Sunday, August 31, 2014

0262 – Salvada measures

Salvada is one of the Portuguese big ditched enclosures. Well, by present standards of Iberian Enclosures, we should say it is a middle sized enclosure. It has about 500m diameter and about 17.5 ha.

I provide now some new measures, regarding the outside ditches. Based on aerial images, it is possible to say that the distance between the two outside ditches is around 10m (quite similar to Perdigões, where the outside ditches are 11m apart).

The inside ditch at Salvada is a sinuous one, with patterned semicircular lobules, measuring about 10m wide each one, amazingly similar to the general measures of the lobules at Xancra enclosure.

Naturally these measures have some incertitude due to the fact that they were taken in the blurred aerial images. But the proximity to the Pergigões distance of the outside ditches and the similarities with the measures of Xancra lobules are interesting. I will explore more this path.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

0261 – Portuguese enclosures go to Germany

Next November, and by invitation, I will be lecturing in the University of Kiel, Germany, in a biweekly master dedicated to historical landscapes.

There, the developments of the ditched enclosures research in Portugal during the last two decades will be presented, and the social roles of these sites will be discussed.

The main goal is to contribute to the international display of the Portuguese recent research on ditched enclosures, a work that has been rising considerable curiosity and interest in several European countries where this general phenomena is present and studied for a long time now.

This is a task that I have been developing in the context of my work at the research department (NIA) of Era Arqueologia Company.

Friday, August 15, 2014

0260 - Gate at Perdigões ditch 10

This is a projection of the drawing of the gate detected in ditch10 at Perdigões. It is a large gate (about 7 meters wide) and it is located in the west side of the enclosure. Due to the topography of the natural theater where the site is, a person entering in the enclosure through this gate would have in front, as a stage, the megalithic landscape of Reguengos de Monsaraz, with the hill of Monsaraz in the horizon. But if that person was going in the opposite direction, and at the late afternoon, then the horizon would be the limits of the natural basin and he would have the setting sun in his eyes.

At Perdigões, gates are more than simple passages. Their location generates meaningful perspectives of the landscape. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

0259 - Interesting...

... finding regarding the figurines from Perdigões enclosure here.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

0258 – Return with a new one

I’ve been away from this space for several weeks, mainly because I was in excavations in the ditched enclosure of Perdigões. It is now time to come back and recover the usual posting regularity. And nothing better than coming back with a new discovery in Alentejo: another small circular ditched enclosure in Beja district. Courtesy of Tiago do Pereiro.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

0257 – Long term ideas expressed in Perdigões architecture: a goal for 2014 campaign.

Next Monday the 2014 campaign of excavations (the 15th of the research program) will start at Perdigões enclosure. You will be able to follow the results here.

One of the goals of this year is to start sampling ditch 10, in an area where it seems to be a gate (in the geophysics image). If it is confirmed, it should be noticed that the gate would be aligned with gate 4 in the outside enclosures. And that is very interesting for the interpretation of the architectonic dynamics in Perdigões, namely to the issue of how some previous structures conditioned the later and to the idea that, in Perdigões, there are long term ideological conditions that are imbedded in the architecture of enclosures. Something that I have been pointing out for some time now. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

0256 - The origin of walled enclosures in Alentejo

Radiocarbon dates for walled enclosures in Alentejo

For some time the origin of walled enclosures in Alentejo was thought to have occurred in the second half of the 4th millennium BC. The radiocarbon dates from two sites seem to indicate so: the chronologies from Monte da Tumba (Silva e Sores, 1987) and São Brás (Parreira, 1983).

These old dates, thought, were obtained over charcoal and they have a large standard deviation and in face of another set of dates, some of them more recent and obtained over bone, the actual image on the issue has changed.

