Monday, February 20, 2012

0081 - Neolithic ditches and the dynamics of growth

Perdigões inside ditched has just been dated by C14, as well as some related structures (such as a small ditch of a possible palisade and a latter occupation of a hypogeum type pit).
A lower layer inside de ditch (Ditch 6) was dated from 3330-3020, the small ditch from 3340-3020 and the top of the hypogeum pit from 3090-2910 (dates calibrated and at two sigma interval – still not published). Material culture is generally the same inside these structures and is perfectly consistent with what we know about the period.

The inside enclosure of Perdigões is, therefore, contemporaneous of other Late Neolithic ditched enclosures, such as Juromenha 1(four dates between 3370-2920 – Mataloto & Boaventura, 2009) or Ficalho (with a date from 3500-3020 – Soares, 1996) or others not yet dated sites.

But one interesting question emerge from this situation: why deed Perdigões enclosures kept growing with the built of new and larger enclosures during the third millennium, reaching a 500m diameter and presenting huge negative structures, and why the other Neolithic enclosures didn´t.

My answer has to do with the symbolic role that Perdigões assumed since the beginning. A role that is not so clear in other Neolithic sites. In fact, some enclosures seem to express architectonically (their design, topographical location and landscape connections) and in terms of the ritualized practices that were present inside (namely the funerary practices) a status that may be responsible for the historical role they played and the dimensions they achieved. They are basically expressing Neolithic world views and their gigantic size (by the time standards) at the end of the 3rd millennium may very well be interpreted as the singing of the swan of Neolithic Cosmologies.

Just like in other historical dynamics, the growth of some highly symbolic and socially meaningful sites may be what conditioned the development of others. The answers for this kind of questions must be searched at a regional scale and not at a site one.

Bibliographic references:
Mataloto, R. & Boaventura, R. (2009), “Entre vivos e mortos nos IV e III milénios a.n.e. do Sul de Portugal: um balanço relativo do povoamento com base em datações pelo radiocarbono”, Revista Portuguesa de Arqueologia, nº12, 2, Lisboa, p.31-77.
Soares, A. Monge (1996), "Datação absoluta da estrutura neolítica junto à Igreja Velha de S. Jorge (Vila Verde de Ficalho, Serpa)", Vipasca, 5, Aljustrel, p.51-58.

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