Wednesday, October 26, 2011

0060 – Portuguese ditched enclosures at the IX CIA

A paper and two posters are being presented at the IX Congress of Iberian Archaeometry, held in Lisbon. The paper focus on the results of the project on Cosmological Foundation of Enclosures Architectures analysed through geophysical survey. The posters present the geophysical results at Xancra and Moreiros 2.
A Project of NIA-ERA, financed by Gulbenkian Foundation (that is hosting the conference).

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

0059 – Isn’t quantity a quality?

Hundreds of pits in partial images of Xancra and Perdigões enclosures

Another astonishing difference between ditched and walled enclosures is the association to pits.

Traditionally, even when not excavated, what looks like a pit is designated by “silo”. When they are numerous they became a storage area controlled by an elite. But when excavated, usually became “silos” reused as garbage dumps or graves or something else. But the evidence that they ever stored cereal or any kind of food is rare, when we think about the number of these structures known: thousands of thousands. Maybe we should call them just pits. There is no functional interpretation involved, and then, after research and evidence, decide what else to call them.

But what is interesting, when we compared walled and ditched enclosure (the issue of my conference in Rome), is the fact that at ditched enclosures we usually found tens, hundreds, thousands of pits, and in walled enclosures we found one or two. Well, maybe three.

De difference is striking, once again, and the traditional explanation doesn’t explain. If the ditched enclosures performed the same general function of the walled enclosures, then, why the striking difference? Don´t people in walled enclosures need storing? Aren´t they exploiting the common folks and appropriate the surplus of their work? Are they not producing garbage that needs dumping?

Well, apart from the irony, the remaining fact is that the issue has not been addressed until now. And it must. Because this is a significant difference (amongst others) that suggests that walled and ditched enclosures shouldn’t be treated as simple homologies.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

0058 – Ditch 2 of Porto Torrão and beaker pottery

Beaker pottery in ditch 2 of Porto Torrão after Valera & Filipe, 2004.

As commented in the previous post, beaker pottery is recorded only in the large complexes of ditched enclosures in South Portugal (Perdigões, Porto Torrão and Alcalar)

At Porto Torrão the presence of this pottery is, inside ditch 2, almost from the beginning of sedimentation, but only with International style. The geometric and incise styles only appear in the upper levels of the sedimentation, where both progressively became more representative than the International style, specially the geometric one.

A confirmation of the chronological “décalage” of the different styles. But also a confirmation that, in these large enclosures, some ditches are still functional in the beaker times.

At Perdigões, also in the outside ditch (ditch 1) incised beaker pottery was recorded in the upper half layers of the sedimentation (Lago et al. 1998).

Monday, October 17, 2011

0057 - Beaker and ditched enclosures

Beaker pottery from Porto Torrão (after Valera & Filipe, 2004)

One interesting issue about the Portuguese ditched enclosures is the distribution of Bell Beaker pottery. We have now an inventory of almost thirty ditched enclosures, the great majority located in the Alentejo’s hierterland.

But when we look to the actual distribution of Bell Beaker pottery in ditched enclosures we are striking by one evidence: beaker pottery, characteristic of late Chalcolithic (mainly 2nd half of the 3rd millennium BC), only appears in the ditched enclosures that grow to achieve large areas and extreme structural complexity: Perdigões, Porto Torrão and Alcalar.

That suggests that the smaller enclosures didn´t reach the 2nd half of the millennium or were not permeable to beaker influences. Only the ones that became large complexes did incorporate beaker phenomena. On the other hand, several walled enclosures present beaker pottery (Monte da Tumba; São Brás) or were reoccupied in beaker times (such as Porto das Carretas or Monte do Tosco) reinforcing the differences between these categories of sites.

This is another particularity that needs careful reflexion. Even more if we add the fact (stressed in Valera, 2007 and in the recent publication of the Fronteira meeting proceedings) that there is a tendency for the small sites to present just one specific beaker style (Porto das Carretas, Miguens 3, Monte do Tosco, Barrada do Grilo, etc.) while Porto Torrão or Perdigões (the large enclosures) present influences of the several beaker styles and a significant amount of this kind of materials (especially Porto Torrão).

A circumstance that reinforces the idea that the latter development of larger ditched enclosures represents a transition to a new social dynamic that is progressively alien to the cosmological/ideological frames that generated in the first place the ditched enclosure phenomena in the Neolithic.