The dates from Escoural (Gomes, 1991) walled enclosure, from Monte Novo dos Albardeiros (Gonçalves, 1988/89) and more recently from São Pedro (Mataloto, 2010) and  Porto das Carretas (Soares e Silva, 2010) indicate that these architectures emerge in the beginning of the 3rd millennium BC, namely after 2900 BC. This is coincident with the limit that radiocarbon establishes between Late Neolithic and Chalcolithic contexts in ditched enclosures (Valera, 2013a). Furthermore, the chronology available for the Late Neolithic hypogea of Sobreira de Cima (Valera, 2013b) and for the funerary context of Gruta do Escoural (Araújo e Lejeune, 1995), clearly in the second half of the 4th, corroborates this argument. In fact, it is not credible that these funerary contexts, with their unquestionable Neolithic assemblages, could be contemporaneous of early Chalcolithic walled enclosures, with a completely different material assemblage and just a few miles away.

The old dates should be abandoned in the debate of the origin of the walled enclosures in Alentejo. They clearly are a phenomena of the beginning of the 3rd millennium BC. And an ephemeral one, since the majority of the dated ones seem to end around the middle of the millennium (the recent dates of Porto das Carretas correspond to a phase where the enclosure was already deactivated and the one from M.N. dos Albardeiros from a possible reutilization). Several are reoccupied in Beaker times, but not as enclosures, like Porto das Carretas or Mnte do Tosco (Valera, 2000).

In the long time span of ditched enclosures, walled enclosures could have been just a temporary adding to the architectures of the societies that lived in the region.

This is an argument that I am developing in a paper that is almost ready.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

0255 - Evaluating the effort 3

Prehistoric ditch in Avebury (UK)

Evaluating the effort of digging ditches and of building ditched enclosures is not just a question of measure the amount of rock and earth excavated and moved. That is just part of the equation. Other important parts are the number of people involved and the duration of the building activities. As noticed by me and others, great building enterprises are available to small communities if they are done by stages in time and if they can congregate the will of the community. And it is in that will that I want to focus today.

Functionalist approaches naturally focus on function. No problem with that. The thing is that they focus in the function of the structure once it is built, and pay no attention to the function of the building process, which is an important social one.

For some decades now, some have argued for the need to focus on the social importance of the act of building. An act that goes much further than the pretended function of the feature itself. We have innumerous examples from all over the world and from different historical periods. Let me just give one example that I think is known to everyone: when Amish are reunited to build a barn for one member of the community, they are not simply building a barn to perform the function of storing the crops. They are doing something that touches deeply the identity of the community and reinforces their world vision, their social, political and religious bonds. As Marcel Mauss reminds us in his essay about the gift in polonaise societies, this facts that we study (in this case building activities) “are all total social facts, for they put in movement the totality of the society and its institutions or just an enormous number of those institutions, in particular when interactions were related to individuals. All these phenomena are simultaneously juridical, economical, religious, esthetical, morphological, etc.”

That is why some decades ago Evens argued that the process of building an enclosure had its main focus on the build process. For a functionalist mind focus on the subsequent utility of the thing, this might be hard to understand. But in many societies, inclusive in ours, many creations culminates in the very act of creation. Christ, we are leaving the times of the ephemeral.

And yet, it seems so difficult for some, today, to conceive that huge building enterprises might have had their basic motivations in the very act of building, in an ephemeral use and in the subsequent condemnation and in its social and ideological implications.

To evaluate the effort of building ditched enclosures in Prehistory it is important to go further than impressive metrics and politics of coercion.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

0254 – Knowing what method to choose

At Perdigões two methods of geophysics were tested. First georadar. Slower and needing a considerable cleaned soil (for the radar runs a few inches over the surface), this method was totally disappointing. 

Georadar image of the center of Perdigões enclosures

On the contrary, magnetometry, not just is faster in the measurements, but provided excellent results. In Perdigões, but also in Xancra, Moreiros 2, Monte do Olival 1, Luz 20, Montoito, Monte da Contenda, images that you can see all through this blog. Or you can search in the net for tens of European examples.

Image of the same area done by magnetometry 

For negative structures, like pits and ditches, magnetometry is the method that provides best results. Of course the quality depends of several circumstances (like the bedrock or the proximity of highly magnetic material) that need to be taken into consideration.  But the results leave no doubt.

