Wednesday, June 1, 2011

0019 - "Wavy ditches"

The number of known ditched enclosures in South Portugal has been increasing in the last years, being almost thirty now. Between them, several present a peculiar design that has been designated by “sinuous ditches”. This peculiar configuration didn’t raise the necessary attention to its interpretation, as a result of a functional attribution that doesn’t question the ideological foundations of architecture.

In a recent paper (Valera, in print 2010) I presented a first attempt to organize these particular designs in four basic categories according to integral or almost integral plans of ditches:

A. Sequences of regular and aggregated lobes (1. Santa Vitória; 2. Outeiro Alto 2; 3. Xancra); B. Sequences of separated regular lobes (4. Moreiros 2; 5. Águas Frias); C. Regular wavy (6. Juromenha 1; 7. Perdigões); D. Irregular wavy (8. Águas Frias; 9. Perdigões).

This morphological diversity is certainly meaningful and the traditional association to the design of walls with bastions, if arguable for some of these categories (such as the B. or even D.), is clearly unacceptable for the A. and C.. Explanations for the particular designs like the ones in Xancra, Santa Vitória or Outeiro Alto, that so far represent a specificity of the middle Portuguese Guadiana basin, need to be searched elsewhere. In the quoted paper I argued that some answers can be found in the ideological connotation of architecture, namely in its cosmological foundation. Locations, topography, astronomic orientation, landscape connections and design, all talk about architectures that are impregnated by cosmologic senses, without which these sites cannot be comprehended.

Valera, António Carlos (in print 2010), “Fossos sinuosos na Pré-História Recente do Sul de Portugal: ensaio de análise crítica”, Actas do V Encontro de Arqueologia do SW Peninsular.


  1. Why not A and C? They all look very alike in their "wavyness"?
    And for the differences we have Los Millares (like 3, Perdigões or Zambugeira)with several lines of defence surrounded by small forts (like 1 or 2).
    In the military defence of settlements we have to take in account several variables: Tactics, Strategy, Demographics, Topography,....even cultural ones.

  2. Well, they are in fact quite different. Maybe the image doesn´t show so well because, to put them together in the same image, they have to be a very different scales, which makes the wavy design of some so more narrow and similar to others. As to function, we do have to congregate and cross several levels of information, regarding location, topography, orientation, dimensions, what is inside the ditches, out is outside, if there are evidences of banks or palisades or not, what is present inside the enclosure, what is not, the architectonic design, and, naturally, what we know about general cultural context (locally and at several different scales).

  3. We have to see it with "military eyes", we need more military prehistory.........