Friday, February 1, 2019

0414 - Human bones in ditches

It has just been published a paper about the deposition of human remains in ditches during Recent Prehistory in South Portugal, centered in the case of Perdigões, but integrating it in the Iberian context.
It is a chapter of the book Fragmentation and Depositions in Pre and Proto-Historic Portugal that can be download here:

Thursday, January 10, 2019

0413 - Perdigões enclosure is a National Monument

Perdigões  is the first prehistoric ditched enclosure to be classified as a National Monument in Portugal. After 21 years of continuous research, the site and the knowledge that has been produced about it, have finally received the recognition of the Portuguese state. In a period when many prehistoric ditched enclosures are being affected by agriculture in Alentejo region, this is a light.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

0412 - Perdigões publication

It was published the volume 1 of the series of monographs of Perdigões ditched enclosure. It reports only to the Neolithic phase of the site. It can be download here.

Friday, December 28, 2018

0411 - New image of the new affected one

The enclosure of Nobre 2 was discovered in Google Earth and published by me and Tiago do Pereiro in 2013 (Valera, Pereiro, 2013). It was recently affected by agriculture, as reported in the previous post. Here is a new aerial image of the enclosure (from EDIA), where the ditches are must more clear and we can perceive an alignment of three gates orientated at 140º. It might be  very similar to Xancra and to the recently prospected Borralhos.
 It is important to do, at least, some geophysics there before the plantation.

Valera, A.C., Pereiro, T. do (2013), “Novos recintos de fossos no sul de Portugal: o Google Earth como ferramenta de prospecção sistemática”, Arqueologia em Portugal 150 anos, Actas do I congresso da Associação dos Arqueólogos Portugueses, Lisboa, AAP, p.345-350.

Friday, December 21, 2018

0410 - Another enclosure affected by agriculture

It doesn't stop and just gets worth. In Alentejo, archaeological sites continue to be affected by the agricultural changes, and if in some cases there is preliminary archaeological work, in many other situation sites are affected or destroyed and nothing or very little happens.

This is another situation of a Chalcolithic ditched enclosure, with at least three concentric ditches, detected in Google Earth and published and reported to the Municipal Plan, that was recently affected by the preparation of the field for another plantation of intensive exploitation (almonds or olive trees).

Heritage is being destroyed at an impressive rhythm in Alentejo. 


Thursday, November 22, 2018

0408 - Perdigões web musuem blog

Perdigões ditched enclosure has now a new blog, called Perdigões Museum, to display online to the general public some of the more exquisite archaeological findings in the site.

You may find it here.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

0407 - Discussing the end of prehistoric ditched enclosures

Next weekend (16-17 November 2018), in Coimbra, the transition between the 3rd and the 2nd millennium BC in Western Iberia will be discussed. This is the moment of the twilight of ditched enclosures in Iberia. The reasons for the collapse of the social trajectory of Neolithic and Chalcolithic societies will debated as well as what followed.

My contribution: Death in the Occident Express: reasons for a social collapse in the end of the 3rd millennium BC in Iberia Southwest.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

0406 - Perdigões and IFR

Perdigões Research Program is now a partner of IFR (Institute for Field Research), integrating the field schools program provided by the institute.

 See here.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

0405 - New geophysics of Portuguese Ditched Enclosures

Presentation at the X Archaeology of Southwest Iberia meeting, next November 9th in Zafra, Spain.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

0404 - Tomb 4 of Perdigões ditched enclosures

The results of the recent excavation of tomb 4 of Perdigões ditched enclosures will be presented next November 9th, in the Archaeology of Iberian Southwest meeting in Zafra, Spain.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

0403 - The twilight of Perdigões

In next September 24 and 25 I will be presenting a synthesis of the available data on Perdigões later phases of use. It will be at a workshop promoted in Lisbon by a team from the Kiel university that is interested in the problems related to climate change occurred by the end of the 3rd millennium BC and their repercussions in the social trajectories of the time. The confluence of interests (the next project that is being designed for Perdigões dedicates particular attention to the social changes in the Late Chalcolithic / Early Bronze Age) has been leading to a collaboration between this university and ERA Arqueologia regarding ditched enclosures (at the moment, we are collaborating in completing the geophysics of Monte da Contenda).