Friday, June 6, 2014

0253 – Evaluating the effort 2

At Perdigões we have recorded 12 ditches. Seven of them were already surveyed in a section. Of course that we do not know if the dimensions of those sections “speak” for the entire perimeter of the ditches. We have evidence from other sites that a ditch volume and shape may change a lot along its perimeter. And Perdigões is not an exception. Ditch 12, the only one surveyed in two different areas, has a different shape and a different filling in survey 1 of Sector Q and in survey 2 of the same sector.

That shows us that we cannot generalize to a whole ditch what we observe in one section. But does not imply that, in general terms, we cannot try to approach the general picture.

For instance, Dicth 1 at Perdigões is a long one: it has a perimeter of almost 1,5 km. It was surveyed in a section near Gate 1, first by the ERA team and in the last few years by University of Málaga team (that is collaboration in the General Program of Research of Perdigões). It showed a “V” shape, with about 3 m deep and 7 to 9 meters wide. It allow us to calculate a volume for a one meter section: 9.61 m3. Multiplying this volume by the perimeter we get a volume of 14232 m3 and using the pattern wait of a m3 of diorite (around 2600 Kg) we have 37 000 tons of rock extracted, just for Ditch 1.

This can gives us an idea of the amount of work involved in Perdigões through its living time. And more interesting: once again, where is that amount of bedrock?

Ah! And do not forget that we have evidences of practices of re-cutting of some ditches after their first filling process. And that enlarges the amount of work that we can calculate to the recorded structures.

These big enclosures were huge public enterprises.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

0252 - Evaluating the effort 1

Outeiro Alto 2 is a small ditched enclosure. It has just one ditch with a perimeter of 101m. If the size of the ditch is regular (as the two opposite surveys suggest) it will have a volume of 254 m3, corresponding to 406 tons of extracted rock (1600kg per 1m3, as average for limestone rock). That rock is not in the site: not outside the ditch and not inside the ditch (as it would be expected if there was a bank built with the extracted material). This is a common situation in Portuguese Ditched Enclosures, big or small.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

0251 – The chronology of ditched enclosures

According to available data, the building of ditched enclosures in Portugal ended in the last centuries of the 3rd millennium BC. Some show signs of occasional occupations during Bronze Age. But there is no evidence of ditches being built after 2000 BC until the Late Bronze Age, at least in the area of the great concentration of Late Neolithic and Chalcolithic enclosures: the Alentejo´s hinterland.

Radiocarbon dates for portuguese prehistoric ditched enclosures

The big question is why? Why such important architectures disappear abruptly? Especially after some of them reach sizes and complexities never reached before.

My answer, published in several papers, is that the reason for the disappearing of ditched enclosures has to do with the disappearance of the reasons for their construction. And that reason was an ideological, cosmological, one. They appeared to respond to a Neolithic world view and related social practices. When that cosmological perception was ending, they reach their biggest sizes and complexity, just like in the end of Middle Ages, feudal societies produced their most emblematic and exuberant architectures: the cathedrals. And then they abruptly disappeared. A significant change occurred by the end of the 3rd millennium beginning of the 2nd. Building ditched enclosures made no more sense. Not because communities stoped having defense problems or draining problems (functionalities that for some are the reasons for these architectures). But because the ideological frame that justified the development of these architectures was changed. The disappearance of ditched enclosures (and of megalithic traditions) in South Portugal marks the end of the Neolithic cosmologies. And a new world view would developed through the Bronze Age, naturally with some detectable continuities, but clearly revealing a new social organization and new perceptions of the world and of human ontologies. Ditched enclosures like the Neolithic and Chalcolithic ones had no place in this new world.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

0250 – Ditched enclosures and funerary contexts

Plan of Torrão ditched enclosure, associated to a cromelec just in the South limit of the ditch and to a megalithic grave in a SW small topographic elevation. (Plan provided by Era Arqueologia S.A.)

This will be the issue of a paper of mine that will be presented at a session in the next UISPP meeting in Burgos. Last week, in the context of my NIA activities, I made a preliminary approach to the subject at the University of Valência. The general idea is to stress that the relations between ditched enclosures and funerary contexts can be perceived in four main dimensions: the sharing of a same cosmological background expressed in their architectures; the way the background is expressed in the combined constructing of meaningful landscapes; the way ditched enclosures and funerary contexts are mutually spatially structured; the way enclosures are assumed as stages for funerary contexts and practices.

