This is an interesting perspective into ditched enclosures building procedures: the possibility that a ditch is not done in a row, but is a result of several modules, parts, that are added. The enclosure is a result of a process. The result is a sequence of overlapped (or almost overlapped) sections of short ditches, frequently with different dimensions.
I argue about this possibility recently, in two papers (Valera & Becker, 2011; Valera, in press). My first contact with the idea was in a paper on Herhxeim enclosures (a Neolithic LBK site), where human bones were scattered inside overlapping sections of ditches that, at the end, defined an enclosure. Then I read a short sentence in a blog from Manuel Calado and the excavations he did in Salgada (Borba, Alentejo), where he spoke of a similar situation (only with no human bones). I even did a post on that issue (see here).
Then I recall the thesis of Pedro Diaz del Rio (2008) about the building process of some walled enclosures: the possibility that walls in sites such as Los Millares or Castanheiro do Vento might have been built in modules; as independent, but converging, projects develop through time as a metaphor of a trans equalitarian social organization, still far from coercive and well stratified social relations.
When the geophysical image of Xancra came out of the magical machine of Helmut Becker, it became clear to me that we might be in presence of a similar situation of a ditch built through the adding of modules. This is quite clear in the outside ditch of Xancra, as I point it out in the paper (Valera & Becker, 2011).
The highlights show areas where parts of the ditch seam to “join” or “overlap”.
Well, the enclosure under excavation by Era in Alentejo is confirming this situation. In the external ditch we are documenting sections, with different depths and widths, that are overlapping showing, with no doubt, that the final enclosure is the result of a sequence of additions of ditch sections with different dimensions and made in different moments in time. The building of this outside enclosure was a long process. It was not made at once. And, naturally, it was not for defence or drainage.
Here is a gate. In both sides there is a section of the ditch that is not very deep. Then, in both sides, two new sections were made, more deep and large, cutting the previous sections. It is clear the semi circular joining of the different sections.
Here is another overlap: the left part of the ditched, already filled, was excavated in a slide way and the new section filled with a different sequence of depositions.
Here we can see the top of the sinuous path of the outside ditch. It is quite clear that there is a part with top stones, then a section almost without stones, and then again a new section with stones (that ends at the cut present in the previous image). Even at the top filling this sectioning of the ditch is visible.
I wonder when the traditional discourse, that sees fortified settlements in all these sites, will get in time with the actual empirical evidence.
Ah! Yes, I almost forgot: there are funerary contexts inside.
DIÁZ-DEL-RIO, Pedro (2008), “El context social de las agregaciones de población durante el Calcolítico Peninsular”, ERA Arqueologia, 8, Lisboa, Era-Arqueologia / Colibri, p.128-137.
VALERA, António Carlos (in press), “Fossos sinuosos na Pré-História Recente do Sul de Portugal: ensaio de análise crítica”, Actas do V Encontro de Arqueologia do SW Peninsular.
VALERA, António Carlos & BECKER, Helmut (2011), “Cosmologia e recintos de fossos da Pré-História Recente: resultados da prospecção geofísica em Xancra (Cuba, Beja)”, Apontamentos de Arqueologia e Património, 7, Lisboa, NIA-ERA, p.23-32.