Wednesday, June 6, 2012

0096 - The sunset of ditched enclosures?

Small inside enclosure with a burial pit.

When did the Neolithic and Chalcolithic type of ditched enclosures stop being built? Well, as the question suggests, it would have been at the end of the Chalcolithic, of course. In fact, at the present moment, no ditched enclosures like those are known to have been built in the second millennium BC. I recently have used this apparent situation to argue that the Neolithic and Chalcolithic ditched enclosures were related to a specific ideology (or cosmogony) and that they stopped being built in the beginning of the second millennium precisely because that cosmogony was structurally changing at the end of the third millennia (Valera, in press).

Well, the enclosure in excavation by ERA at the moment seams to reveal a relative late chronology, although every elements of the architecture also seems to be rooted in the Neolithic tradition. It is soon to be conclusive. But the pottery from the ditches suggests a late chronology in the third millennium and there are pits with pottery that clearly indicate the first half of the second millennium (Bronze Age).

The image, at the moment, is that the enclosures were built in a late Chalcolithic and that pits were still being excavated in the early Bronze Age. But the relations are still to be established. In fact, the inside ditch, the one that slides deeper from the gate to de back, is very small (just 8 m diameter inside) and has only one pit inside. Well that pit has an individual burial with three complete undecorated vessels and a Palmela point, indicating a moment of transition to Bronze Age. Is it a latter pit? Or this small enclosure was built to enclose that pit?

Detail of the burial excavation in a earlier stage. We can see the leg and the skull (and a stone over the neck).

It is soon to decide. But what this data is suggesting is that some of this Neolithic rooted architecture and practices might have reached the beginning of Bronze Age. In a way not yet recorded.

That does not question yet the idea that those architectures are essentially related to a Neolithic cosmogony. Structural transitions are just like that, presenting punctual and exceptional late extensions. So let’s see what the absolute chronology says.

One thing is already certain: this site is important to the problematics regarding Portuguese ditched enclosures.     

Valera, A.C (in press) “Mind the gap: Neolithic and Chalcolithic enclosures of South Portugal” (A. Gibson & J. Leary, eds), ENCLOSING THE NEOLITHIC: RECENT STUDIES IN BRITAIN AND EUROPE, BAR.

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