In Alentejo’s hinterland we start to have evidence that allow us to address these dimensions and show how deeply ditched enclosures and megalithic and none megalithic funerary and ceremonial contexts are related in the region. They are part of a same Neolithic world understanding that seems to abruptly change by the end of the 3rd millennium BC. 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

0249 – Hemp in Bela Vista 5 enclosure

At the pit grave inside the inner enclosure of Bela Vista 5 there was a Palmela arrow head that was part of the funerary assemblage. That arrow was deposited over a hank of strings. Part of the strings were preserved attached to the arrow’s surface due to its oxidation.

Palmela point with strings attached to it (photo by António Valera)

Analysis show that the strings were made of hemp. This was an interesting finding. Hemp is originally from Asia, but it seems to have spread over Eastern and Central Europe during Neolithic and Chalcolithic. In Iberia there was a context from Late Chalcolithic that provide a textile made of hemp at Abrigo de los Carboneros, but the context have some problems.

Now, at the Bela Vista 5 enclosure hemp appears in a well preserved and excavated context, with a radiocarbon date from the last quarter of the 3rd millennium BC.

Bela Vista 5 funerary context (image published in Valera, 2013)

It is the most western context with hemp in European Recent Prehistory, and might be a confirmation of Sherrat’s ideas about the quick spread of hemp associated to Bell Beaker (Bela Vista 5 grave is a late Bell Beaker context, associated to what is traditionally designated in South Portugal by “Horizonte de Ferradeira”).

The publication of this context will be done in a monographic study that will come out shortly, edited by Nia-Era..


Valera, A.C. (2013), “Recintos de fossos da Pré-História Recente em Portugal. Investigação, discursos, salvaguarda e divulgação”, Almadan, Segunda Série, 18, p.93-110.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

0248 - Just found another

It is a small one, near the border in Portalegre district. It has at least three concentric ditches (possibly four) and about 90m diameter for the outer one.

Monday, April 21, 2014

0247 – An ex-new one

This is a new ditched enclosure recently found in Google (by Tiago do Pereiro) in North Alentejo. In my inventory is number 63 in Portugal. It is quite visible in the image of 2006.

In March 2009 the situation was as follow: a change in the agricultural use of the soil was threatening the enclosure.

And just a few months later, in August 2009, the site was affected by the new plantation. It looks like a vineyard and, if so, the impact was strong, for ploughing for vineyards is deep.

This happens because, in Portugal, impact assessment legislation is not applied to large agricultural programs with deep impact in the soil. Now, the site is inaccessible, even for geophysics, and probably suffered a strong destructive effect. And it seems relatively small (70m diameter), so if it was discovered in time through an archaeological preliminary prospection, it could became a protected area without a significant economic impact for the agricultural project, and could be used for other cultures with less effects in the ground.

Why are this things still happening? By many reasons. But the surprising expression of ditched enclosures contexts in South Portugal cannot be one of them. Not anymore.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

0246 - Torre do Pinto enclosures

When I saw the image of Torre do Pinto enclosure 1 for the first time I did not considered that it might be prehistoric. It is a circular enclosure made by a bank that we can still perceive in the topography with a circle inside that is decentred and also making a small positive relief. It is quite clear, but is there in every aerial image I saw so far.

Torre do Pinto enclosure 1

There are no evidences of earth banks in Portuguese prehistoric enclosures, although they might be presumed in some sites. The fact is that until the present no evidences of them have been provided, from the outside or the inside of the ditches. So I was sceptical about the possibility of the site be of prehistoric chronology and the scepticism grew when I first visited it and no archaeological material was found in the surroundings (the enclosure itself was inside a fence occupied by big bulls).

But I kept going there in Google and in one of my recent visits I discovered the second enclosure (Torre do Pinto 2) already displayed here. Just about 150 m south from the first, this enclosure seems to present three concentric ditches and gate towards East. Inside, we can appreciate the same circular structure in the same general location of the one of enclosure 1.