Monday, September 10, 2018

0402 - Santa Vitória: the usual

The work in Santa Vitória has been mainly cleaning. Namely the already excavated ditches, from which there is no new information to collect. 

But in ditch 2 we started to define a new section and the top of preserved fillings, and the expected is there. Like in many other ditches of many other enclosures, Santa Vitória is also presenting recutings filled with layers of stones.

Friday, August 31, 2018

0401 - SANVIT 2018_2021

Visit to Santa Vitória in the context of the international meeting organized by ERA in 2012 (Gulbenkian, Lisbon) on "Ditched enclosures and funerary practices", later published in the British International Reports.

Next Monday the project "Santa Vitória: temporalities, Architectures and Social Practices in a ditched enclosure - SANVIT", developed by Era Arqueologia in collaboration with Campo Maior municipality and DRC of Alentejo, will start, with the first campaign of field work, co-directed by me and Ana Catarina Basílio.

The project is linked to the Perdigões enclosure's one, not just because of the institutions and people involved, but mostly by the scientific inquiry, as can be deduced from the project abstract:

" The project is focused on the ditched enclosure of Santa Vitória (classified as site of public interest, and property of the State) located in the municipality of Campo Maior, Portalegre district. It aims to apply a scientific inquiry that allows the comparing of the social dynamics and the temporalities of a small ditched enclosure with the ones that have been identified in a large complex of enclosures such as Perdigões.
It is intended to produce information that responds to the present problems involving ditched enclosures and that, simultaneously, allow the construction of a comparative frame for different/similar dynamics observed in Perdigões. We want to comprehend how two apparently different biographies can be integrated in a frame of shared principles, but expressed in distinct ways and durability. Therefore, the project will be developed in strict connection with the Perdigões Global Research Project.

The specific main goals are:

- Obtain the global plan of the site through geophysics;
- Built a chronological frame for the site and establish its temporalities;
- Characterize the social practices that took place at the enclosures and its periphery and the processes of filling of negative structures;
- Determinate the levels of interaction, in terms of exogenous materials and mobility of animals and (if possible) humans.
            - Characterize the material culture accessing style and technology;
            - Contextualize the site in the local settlement network;
            - Evaluate the conservation situation of the structures previously excavated and exposed for several decades and define a plan of intervention, aiming the preservation of the site;
            - Develop a program of public display and heritage education associated to the site.

For starting, though, we have a hard task ahead, for the site is covered with bushes. 


Saturday, June 9, 2018

0400 - The geophysics of a new one

Here is a new image of geophysics for a Portuguese Prehistoric Enclosure, just finished few days ago. A twin of Xancra, just a bit more complex.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

0399 - Santa Vitória. The new project of ERA at a ditched enclosure

It has just been approved a new research project, promoted by the ERA team (in a partnership with the DRC-Alentejo and Municipality of Campo Maior), to approach the ditched enclosure of Santa Vitória, at Campo Maior, Alentejo. This project aims to compare the social dynamics of a smaller enclosure with the ones of a large and complex one as Perdigões. So, the two projects will be in sound articulation.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

0397 - Mobility at Perdigões

Tomorrow at the Archaeological National Museum at 11.20. The last results (while waiting for the next ones) of the project on mobility of humans and animals at Perdigões enclosures..

Friday, March 30, 2018

0396 - Perdigões: back in Easter.

This year, the campaign at Perdigões enclosures will start earlier, just after Easter. From April 2, and during six weeks, you may follow the excavations here. Tomb 4 will be excavated.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

0395 - Stimulating Geophysics in Portuguese Archaeology

Era Arqueologia is going to support research projects through geophysics.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Monday, February 19, 2018

0391 - New paper about Perdigões.

