Tuesday, April 10, 2012

0089 – Timber

Parts of the magnetograms obtained by Helmut Becker for Perdigões and Moreiros 2, showing alignments of post holes from possible palisades and (in the case of Moreiros) of a timber circular structure.

This is a material that has been underestimated in the Iberian archaeology of Prehistoric architecture. The reason is certainly related to the poor preservation of timber evidences, but also to axiomatic postures. We are too much preset to stone building and to forget wood.

The recent projects on the geophysics of ditched enclosures (at Perdigões by Málaga University and NIA-ERA, and in several others sites by NIA-ERA in a project directed by me, all having Helmut Becker as geophysicist) has suggested other ways: wood must have been much more important in building positive structures. There is even a possible wood circle in Serpa area (in print), that might bring to Iberia a type of Neolithic constructions not yet documented.

But the main problem is that Portuguese archaeologists (or should I say Iberian archaeologists) are not trained to recognize the remains of wooden constructions. I mean post holes.

Ho yes, we have a lot of small post holes, of 10, 15 centimetres diameter. Those we have and the huts imagined with them. But large timber structures are missing, though geophysics shows it differently.

In fact, there are many pits in many places traditionally and axiomatically interpreted as “silos”, or reused “silos”, that don’t have (or almost don’t have) anything inside but sediments and some stones. But many of those pits might be large post holes, of trunk posts, like the ones shown in Helmut’s geophysical images. The problem is that the majority of archaeological interventions are spatially restricted, and what might be a sequence of post holes becomes one or one and a half “silos”.

Architectures with large timber trunks must start to be considered in Iberia. There is now enough evidence to suggest that those constructions might have had a significant importance, far more than recognize by traditional discourse.

But, naturally, with this recognition new problems arise. If we are talking of post that are tree trunks we must start asking what kind of trees we have here that might provide long strait trunks for those constructions. South Iberia, even then, was not central Europe or North Europe. Vegetation was different. So, what kind of tree could be use for large timber structures using tree trunks? A question that was not asked yet to the people that studies paleo flora.

A new inquiry is in the agenda.


  1. Did you check the enclosure of timber posts at Moita do Sebastião (Late Mesolithic)? Do you believe it is a hut like Jean Roche interpreted it?

    1. I suggest you read my paper in Promontoria 7/8.