Torre do Pinto enclosure 2 

This begun to make me doubt my scepticism. Especially because this new one presented no positive structures and a three ditched system.

But I started to became more convinced regarding the possibility of an archaeological site when more circular structure start to be detected through more careful analysis and even rectangular ones. We might be in presence of the first preserved bank structures for prehistoric times in Portugal.

Circular and rectangular structure between enclosures 1 and 2

In a second visit, no archaeological material was recovered (the soil is not ploughed and it is covered in lots of rests of cattle manure), but some of the circular stuctures show stone concentrations.

Circular structure just like the ones inside enclosures 1 and 2.

I think this can be a quite interesting archaeological site with structures from different periods. And by the sizes and designs I would bet in funerary contexts. Of course, I may be mistaken, but if a recent project proposal is approved and financed, this is a site I want to submit to geophysics.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

0245 – Paper on Perdigões human figurines

A paper on the ivory human figurines from the ditched enclosure of Perdigões has just been published here.

These figurines came from the contexts with depositions of human cremations (still in excavation) that were dated by radiocarbon from middle / third quarter of the 3rd millennium BC.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

0244 – Dating Monte da Contenda

The first two dates are available for Monte da Contenda. The samples were collected in a ditch section where the road cut the enclosure. It is one of the outer ditches of the East sequence of ditches (there is a western one, for the site has at least two sets of ditches partially overlapped).

Due to the pottery recovered in the section we suspected it might be from a middle Neolithic, but the results show that the filling dates from the last three centuries of the 4th millennium BC, showing that the ditch is from Late Neolithic. Nevertheless this ditch defines one of the largest enclosures known in Portugal for this period and confirms Monte da Contenda as a long term complex, since it has an important Chalcolithic occupation as well.

On the other hand, this ditch cuts others. So the probability of the origin of the site is earlier than Late Neolithic still remains.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

0243 – Temporality of Perdigões enclosure

A paper was recently published on Perdigões temporality. It can be download at 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

0242 – New paper in press

A - Salvada; B- Monte das Cabeceiras 2.

A paper presented at the VII Meeting of Southwest Iberian Archaeology on the ditched enclosures of Salvada and Monte das Cabeceiras 2 is just been sent for publication in the proceedings.


The sites of Salvada and Monte das Cabeceiras 2, recently discovered, assume particular importance in the context of the proliferation of Neolithic and Chalcolithic ditched enclosures in South Portugal, due to their dimensions, characteristics, proximity of location and architectonic complexity. The present paper presents the available data for these two sites and discusses some problems raised by their architectonic layout and spatial location, in the context of the ditched enclosures and settlement networks of South Alentejo.” (A. Valera & T. Pereiro).

Friday, February 28, 2014

0241 – Looking a little further

Click to enlarge

Satellite images in Google or other areal images are good to detect some ditched enclosures. But to get more and better information, geophysics is needed. However, we can only do a little bit more with those previous images. Some color treatment and enhancement can provide some new surprises, even if they are not to clear.  

At this new site, apart from the three ring ditches and a smaller circular enclosure inside, we can now see what might be some entrance structures in the east side (arrow). But even more interesting, a previous circular enclosure seems to be there.

This site needs geophysics.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

0240 - Recently discovered...

... through google in Beja district (again).

Thursday, February 13, 2014

0239 – Proceedings will be published by BAR

The proceedings of the meeting “RECENT PREHISTORY ENCLOSURES AND FUNERARY PRACTICES” (Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon 6 to 8 of November 2012) will be published by BAR in 2014.