A new paper about Perdigões has just been published. It addresses Tomb 2, a tholoi type monument, with construction dated from the first half of the 3rd millennium BC, but with a later use in the second half of that same millennium, in beaker times, with some beaker items (like gold foils and ivory button), but with no beakers. Something that is common in Perdigões, as the next paper, coming out tomorrow, discusses.

Friday, February 9, 2018

0390 - New Master Thesis about Perdigões

A new Master thesis was defended at the University of Algarve about the social role of Bell Beakers at Perdigões enclosures. The studied context confirmed a previous idea that beakers were added to a ongoing social trajectory and do not represent a rupture or structural change in that trajectory. And that Beakers have diversified social roles, that, in a context of a wider scale of shared ideas, present regional heterogeneity that cannot be reduced to "monotetic" theoretical formulas.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

0389 - More ivory while selecting teeth for mobility analysis

Some ivory items, with focus on the decorated plaque.

In the context of the project to characterize human mobility at Perdigões enclosure we are enlarging the sample of Tomb 2. We have been reviewing the bones and selecting teeth, namely from some stratigraphic units not yet studied. Bones were still packed from the field, and mixed with them some more votive materials: arrow heads, beads and ivory items.

Some of the ivory items are decorated fragments of plaques, with geometric motives, that are similar to others present in other Southern Iberian large ditched enclosures, like Valencina de la Concepción. With the conclusion of the study of Tombs 1 and 2, and the ongoing study of the cremated remains of Pit 40, the paper about the ivory items in Perdigões, published in World Archaeology (Valera et al, 2015), needs a significant updating.

Teeth to be selected for analysis

Other votive materials

And an item from Valencina similar to the decorated fragment from Tomb 2 of Perdigões (taken from Garcia Sanjuán et al, 2013)

Bibliographic References:

García Sanjuán, L., M. Luciáñez Triviño, Th. X. Schuhmacher, D. Wheatley, and A. Banerjee 2013. “Ivory craftsmanship, trade and social significance in the southern Iberian Copper Age: the evidence from the PP4-Montelirio sector of Valencina de la Concepción (Seville, Spain).” European Journal of Archaeology 16,4: 610-635.
Valera, A.C., Schuhmacher, T.X., Banerjee, A. (2015), “Ivory in the Chalcolithic enclosure of Perdigões (South Portugal): the social role of an exotic raw material”, World Archaeology, 47:3, 390-413.

Friday, February 2, 2018

0388 - Preparing for excavating Tomb 4 at Perdigões

Click on the image to enlarge

To prepare the excavation of Tomb 4 at Perdigões Era team did some more geophysics to improve the available image. Here you may compare the previous image (on the left) of the monument with the new one (on the right, over the previous one). The difference is remarkable and a lot of useful information about the architecture is provided.

We will starting to adopt this procedure to other specific areas of the enclosures to get more detailed information.

Friday, January 12, 2018

0387 - Perdigões Tomb 4

Yesterday the Era team went back to Perdigões to do some more geophysics. This year, another tomb will be excavated in the context of the project on human mobility. This tomb was already identified in the published magnetogram, but now we manage to improve the quality by using another measuring grid.
It is clearer now that it looks like another monument with a circular chamber, small passage, like Tomb 1, also oriented to 90º. It also seems to have some sort of mound still preserved.

This image will be of great help for planning the excavations.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

0386 - A new image...

... of Monte de Corte Ribas ditched enclosures. In this image, we can see the three circle enclosures, and one or two smaller circles in the north part. One seems to overlap the outside ditch of the three ring system.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

0384 - A sad Christmas present in winter solstice

Today was the winter solstice. And important day in many prehistoric enclosures, namely in the ones that had their gates aligned with the sunrise in this day.
Not a fortune day, though, to visit one of the larger and most complex of the Portuguese Prehistoric Enclosures: Monte da Contenda.

