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.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

0227 - Montoito is (partially) done

We finished yesterday this year campaign of geophysics at the ditched enclosure of Montoito, just 8 klms north of Perdigões. 

Cleaning the field so Helmut Becker could measure was a hard task. 

I would like to thank Rui Mataloto and the Municipality of Redondo for their support and also to the volunteer students of FLUL that collaborated in this arduous ”archaeological” task. Without these collaborations the work simply couldn’t have been done.

Now we just have to wait for the first layout of the measured area to confirm that our “google eye” is sharp. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

0226 - A glimpse into Monte da Contenda

Monte da Contenda is much bigger and complex than we expected. The image suggests several enclosures with ditches and palisades, sometimes overlapping and with several going out of the surveyed area, announcing a quite large enclosure (about 300 or 400 meters diameter). There are linear wavy designs and the number of enclosing structures is bigger than in Perdigões. It is another amazing site and more food for thought about Portuguese Ditched Enclosures. And it shows that we are doing a good job with the identification of enclosures through Google Earth.

Part (about ¼) of the magnetogram of Monte da Contenda done by Helmut Becker in the context of the NIA project on ditched enclosures directed by me (it is raw data, steel needing a lot of work from Helmut to produce a clearer image of the enclosures).

Saturday, November 30, 2013

0225 - Monte da Contenda is done

Measuring Monte da Contenda 

The geophysics of Monte da Contenda had just been done. A project of NIA-ERA Arqueologia, directed by me and with Helmut Becker responsible for the geophysics, as usual. The results, I've just been told, are very interesting. Next week, if possible, we will be doing Montoito, just 8 klms north of Pedigões.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Sunday, November 24, 2013

0223 – Ditched enclosures at the VII EASP

At the VII Meeting of Iberian Southwest Archaeology, that will take place next week in Aroche (Spain) and Serpa (Portugal), I (together with Tiago do Pereiro) will be presenting a paper on two ditched enclosures: Monte das Cabeceiras 2 and Salvada.

The paper will be focus on the fact that these two quite similar enclosures are relatively big (Salvada with 17,4 ha and Monte das Cabeceiras with 8,2 ha), probably contemporaneous for a large period of time and surprisingly near to each other (just 3,5 km apart).

We will be stressing the similarity of layouts and the proximity in time and space, in order to question some axiomatic ideas about size and social roles of large enclosures in South Iberia.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

0222 - Geophysics at Monte da Contenda

Next week, a project of NIA-ERA coordinated by me will promote a geophysical survey at Monte da Contenda, one of the sites located in Google Earth and presented in the poster of the previous post. The geophysics will be done by Helmut Becker, as usual. Expectations are high.

Aerial image of Monte da Conteda ditched enclosures. Now we are going to try to get a better image of what is there.

Monday, November 18, 2013

0221 - Poster on ditched enclosures found in Google Earth

Presented to the I Congress of the Portuguese Association of Archaeologists...

See here

Sunday, November 17, 2013

0220 – Juromenha 1 ditched enclosure

Location: Alandroal municipality, Évora district, Alentejo, South Portugal)
Chronology: Late Neolithic
Bibliographic references: (Calado e Roque, 2013)

The ditched enclosure of Juromenha 1 was detected and surveyed in the context of the Alqueva dam mitigation process, in the early XXI century. The survey revealed a plan that suggests a wavy sinuous ditch, with a linear one running parallel. 

Plan of Juromenha 1 (after Calado e Roque, 2013)

The sinuous ditch has a “v” profile, with 2 meters wide and 1,8 meters deep. Four radiocarbon dates put this ditch between 3400-2900 BC.

Ditch section (after Calado e Roque, 2013)

If wavy ditches became more frequent in the 3rd millennium BC in Alentejo, Juromenha 1 clearly shows (as Águas Frias and Ponte da Azambuja also do) that this design emerged in a Neolithic context, where we must search for the reasons that will allow us to explain and interpret these layouts. And not in the chalcolithic walled bastions, as once was supposed.

Friday, November 15, 2013

0219 – Dating ditched enclosures

The number of ditched keeps increasing in Portugal (namely in the South). Having a good chronology of these sites is crucial for the understanding of their emergence, development and fall. I have registered know almost sixty in Portugal, but just 1/6 has been dated by radiocarbon.

Chronology of ditched enclosures of Recent Prehistory in Portuguese territory.

Next week, in the first Congress of the Portuguese Association of Archaeologists I will be presenting a paper that does the synthesis of the available radiocarbon dating information for these enclosures and, based on that, it will be underlined the main tendencies that can be perceived in these architectures during the Neolithic and Chalcolithic.

 Since the proceedings will be released during the congress, the paper will be available by the end of next week. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

0218 - Timber circles (?)

More timber circles at Alentejo? Or just circles made of pairs of pits? Or just coincidences?

Saturday, November 2, 2013

0217 – Almadan #18

The journal Almadan has just been published. Public presentation was today.

Inside there is a paper of mine making a synthesis (a discourse for specialists but also for general public) of the “state of the art” regarding prehistoric ditched enclosures in Portugal: a historical review of the research and dynamics of discovery, an evaluation of interpretative discourses, a censure of some situations regarding preservation and some notes on the potential for public display.