Revisiting the issue of Recent Prehistoy Enclosures and Funerary Pratices.
António Carlos Valera

Times and timing of enclosure
Alasdair Whittle

Burial & enclosure in middle neolithic Britain: some observations and some problems of continuity.
Alex Gibson 

 The place of human remains and funerary practices in Recent Neolithic ditched and walled enclosures in the West of France (IV- III mill. BC)
Audrey Blanchard, Jean-Noël Guyodo, Ludovic Soler

Funerary practices in the Perdigões enclosure: time, diversity and cosmogony in the treatment conceded to the dead.
António Carlos Valera

Skeletons in the ditch: funerary activity in ditched enclosures of Porto Torrão (Ferreira do Alentejo, Beja)
Filipa Rodrigues

Human Bones, Burials and Funerary practices at Perdigões Enclosure
Ana Maria Silva, Cláudia Cunha

Human Bones from Chalcolithic Walled E nclosures of Portuguese Estremadura: the example of Zambujal.
Michael Kunst, Anna Waterman

Human Bones from Chalcolithic Walled Enclosures of Portuguese Estremadura: Leceia
João Luís Cardoso, Anna Waterman

Human sacrifices with cannibalistic practices in a pit enclosure? The extraordinary early Neolithic site of Herxheim (Palatinate, Germany)
Andrea Zeeb-Lanz

Gendered burial at a henge like enclosure near Magdeburg, Central Germano: A tale of reverence and ritual killings?
André Spatzier, Marcus Stephen

The Copper Age ditched settlement at Conelle di Arcevia (central Italy)
Alberto Cazzella, Giulia Recchia

Funerary practices in the Copper Age settlement of Valencina de la Concepción (Seville): formal diversity and social rank.
Leonardo García Sanjuán 

Funerary Practices in the ditched enclosure of Camiño de las Yeseras: ritual, temporal and spatial diversity
Patricia Ríos, Corina Liesau, Concepción Blanco

Ditched enclosures in La Pijotilla and San Blás (Badajoz, Spain)
Victor Hurtado, Carlos Odriozola

Sunday, February 2, 2014

0238 – Perdigões NE gate

Gate SE. Excavation are revealing that gate NE has the same general plan.

As a result of the Málaga team collaboration in the Research Program at Perdigões we have now some more information about the architectures of the NE gate (Márquez Romero et al. 2013). In relation to the semi-circular trenches that develops in front of the gates of the outside ditch (ditch 1), gate NE showed that there are two associated features, one deeper corresponding to a ditch and another one smaller corresponding to a probable palisade infrastructure. This architectonic element conditioned the circulation through the gate, forcing it to lateral paths.

 Image of the double feature in gate NE (Márquez Romero et al, 2013) 
And a simplified reconstitution of the possible palisade/ditch.

Now we are waiting for the radiocarbon dates to see if this feature was built at the same time as ditch one (and was there since the beginning of the gate) or if it was a later addition. The research there has been showing that there is a quite complex sequence of architectonic remodeling in this gate.

MÁRQUEZ-ROMERO, J.H.; SUÁREZ PADILLA, J.; MATA VIVAR, E.; JÍMENEZ-JÁIMEZ; CARO, J. L.; CUEVAS ALBADALEJO, P. (2013) – Actuaciones aqrueológicas realizadas por la Universidad de Málaga en el yacimiento de Perdigões (Reguengos de Monsaraz, Portugal): trienio 2011-2013. Apontamentos de Arqueologia e Património. NIA-ERA. N.º 9 (2013). p. 61-76

Saturday, January 18, 2014

0237 – Neolithic ditch at Monte da Contenda

At Monte da Contenda a road cut through the sequence of ditched enclosures, leaving open sections of several ditches in the embankment. In the context of the NIA-ERA project on ditched enclosures, one of the sections was already cleaned. It shows a ditch with about 1.3 m deep and 2 or 3 meters wide (it seems the section is someway diagonal).

Archaeological material collected during this cleaning suggest that this particular ditch might be from middle Neolithic. Faunal remains will be dated to confirm this chronology.

André Texugo and Rui Godinho finishing the ditch cleaning.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

0236 - The enclosure of Montoito

Discovered in Google earth, the enclosure of Montoito (Évora, Portugal) was partially submitted to geophysics (done by Helmut Becker) in the context of the research projects of NIA-Era Arqueologia directed by me and that have been responsible for a significant increment of our knowledge of ditched enclosures in South Portugal (see Valera, 2012; 2013 a and b).

Magnetogram over an aerial image of 1995, where we can follow approximately the trajectories of the ditches. (Image unpublished. Should not be used without authorization).