Today I discovered that this is another large and complex ditched enclosure (with the higher number of ditches known in Portugal) that was affected by the ongoing agricultural transformations in Alentejo region. It was known, the geophysics published (Valera et al. 2014), but the institutions responsible for the Portuguese heritage just can’t handle this problem.

The important concentration of ditched enclosures in Alentejo region is of recent discovery (last two decades). It is one of the most important in Iberia. But at this rhythm, they soon will be all (or almost all) deeply affected, while the minister of culture does nothing (if in fact there is one or, if so, if he knows Archaeological heritage is of his political responsibility), and the minister of agriculture says it is nothing with him.

 Here is the site when geophysics was done in 2013.

Here the site today. A deeply ploughed field of almond trees with a mechanical water system embedded in the soil.

Bibliographic Reference
Valera, A.C., Becker, H., Costa, C. (2014), Os recintos de fossos Pré-Históricos de Monte da Contenda (Arronches) e Montoito (Redondo), Estudos Arqueologicos de Oeiras, 21: 195-216.

PS – The Montoito enclosure, also published in this paper was also deeply ploughed recently, and again no action.

Monday, December 4, 2017

0383 - Interaction a Perdigões (2)

And in the sequence of the previous post, here is the recently published paper about the exogenous materials present at Perdigões ditched enclosures.
Available for download here

Friday, October 27, 2017

0382 - Perdigões and interaction

The exogenous large blades from Perdigões tomb 3 are finally organized, so they may be easily seen.
The boxes are 40cm wide. The largest blade is around 32cm

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

0381 - Project about mobility in Perdigões enclosure

Collecting plants at the Late Neolithic and Chalcolithic site of Moinho de Valadares, in Mourão municipality. They will be used for Sr 87/86 isotopic analysis in the context of the research project on human and animal mobility at Perdigões ditched enclosure.

The project, financed by the Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT), reached the middle and the preliminary results obtained so far will be publicly presented in the institutions that are part of the project. So a session will be organized in Faro at October 25, other in Lisbon at November 13 and another in Évora at December 7. We aim to debate the results with interested colleagues, students and general public, in order to obtain feedback that can be useful for the rest of the project.  

Friday, September 15, 2017

0380 - Part of a shaman's mask?

Perdigões ditched enclosures present several evidences of social practices embedded in rituality and symbolism. This can be seen in the location of the site, in its architectonic design, it many of its contexts and in several of the recorded materials. We are now starting to deal with a specific object, recovered in a Late Neolithic context that has also other specific circumstances and materials that point to such a kid of social practices.

It is a deer pair of antlers still attached to part of the cranium that was cut. So the animal was killed and its skull cut in a specific way in order to maintain the two antlers.

It is known that these “objects” were associated to masks used in shamanic ceremonies since ancient times (some art interpretations take these practices back to Upper Paleolithic).

Depiction of an Evenki shaman wearing antler headdress (after Witsen 1785, 655).
Taken from Little et al. 2016, PLOS ONE | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0152136 April 13, 2016

At Perdigões, some other signs of possible shamanic practices exist. But this one will be the next to be explored in a forthcoming paper.

Friday, September 1, 2017

0379 - Perdigões mobility at the EAA meeting in Maastricht

Today, Perdigões enclosure was present in a session of the Annual Meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists held in Maastricht. The available results of former and ongoing projects on mobility were presented and discussed. So far, the general image that we are getting is of significant presence of outsiders (the majority) in the enclosures, both humans and animals, with Sr values that do not match what is being defined as local range (the granite area of the Alamo valley, Reguengos de Monsaraz). And is interesting to note that the different funerary contexts have different ranges, suggesting that they are being used by groups with different provenances. This reinforces the idea that those different, but contemporaneous, funerary contexts were involve in identity management processes, what the differences in material culture, architecture and body treatment already stressed (some of the recent publications on Perdigões deal with this issue). However, the analysis will continue, to enlarge the sample and to get a better control of the geological signatures in order to test the actual image that is quite complex and still rises some intriguing questions.