The Cathedral’s Era, in fact.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

0056 – Dimension matters

The slide presents Portuguese walled and ditched enclosures at the same scale (the bigger walled enclosure is not Portuguese, but Spanish and near the border – Pijotilla -, used to substitute a similar Portuguese site – Porto Torrão – that doesn´t have yet its integral plan defined). The differences of sizes reached by some ditched enclosures are striking.

At Rome, my presentation was about the connections between walled and ditched enclosures in South Portugal. After established a general spatial and chronological simultaneity, several disparities were stressed. One of them was dimension.

Walled enclosures present small and, let us say, medium sizes (from less than a ha to 2 or 3 ha). Ditched enclosures present equal sizes, but some of them grew bigger, and reached areas from 20 to more than 100 ha (excluding the surrounding necropolis).

This is a striking fact that needs explanation. Why some ditched enclosures did grew so much during the Chalcolithic? Why, in the same region and time, walled enclosures kept small dimensions?

The answer, taking into account other several differences not referred in the present post but stressed at the conference, has to do with different social roles. My suggestion (to be developed in the paper) is that specific social roles of ditched enclosures, such as identity management, control and reproduction of cosmological order through architecture and social activities and funerary and ritualized practices, allowed some of them to grow and became regional centres of social aggregation and living metaphors of the cosmos.

Nevertheless, their size and meanings can somehow be seen as the “singing of the swan” of Neolithic world views. By the end of the 3rd millennium or beginning of the 2nd cal BC they are “dead” and a new social dynamics is already in course.

In a way, they remind us of the Cathedral’s Era.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

0055 – Rome reunion on Chalcolithic (October, 2011)

The research of Portuguese enclosures was represented at the conference STRATEGIE INSEDIATIVE E METALLURGIA. I RAPPORTI TRA ITALIA E LA PENISOLA IBERICA NEL PRIMO CALCOLITICO ,promoted by the German Archaeological Institute, through a presentation made by me (representing NIA-ERA), comparing walled and ditched enclosures and proposing a general different social role for those architectures in the South of Portugal, by a presentation of Rui Parreira and Elena Morán of the ditched enclosure of Alcalar and its regional context from a materialistic point of view, and by a presentation of Michael Kunst about the research on Zambujal.

If the apparent antiquity of the emergency of metallurgy in North Italy was one of the main debated issues, the absent or reduced number of enclosures (walled or ditched) in that region was also a striking surprise when comparing to Iberian dynamics, where metallurgy occurred at least a millennium later.

One thing, though, seems to be shared by both regions: the emergency of metallurgy is not particularly linked to the development of enclosure architectures, for in Iberia enclosures appear before metallurgy, and in Italy metallurgy developed with no connection to enclosures.

Food for thought about the social role of both archaeological realities.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

0054 – Santa Justa walled enclosure

Santa Justa(after Golçalves, 1989)

Location: Alcoutim municipality, Faro district, Algarve, South Portugal)
Chronology: Chalcolithic
Bibliographic references: Gonçalves, 1989.

Excavated during the late seventies and the eighties of the XX century, Santa Justa is a small walled enclosure located on a hilltop. Presenting a general ellipsoidal plan, it roughly measures 20m by 30 m.

Initially, it was an enclosure with to opposite gates, located in the extreme tops of the ellipse. Then, several phases of construction were detected, providing the structures of bastions, wall reinforcements and the closing of one gate and strengthening of the other.

Structures interpreted as huts were detected inside, but also outside the walls.

Metallurgic activities were detected inside and, because of the size, the site was interpreted as a “fortified farm” of farmers and metallurgists of the 3rd millennium BC.

Recently, in a materialistic approach (Morán e Parreira, 2009), the site was seen as a response to a need of protection of an elite interests and products. This elite would control through ideological coercion, and not through violence (the solution that historical materialism found to deal with symbolism), the common people of the community and would present itself as an assurance of social stability. In this context of power display, the walled enclosures such as Santa Justa would, not just reinforce, but also symbolically express that political power and prestige.

Santa Justa became one example of what historical materialistic approach calls “symbolic euphemism”: control, not through direct coercion, but through ideological persuasion and deception. Every symbolic meaning is at the service of a social strategy of power to sustain social inequality.

A theoretical elaboration that, somehow, seems to rises above the available empirical data.

Bibliographic references: Morán, H. e Parreira, R. (2009), “La exhibición del poder en el Megalistismo del Suroeste Peninsular: tres casos de studio en el extreme sur de Portugal”, Cuadernos de Prehistoria de la Universidad de Granada, 19, p.139-162.