In the centre a sinuous ditch, similar to others known in Portuguese Guadiana basin but less regular, defines an inner enclosure with a gate open to S. It is surrounded by a double ditched enclosure with a probable ellipse shape and a gate also orientated to SW. It is the first ellipse shaped ditched enclosure in Portugal, resembling some known in Germany.

 Meisternthal enclosure (Germany) with an ellipse shape (Becke, 1996)

Its major axis is orientated closer to Winter solstice. As usually, there are lots of circular pits and surface materials indicate a Chalcolithic chronology for this enclosure.  

We will try to finish the geophysics before formal publication of this context.


Becker, H.  ed. (1996), Archäologische prospection. Luftbildarchäologie und Geophysik, Müchen
Valera, A.C. (2012), “Mind the gap”: Neolithic and Chalcolithic enclosures of South Portugal”, (Alex Gibson ed.), Enclosing the Neolithic. Recent studies in Britain and Europe, BAR, p.165-183.
Valera, A.C. (2013a), “Recintos de fossos da Pré-História Recente em Portugal. Investigação, discursos, salvaguarda e divulgação”, Almadan, Segunda Série, 18, p.93-110.
Valera, A.C. (2013b), “Cronologia dos recintos de fossos da Pré-História Recente em território português”, Arqueologia em Portugal 150 anos, Actas do I congresso da Associação dos Arqueólogos Portugueses, Lisboa, AAP, p.335-343.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

0235 – Enclosures in 2013

Central area of the complex of encosures of Monte da Conteda (magnetogram from Helmut Becker). A very complex site, with more than 20 ditched enclosures with very different layouts and chronologies. 

In the 1st of January of 2013 I wondered if this year would be a good year for Portuguese Prehistoric enclosures research. And it certainly was so. Apart from the development of research project and rescue excavations on sites already known, this year saw the discovery of several new enclosures in Alentejo hinterland. Monte das Cabeceiras 2, Herdade da Corte, Monte da Contenda, Figueira, Borralhos, Folha do Ouro 1, Nobre 2, Lobeira de Cima, Coelheira 3, Montoito are ten new enclosures detected in 2013.
Eight of them were discovered in the context of a research program and two were already submitted to geophysical prospection with very good results.

In a time of decay of the investment in archaeological research in Portugal, these results, for Alentejo’s Recent Prehistory, are not bad at all.

Monday, December 23, 2013

0234 – Barranco de Rio Seco 4 ditched enclosure

Location: Ferreira do Alentejo municipality, Beja district, Alentejo, South Portugal)
Chronology: Late Neolithic or Chalcolithic
Bibliographic references: (Neves et al., 2013)

Ditch from Barranco de Rio Seco 4 (after Neves et al., 2013)

Surveyed in the context of Edia water supply network, this site presents a small ditch with 1m wide and 0,90m deep, associated (as usual) to several pits. The authors attribute these contexts to Chalcolithic, although the pottery collected does not present a clear chronological ascription: the described pottery shapes could also be present in a Late Neolithic context.
It might be another small enclosure, like others identified in the region, like Muteira 6 or Coelheira 3.


Neves, C.; Martins, A.; Andrade, M.; Pinto, A. e Magalhães, B. (2013), “Estratégias de povoamento das comunidades do Neolítico Final e Calcolítico no Vale da Ribeira do Alfundão (Ferreira do Alentejo, Portugal)”, Arqueologia em Portugal – 150 anos. Actas do I Congresso da AAP, Lisboa, AAP, p.361-372.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

0233 – Winter solstice day

To celebrate the winter solstice day here are two Portuguese ditched enclosures that, some 4,5 thousand years ago, commemorated this solar event through their architecture. Both have their gates orientated to the sun rise at this particular day.

Xancra (Cuba, Beja).

Outeiro Alto (Serpa, Beja)

 Natal is rooted in quite earlier times…

Thursday, December 19, 2013

0232 - New blog on Perdigões enclosure

Dedicated to the Perdigões Research Program:

0231 - Quinta da Fé (a new ditched enclosure ?)

