.

Friday, December 4, 2015

0321 – Timings of discover. Do they really matter?

The real nature and dimension of Perdigões was discovered in 1996 after a field of olive trees was converted, by the removal of the trees and a deep ploughing, into a field prepared to receive a vineyard. It was then that thousands of archaeological materials came to the surface and several ditches became visible in the ground and especially in the aerial image taken in that year.

At the time, the Portuguese archaeology was just awaking to the phenomena of ditched enclosures, and looking for them was not a practice. Portuguese scholars never really questioned the oddness of Santa Vitória (de first ditched enclosure being excavated in Portugal) and the oddness of the apparent isolation of Iberia from a relevant European phenomena in Recent Prehistory. Only in the last decade that work has been done, with success I might had (and this blog shows it), using the available aerial and satellite images, namely the ones provided by Google Earth.

Google Earth was not available in the nineties, but other aerial images were. And if there was the expectation for this kind of contexts to appear and the practice of looking for them, Perdigões could have been identified before the site was ploughed, for the outside double ditches were quite visible in an image of 1995 (just in the lower area of the image).

The question is: could have this prevented the ploughing?

It probably wouldn’t. It was in 1997 that the Portuguese Institute of Archaeology (IPA) was created, and only then preventive archaeology really developed. But those times were already of higher awareness for archaeology, due to the Côa case. And that made possible the archaeological work that would show the importance of the site and that would start the trajectory of research that is well known for Perdigões.

But since then we would expect that new discoveries would be protected. Well that is not true. Several enclosures that were recently discovered have been affected by intensive agriculture, namely to plant olive trees and vineyards. Some were discovered to late (like this one) while others were recently affected, even after geophysics had been done with very good results that show the presence of an important archaeological site, as it happened with Montoito.

Alentejo is being submitted to a significant change in agriculture. This change is threatening this fantastic heritage of prehistoric ditched enclosures that we are recently aware of. I elected them as one of my main topics of research and I am doing what I can to bring them to the public knowledge and to alert to these problems. It is important that the public institutions responsible for the Portuguese heritage be also aware of this situation and act accordingly.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

0320 - Issues from Porto Torrão

In 2002 two sections in two ditches of Porto Torrão were excavated by Era Arqueologia (Valera, Filipe, 2004; Valera, 2013). In that area the ditches are just 8 meters apart. For the inner one (ditch 1), material culture and radiocarbon dating say that it was open and filled almost to the top during Late Neolithic (end of the 4th millennium BC/transition to the 3rd). The last filling deposits, though, are from Late Chalcolithic. The outside one (ditch 2) was open by the middle of the 3rd millennium BC and the filling went on until the end of the millennium (according to radiocarbon dating). That means that when the outside ditch (ditch 2) was opened the inner one (ditch 1) was visible and not completely filled, what just happened in simultaneity with the later filling of ditch 2. So, why opening a new ditch just 8 meters apart, having to excavate bedrock, when a previous ditch was just there, visible and easier to re-excavate? Well prehistoric communities do not respond to modern principles of effort-profit and this particular situation (together with many others in other ditched enclosures) should make people, at least, wondering.


Valera, António Carlos e Filipe, Iola (2004), "O povoado do Porto Torrão (Ferreira do Alentejo): novos dados e novas problemáticas no contexto da calcolitização do Sudoeste peninsular", Era Arqueologia, 6, Lisboa, ERA Arqueologia/Colibri, p.28-61.

Valera, A.C. (2013), “Cronologia absoluta dos fossos 1 e 2 do Porto Torrão e o problema da datação de estruturas negativas tipo fossos”, Apontamentos de Arqueologia e Património, 9, Lisboa, Nia-Era, p.7-11.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

0319 - Monte da Contenda and Montoito enclosures first publication


Monte da Contenda

In next December 11th a volume of the Estudos Arqueológicos de Oeiras will be publically released, including a paper where the geophysics plans, surface materials, available radiocarbon dates and some interpretative ideas of Monte da Contenda and Montoito will be displayed. Both sites have their particular important issues. Monte da Contenda, by its complexity and dimensions, is a site to be discussed in the context of the large and long lasting enclosures with repetitive episodes of building and rebuilding. Montoito is different. Not so big, apparently with much lesser phases and less complexity, provides a quite specific plan in the Iberian context.

This results were obtained in the context of the project that the NIA department of Era Arqueologia has been developing regarding the identification and characterization of ditched enclosures in Alentejo. A research responsible for the identification of a third of the ditched enclosure presently known in the region.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

0318 - New prehistoric ditch in the heart of Lisbon

Image taken from here

It was presented today, in a congress in Lisbon, a paper about a recently excavated ditch (by Neoépica company) in Lisbon (Travessa das Dores) dating from Late Neolithic and Chalcolithic. It is a large ditch (can reach 8 meters wide and almost 3 meters deep) and was detected in an area highly urbanized, in what seems to be a platform at the middle of a slope over the Tagus river.

The ditch revealed several stone structures and levels of occupation inside it and was abandoned apparently during the middle Chalcolithic.
Ditches are, step by step, becoming more frequent in Lisbon peninsula during Recent Prehistory. At the moment it is hard to believe that ditched enclosures will reach there the numbers already available for Alentejo.  But the future will bring important news for Estremadura regarding this kind of structures and sites.