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.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

0317 - The oldest chalcolithic ditch at Perdigões

We know now that Perdigões ditched enclosures started by the middle of the 4th Millennium BC. That it has developed during the Late Neolithic to became already a large enclosure. The new assemblage of radiocarbon dates shows this. But also shows something else. That the earliest chalcolithic ditch at Perdigões is the small ditch 10 and that it defines an enclosure smaller than the Late Neolithic large one. Interesting don't you think?

The temporalities of Perdigões are getting better characterized by the recent work developed by NIA-ERA (that is directing the global program of research) and ICArEHB at Perdigões. But this work also shows that many surprises may be ahead. This is a complex and chellenging site. It is a privilege to work there.

Monday, November 23, 2015

0316 - New paper on portuguese enclosures.

It has been recently published and is available at and Reserach Gate.

0315 - Perdigões ditch 7 is dated.

Perdigões ditch 7, another one with structured depositions and human remains, is now also dated by three radiocarbon dates that put its filling and re-cuttings between 2600 and 2200 BC. This ditch has one of the most interesting sequences of filling of Perdigões ditches, for it has a sequence of depositions that seem to have been deliberately closed by a stone “cairn”. After that the process of filling changed. That sequence is well dated by these three dates. But some more are needed.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

0314 - Horta do Pinheiro 6 dated

The ditch at Horta do Pinheiro 6 has been dated by radiocarbono from Late Neolithic. There are now 15 ditched sites with occupations dating from Late Neolithic in Alentejo, plus the occupation of Middle Neolithic at Perdigões.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

0313 - Perdigões is getting older

New radiocarbon dates for recently excavated features at Perdigões show that the site was already quite big in Late Neolithic and that it begun earlier, in late Middle Neolithic.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

0312 - New project with Australia

Desenho de Guida Caselas

The project of Perdigões enclosure, me and Era Arqueologia will be integrating a new project on mobility financed by Australian Research Council, and led by Australian National University. Here are the participants and abstract of the project:

“Beyond migration and diffusion: The prehistoric mobility of people & ideas”

1 Dr Catherine Frieman, Chief Investigator, The Australian National University
2 Prof Dr Rainer Grun, Chief Investigator, The Australian National University
3 Prof Matthew Spriggs, Chief Investigator, The Australian National University
4 Dr Rachel Wood, Chief Investigator, The Australian National University
5 Dr Mathieu Duval, Partner Investigator, Centro Nacional de Investigación sobre la Evolución Humana (CENIEH), Burgos, Spain
6 Dr António Valera, Partner Investigator, Era Archaeology, Conservation and Heritage Management, Portugal

1 The Australian National University Administering Organisation
2 Era Archaeology, Conservation and Heritage Management, Portugal Other Organisation
3 Centro Nacional de Investigación sobre la Evolución Humana Other Organisation

The project builds on the strength of ongoing, innovative collaborations between archaeologists and geochemists to ask novel questions about the movement of people and ideas in prehistory. Spatial and temporal patterns in population mobility will be examined to clarify their relationship with the appearance of new and exotic materials, technologies and practices. We focus on the ways in which the movement of individuals and groups of people is both an instigator and a response to sociocultural change, utilising both key European and Pacific Island examples to help build a truly comparative archaeology of phenomena of rapid social and economic change, with pertinence to general theories of innovation and adoption.

Monday, October 26, 2015

0311 - Talk at Seville University

Next thursday, a talk in a Master of University of Seville about "The ditched enclosures phenomena in South Portugal and the Perdigões case study".

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

0310 - Call for papers

Is now open the call for papers for the conference "Enclosing worlds. Comparative approaches to enclosure phenomena" to be held in Portugal in October 2016.

More information here


Thursday, September 3, 2015

0309 – Back to Perdigões

Next week I will be back to Perdigões to finish the section in ditch 7. In this section the ditch is already 3 meters deep and, although it is quite narrow down there, the walls are still quite vertical. So it is not easy to estimate how much deeper it will go.

Note that the section is in the area where ditch 7 is starting to overlap ditch 8 (a previous Neolithic one). So the inner wall of the ditch (right in the image) is, in this area, constituted by the sediments that were filling the previous ditch. This filling, that goes until about 2 meters deep (ditch 8 was less deep), is constituted by deposits of earth with faunal remains and pottery shards. But this wall of earth was not eroded and it would have been easily if exposed to winter rains. This means that ditch 7, at least in this section, had to have been opened and rapidly filled.