Location: Vidigueira municipality, Beja district, South Portugal)
Chronology: Unknown
Bibliographic references: Unpublished.

Discovered on Bing Maps! Apparently Google Earth is not the only tool to find new enclosures.
This one appears to be circular in shape, with a lobule heading southwest, resembling another enclosure, namely Outeiro Alto 2 (Valera & Filipe,2010; Valera et alli, 2013), although Outeiro Alto’s faces southeast.
 Measuring approximately 77 meters maximum diameter, it seems to be a double enclosure – the inner ditch measuring approximately 20 meters diameter.

It is interesting to notice the fact that the site is located at about 500 meters from the well-known pre-historic site of Mangancha (Gonçalves, 1994).

GONÇALVES, V.S. (1994) - Distrito de Beja, Vidigueira : Monte da Mangancha. Informação Arqueológica. nº 9 (1994). p. 109-110
VALERA, A.C.; FILIPE, V. (2010) – O Outeiro Alto 2 (Brinches, Serpa): Nota Preliminar sobre um Espaço Funerário e de Socialização do Neolítico  à Idade do Bronze. Apontamentos de Arqueologia e Património.nº5 (2010). p. 49-56
VALERA, A.C.; FILIPE, V.; CABAÇO, N. (2013) - O Recinto de Fosso de Outeiro Alto 2 (Brinches, Serpa). Apontamentos de Arqueologia e Património.nº9 (2013). p. 21-35

By Rui Godinho

Monday, December 16, 2013

0230 – “Drawing” ditched enclosures

The idea has been suggested earlier by others, but was stressed again recently by Coimbra (2013): some concentric circles present in rock art may represent the depiction of enclosures. In this case, the rock 132 from Fratel (middle Tagus river, central Portugal) really resembles a ditched enclosure with a gate with its “crab pincers”, reminding Perdigões outer gates, Xancra or many others from France.

(image taken from F. Coimbra, 2013, Ruptejo. Arqueologia rupestre da bacia do Tejo)

Gate 2 of Perdigões

Enclosure of Chez-Reine (France)

As I put it recently, a same general idea can be expressed in an architectonic design, in a decoration of a pot, in pattern of a textile, in a motive of an art composition. Does this particular association of the motive on rock 132 to an enclosure depiction makes sense? Why not?

Sunday, December 15, 2013

0229 – A glimpse into Montoito

The results of Montoito geophysics are very good and confirm entirely the presence of a ditched enclosure. Well, in fact they are at least three enclosures. The inside is a wavy one, surrounded by two concentric ones. For the moment, here is a glimpse of one gate in the southeast side of the outer ditch (smiling).

A gate that reminds the gates of the outside ditch of Perdigões and the inner gates of Xancra (see here).

The geophysics are from Helmut Becker, done in the context of the NIA-Era project on ditched enclosures plans and orientations directed by me (and with the participation of Tiago do Pereiro, that detected this enclosure in Google Earth).

Monday, December 9, 2013

0228 - Monte da Contenda may have begun in Neolithic

After the first campaign of geophysics at Monte da Contenda (where we discovered that the site is much bigger than previously suspected), we started to clean the section made by the road that cut several ditches (in the context of the project of Nia-Era to define and characterize plans of ditched enclosures). Today we just roughly defined the section of one of the outer ditches of the concentric set of ditches that we can see in the geophysics (but others run outer of this one). 

It needs a better definition of the profile, but it is about 1,20 / 1,50 meters deep and about 2 meters wide (difficult to define since the ditch was cut in the diagonal).

But what is more interesting is that the provided materials suggest a Neolithic chronology (until now, the surface material pointed to an exclusive Chalcolithic chronology), and maybe not a recent one: pot rims are mainly from globular bowls, with walls “almagradas” (a red/orange clayish layer in the pot walls). There is a lot of faunal remains that will allow radiocarbon dating.

If this chronological attribution is correct, than the site would have begun in Neolithic times and it would have been big since the beginning. In fact, it would be the biggest Neolithic ditched enclosure with its plan know in southern Portugal.

We shall see. This is, in fact, a quite promising site.