We also consider to present this same paper, more detailed, in Portugal in a conference to be organized in October or November, as part of the program for public display and debate of the ongoing results of this FCT project.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

0377 - Perdigões 2017

The July 2017 campaign at the ditched enclosures of Perdigões has ended. It was focused in the central area of this large site, where structures from the earliest to the latest occupations were recorded. At least three ditches and some pits from the Late Middle Neolithic, a large pit (still to finish) and two ditches from Late Neolithic, several deposits, and stone structures from the Chalcolithic (just next to funerary features with depositions of cremated remains of hundreds of individuals) and deposits and a cairn structure from the transition/early Bronze age.
A very complex area to excavate, but also an interesting one to approach the biography and the rhythms of occupation of Perdigões.

In September, we will be back for a short period of time, to do some drone flights to get data for 3D records and to do the first field approach to a new line of research at Perdigões, establishing a new partnership.

This new line of research will focus of the acoustics conditions of the natural theatre where Perdigões are and on the roles those conditions might have played in the occupation of the site and in the practices and activities that were taken place there.

Friday, June 30, 2017

0376 - Ditched enclosures, salt and interaction

A. Areas with salt in central and eastern Iberia; B. Two possible alternative models for Alentejo salt supplying during the Chalcolithic. (Valera, 2017).

I have just published a paper about the production and circulation of salt in the Neolithic/Chalcolithic Portugal. Is there anything in this issue that might be related to Portuguese ditched enclosures, namely those in inner Alenejo? I believe so.

The complex social dynamics that we can appreciate in the inner Alentejo region during the Late Neolithic and especially during the Chalcolithic, with an intensive consume of animals in large ditched enclosures and in others not so large, with the presence of some estuarine molluscs that might have been consumed, and intensive food processing and storage, would have generated a significant demand for salt.

That would reinforce a relation with coastal regions where some sites with evidences for salt production are known. But, as I stressed in the paper, these sites are all from Late Neolithic / Early Chalcolithic. So, where are the production sites from the middle / late 3rd millennium BC, the period when the Neo-Chalcolithic social dynamics in inner Alentejo were reaching their pick? I suggest that they may have been in the salt resources of central Iberia. The geological history of the Peninsula provided those interior areas with strong reservoirs of salt. The end of the sites that were producing salt in the Atlantic facade in the early chalcolithic, precisely when the most important area of demanding was developing, could represent a shift in the directions of interaction. The provenance studies show that Alentejo’s enclosures were involve in exchanges with coastal and more interior areas of the Peninsula. And those networks of interaction were dynamic and changes in predominant fluxes would be expectable.

The actual data on salt is suggestive. Concerning the salt, the inner Alentejo demand had two “coasts”: the Atlantic one and the central Iberian one. So, as the large ditched enclosure were involved in those large networks of relations, they might be decisive in the balance of those networks, stimulating some areas and depressing others through time.

Because they were involved in large networks of interactions, Alentejo large enclosures must have had a large range of influence in peripheral social dynamics. Not yet in a centre/periphery deterministic model, but in one more coincident with the Pear Polity Interaction proposal (still very useful).

Thursday, June 29, 2017

0375 - National Monument

The ditched enclosures are a relatively recent issue in Portuguese Archaeology and Portuguese Heritage. They came late, but they came in strength. But they came at a time where agricultural changes in the area where they have their major concentration are seriously threatening them.

So far, though, only in March 2016 a ditched enclosure was classified as Site of Public Interest. It was Santa Vitória, the first identified and excavated ditched enclosure in the eighties of the last century.
But this week, after 20 years of continued research coordinated by the private company Era Arqueologia, Perdigões set of ditched enclosures was classified as National Monument, the top category for Portuguese Heritage.

It was not just Perdigões that was recognized here. It was also shown that the evaluation of public service and research must focus on the quality of the service and of the research, and not on the institutional nature of who does it.