And as you can see in the section, after it was filled (with a sequence of layers of stones, faunal – and human – remains and pottery shards) it was reopened through a recutting, then filled with layers of stones.

This is a stratigraphic sequence of openings and deliberate fillings that shows the nature of this ditch. A ditch that defines a inner enclosure that I now think that can be related to a later, complex and highly symbolic occupation of the central area of the natural theatre where Perdigões stands.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

0308 - New project on Perdigões enclosure

Mobility is one of the most actual issues to research in Prehistory, in the context of a socially committed Archaeology. Here is the abstract for the new research project on Mobility for Perdigões enclosure that will be financed by the Portuguese Science Foundation, led by NIA-ERA and ICArEHB for 2016-2018.

Abstract here

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

0307 – Coming back

I have been out for a while. Perdigões excavations got my full attention for the last 5 weeks (I will be there one more week in September). So I have not been able to provide you with new information about Portuguese enclosures.

Nevertheless, the results from Perdigões 2015 campaign will provide food for several future posts (and papers). For now, I just display an image of what I think (at the moment) to be the earliest ditch in Perdigões set of enclosures: a small “V” shape ditch, right in the middle of the natural amphitheater. It was baptized as Ditch 13.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

0306 - Exposed

A nice one (or two?) exposed by a dam.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

0305 - Perdigões campaign 2015

It starts next Monday. The archaeological works may be followed here.

Friday, July 3, 2015

0304 - Enclosing worlds 2016 conference



Comparative approaches to enclosure phenomena

 12 – 14 OCTOBER, 2016, University of Algarve, Faro, Portugal

CONFERENCE PROPOSAL – 1st announcement

 Analogy was always central to archaeological methods and interpretations. It is a powerful tool that has been consecutively criticized and theorized, remaining at the heart of the archaeological practice. Between the large amplitude of the uses of analogy in Archaeology, the cross-culture comparative methods have been shown to be useful to deal with cultural change and the correlations between materiality, human behavior and social organization.

This conference intends to focus on the emergence and development of the European prehistoric enclosures phenomena in the context of a large scale social practice of enclosing expressed by architectures, landscapes and forms of territorial management. It is meant to confront the diversity of the European phenomena between the Neolithic and the Bronze Age with other historical processes of enclosure building developed in other continents and to discuss the social implications and the social roles of such architectures and strategies of space organization.

With this purpose, the conference will reunite case studies from Western and Eastern Europe, Central and Southern Africa and North and South America, stimulating the development of comparative research on this topic and the debate on comparative methodologies, namely regarding the definition of comparable controlled units.

The organization of the meeting will be the responsibility of a partnership between the research group for the Development of Complex Societies of the Interdisciplinary Center for Archaeology and Evolution of Human Behavior (ICArEHB - University of Algarve), the archaeological research department of ERA Arqueologia (NIA-ERA) and the Global Research Program of Perdigões enclosure.

Call for papers is opened until 31 March 2016.
Inscriptions for assistance will be open in October 2015.
Contacts: António Carlos Valera (


Friday, June 26, 2015

0303 – Social implications of monumentality

Some ditched enclosures reveal a significant investment in labor in the building of their structures.

The investment in works of significant amplitude has undeniable social implications. Applying complex systems theory to social developments shows us that the higher is the scale of the task and the number of persons involved the harder is the consensual decision and the management of the enterprise, implicating the emergence of leading persons or groups. So, we might agree that, enterprises that require significant amount of work and investment, inherently require specific forms of leadership in the decision and implementation processes. The archaeological data available for the large ditched enclosures of the 3rd millennium BC in Alentejo region would have implicated the development of stronger leaderships that would have initiated processes of social competition and created needs for differential forms of consumption and social display that fed the increase of circulation of the exotic materials obtained through long distance interchange networks. In other words, these large sites of social aggregation seem to have implied the development of social segregation. And if, as Churchill argued, we shape our buildings and our buildings shape us, this is not just true at an individual level, but also at a society level: the development of a monumental architecture during this period was not simply a response to ongoing social changes, but actively contributed to conform and induce them in a trajectory towards social competition and inequality. 

But to what extent did this social path developed in the region during the 3rd millennium BC? This is the question that has had significant different answers, in a debate that clearly shows the influence of the present theoretical frames in the constructions of the past.