Friday, December 4, 2015

0321 – Timings of discover. Do they really matter?

The real nature and dimension of Perdigões was discovered in 1996 after a field of olive trees was converted, by the removal of the trees and a deep ploughing, into a field prepared to receive a vineyard. It was then that thousands of archaeological materials came to the surface and several ditches became visible in the ground and especially in the aerial image taken in that year.

At the time, the Portuguese archaeology was just awaking to the phenomena of ditched enclosures, and looking for them was not a practice. Portuguese scholars never really questioned the oddness of Santa Vitória (de first ditched enclosure being excavated in Portugal) and the oddness of the apparent isolation of Iberia from a relevant European phenomena in Recent Prehistory. Only in the last decade that work has been done, with success I might had (and this blog shows it), using the available aerial and satellite images, namely the ones provided by Google Earth.

Google Earth was not available in the nineties, but other aerial images were. And if there was the expectation for this kind of contexts to appear and the practice of looking for them, Perdigões could have been identified before the site was ploughed, for the outside double ditches were quite visible in an image of 1995 (just in the lower area of the image).

The question is: could have this prevented the ploughing?

It probably wouldn’t. It was in 1997 that the Portuguese Institute of Archaeology (IPA) was created, and only then preventive archaeology really developed. But those times were already of higher awareness for archaeology, due to the Côa case. And that made possible the archaeological work that would show the importance of the site and that would start the trajectory of research that is well known for Perdigões.

But since then we would expect that new discoveries would be protected. Well that is not true. Several enclosures that were recently discovered have been affected by intensive agriculture, namely to plant olive trees and vineyards. Some were discovered to late (like this one) while others were recently affected, even after geophysics had been done with very good results that show the presence of an important archaeological site, as it happened with Montoito.

Alentejo is being submitted to a significant change in agriculture. This change is threatening this fantastic heritage of prehistoric ditched enclosures that we are recently aware of. I elected them as one of my main topics of research and I am doing what I can to bring them to the public knowledge and to alert to these problems. It is important that the public institutions responsible for the Portuguese heritage be also aware of this situation and act accordingly.

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