Friday, June 30, 2017

0376 - Ditched enclosures, salt and interaction

A. Areas with salt in central and eastern Iberia; B. Two possible alternative models for Alentejo salt supplying during the Chalcolithic. (Valera, 2017).

I have just published a paper about the production and circulation of salt in the Neolithic/Chalcolithic Portugal. Is there anything in this issue that might be related to Portuguese ditched enclosures, namely those in inner Alenejo? I believe so.

The complex social dynamics that we can appreciate in the inner Alentejo region during the Late Neolithic and especially during the Chalcolithic, with an intensive consume of animals in large ditched enclosures and in others not so large, with the presence of some estuarine molluscs that might have been consumed, and intensive food processing and storage, would have generated a significant demand for salt.

That would reinforce a relation with coastal regions where some sites with evidences for salt production are known. But, as I stressed in the paper, these sites are all from Late Neolithic / Early Chalcolithic. So, where are the production sites from the middle / late 3rd millennium BC, the period when the Neo-Chalcolithic social dynamics in inner Alentejo were reaching their pick? I suggest that they may have been in the salt resources of central Iberia. The geological history of the Peninsula provided those interior areas with strong reservoirs of salt. The end of the sites that were producing salt in the Atlantic facade in the early chalcolithic, precisely when the most important area of demanding was developing, could represent a shift in the directions of interaction. The provenance studies show that Alentejo’s enclosures were involve in exchanges with coastal and more interior areas of the Peninsula. And those networks of interaction were dynamic and changes in predominant fluxes would be expectable.

The actual data on salt is suggestive. Concerning the salt, the inner Alentejo demand had two “coasts”: the Atlantic one and the central Iberian one. So, as the large ditched enclosure were involved in those large networks of relations, they might be decisive in the balance of those networks, stimulating some areas and depressing others through time.

Because they were involved in large networks of interactions, Alentejo large enclosures must have had a large range of influence in peripheral social dynamics. Not yet in a centre/periphery deterministic model, but in one more coincident with the Pear Polity Interaction proposal (still very useful).

Thursday, June 29, 2017

0375 - National Monument

The ditched enclosures are a relatively recent issue in Portuguese Archaeology and Portuguese Heritage. They came late, but they came in strength. But they came at a time where agricultural changes in the area where they have their major concentration are seriously threatening them.

So far, though, only in March 2016 a ditched enclosure was classified as Site of Public Interest. It was Santa Vitória, the first identified and excavated ditched enclosure in the eighties of the last century.
But this week, after 20 years of continued research coordinated by the private company Era Arqueologia, Perdigões set of ditched enclosures was classified as National Monument, the top category for Portuguese Heritage.

It was not just Perdigões that was recognized here. It was also shown that the evaluation of public service and research must focus on the quality of the service and of the research, and not on the institutional nature of who does it.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

0373 - Updating phalanx idols at Perdigões

During the coming summer solstice (not exactly, but in Sunday) the Era team will be observing the sun rise in the alignment of gate 1 again at Perdigões. During Saturday we will be at Esporão farm to guide visitors (of the Big Day event) to the exhibition of Perdigões in the medieval tower of the farm and to the deposit of materials.
I am using part of today’s holyday to prepare some materials to be shown in the deposit. Taking the phalanx idols form the plastic bags and arrange then in a box, so they can be easily appreciated.
And when I was doing this I noticed the similarity between the fracture in a phalanx collected at the surface of tomb 2 and another fragment collected at the surface of tomb 3, recently excavated and just 10 meters away.
They fit. They were both considered as different elements in my paper about the phalanx idols of Perdigões (the drawing of the top part was even presented). Now that they are reunited a new object emerged: the zig-zag hair in the back (although horizontal and not vertical like the other peace from tomb 2 – see publication) and the eyes and the arms (possibly holding something) in the front. Very similar to the other one already published, but with arms. It needs to be better cleaned now.

I always argued that keeping things in site has its benefits for trained visual memories.

The paper (see here), that addressed the phalanges but also the horse domestication problem, can now be updated. Well, not entirely: there are some more new phalanges from recent excavations that enlarge the already impressive numbers of these items at Perdigões enclosure.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

0372 - Molluscs and shells at Perdigões enclosure

New paper on Perdigões enclosure. This one about the social role of molluscs and mollusc shells in the site. The main conclusion is that the consumption of molluscs and shells is mainly an issue of ideology, rather than subsistence, in the context of transregional interaction and use of exogenous materials. The majority are sea or estuarine species and, of those, it was the shell (not the mollusc) that circulated the most. Pecten maximus is one of the main presences, but in different contexts according to chronology: in depositions in ditches and pits in the Neolithic Perdigões, and a lot in funerary contexts during the chalcolithic. These and some other interesting aspects of molluscs use at a local and regional scales are discussed in the paper (in Portuguese), where large ditched enclosures show differences regarding smaller open or walled sites.

Friday, June 2, 2017

0371 - Workshop on Prehistoric deposition and fragmentation practices

Depositions and fragmentation, as intentional and meaningful social practices, are common in many European prehistoric enclosures. The same happens in Iberian ones, although not always perceived, conceptualized, and questioned as so.

To encourage the debate and research of such subjects in Portuguese archaeology the following workshop was organized and will take place in Lisbon, in 14 October. We have chosen a small auditorium of a public book store to do this. We also want to encourage the public interest.