Sunday, March 13, 2022

0448 - Actualising the Map of Ditched Enclosures

This is an actualised map of Portuguese ditched enclosures (or sites with ditches) at 13_03_2022. It represents a revision of earlier displayed information and the adding of several new enclosures. It also distinguishes the confirmed data from probable enclosures identified in satellite images, but that still need some sort of field confirmation (identified as pink dots).

The use of this map should be referenced to this blog and date: Valera, A.C., Map of Portuguese ditched enclosures, Portuguese Prehistoric Enclosures,, 13-03-2022.

Saturday, October 2, 2021

0447 - And another new one

 Again in Serpa municipality, where several ditched enclosures have been found, another new one was recently detected. It is clearly a three ditched enclosure, with patterned lobes, very similar to Borralhos and Folha do Ouro, just a few km apart. 

The discovery, made in Google Earth, was done by Teresa Nunes da Ponte, who kindly provide me with the information. 

Sunday, March 28, 2021

0446 - A new lobed one

Magnetogram just completed and photographed on the laptop. Another lobed patterned one, and the two aligned gates are orientated at 120º, meaning winter solstice. They keep coming and confirming that prescriptions must have existed about the design and orientation of these enclosures, as I have been arguing for some time now. Work by Era Arqueologia, with geophysics by Tiago do Pereiro, assisted by me and other Era collaborators.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

0445 - Twinned enclosures?

A new ditched enclosure was detected just 200m north of the ditched enclosure of Xancra, in Alentejo, South Portugal. The identification was done in an aerial image from 2020 provided by Google Earth. Surface materials indicate a Copper Age chronology, jut like Xancra. The proximity is food for thought, and might corroborate the idea that many of these ditched enclosures had short lives and intermittent ones, implicating lateral displacements or overlapping construction of enclosures, which has been documented on several occasions. Work developed by the NIA-Era Arqueologia (A. Valera and T. do Pereiro).

See discussion in: 

Valera, A.C., Ramos, R., Castanheira, P. (2015), “Os recintos de fossos de Coelheira 2 (Santa Vitória, Beja)”, Apontamentos de Arqueologia e Património, 10, Lisboa, NIA-ERA, p.33-45.

Valera, A.C.; Pereiro, T. (2015), “Os recintos de fossos da Salvada e Monte das Cabeceiras 2 (Beja, Portugal)”, Actas do VII Encontro de Arqueologia Peninsular, Aroche-Serpa 2013, p.316-327.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

0444 - Folha do Ouro 1 enclosure published

 It was published a paper about the results and interpretation of the geophysics done at the Folha do Ouro 1 Chalcolithic ditched enclosure, located in Serpa, South Portugal.

Download here.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

0442 - A timber circle in the centre of Perdigões ditched enclosure.

 With significant repercussion in the media, the recent confirmation of a timber circle in the centre of Perdigões enclosure is, in fact, a major finding in Iberian archaeology, namely in the context of enclosure phenomena. Right in the centre of the large ditched enclosure of Perdigões (that has 450m diameter) there is this 20m diameter timber circle with several concentric rows of palisades and post alignments, with an apparent entrance aligned with the summer solstice (in the third part that has been exposed so far). The external rows have been dated between 2800-2600 BC.

It is the first monumental structure of this kind found in Iberia and its closest parallels are in central Europe or in YK. Which brings immediately the question of what does this find means: something unique or just a point of an unsuspected iceberg?

Independently of that, this structure confirms some earlier findings that indicate that in Iberia there was also and important prehistoric architecture in wood (and not just in stone and earth), some of them were already presented in this blog (see Outeiro Alto 2 or Estácio 6). It also reaffirms the ceremonial status of Perdigões enclosures and the significance of the centre of that natural amphitheatre, that present a recurrent with ceremonial architectures and practices during the 3rd millennium BC.

In the left, the third exposed of the timber circle; in the right, the projection of that third to have a glimpse over the dimension of the structure.

A first partial interpretative proposal.

Monday, August 10, 2020

0441 - The new magnetogram of Folha do Ouro ditched enclosure

 Another ditched enclosure was identified and prospected within the scope of the NIA-Era investigation of ditched enclosures enclosures in Alentejo. With the logistical support of the Municipality of Serpa, the geophysical prospecting of this enclosure was made, which, being larger than previously thought, was not fully covered by the prospected area. The results, interpretation and contextualization are in the press in the proceedings of the next congress of the Association of Portuguese Archaeologists: "The enclosure of Folha do Ouro 1 (Serpa) in the context of the Alentejo calcolitic moat enclosures", by António Carlos Valera, Tiago do Pereiro, Pedro Valério and António Monge Soares. Besides Tiagome and Tiago (responsible for geophysics), Nelson Almeida and Ana Catarina Basílio participated in the fieldwork. This is the 13th ditched enclosure magnetogram produced in the context of this research program.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

0439 - New Publication on Perdigões enclosure

The monographic study of Tomb 4 of Perdigões enclosure has just been published. It can be downloaded here:

Thursday, June 25, 2020

0438 - Discussing a new ditch section

Era company has been excavating a section in a new Chalcolithic ditched enclosure in Alentejo (they keep coming and coming). Here, me and Tiago, we were discussing the infilling of the ditch. This one shows a clear filling where natural processes were relevant, what is easily seen in the profile of the deposits, quite different from the horizontal deposits of anthropic origin that fill partially or totally several of the ditches of Perdigões and so many other ditches in other enclosures. The low density of materials confirms that process as well as a predominance of a side for the origin of the sedimentation. In the bottom, thin sandy layers are evidence of short and intermittent periods of  sedimentation of hydraulic origin, before a completely different processes of filling take place.  To the interpretation of the filling is now central to understand which side is the inside and the out side of the enclosure delimited by this ditch, something that the small survey does not allow to determine. Geophysics could help by providing a partial plan. And that should be the next step.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

0437 - Fraga da Pena: a cerimonial place.

Fraga da Pena. A small enclosure built against a granitic tor, in order to condition the access to a passage (truly megalithic) to the other side of the fraga, where one reaches an authentic altar over the deep valley and with a wide view over the landscape. And it constitutes a stage for those who are higher up the slope. A scenario that inspires sacredness and is conducive to ceremonial practices, which the archeological contexts involved also suggest.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

0436 - The "idol" of Salvada

This is the small marble "idol" that was collected at the surface of the 3rd millennium BC large ditched enclosure of Salvada (Beja), that is over 18 ha. An exogenous material at the site. It was published here.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

0435 - Dogs at Perdigões enclosure

Like other Chalcolithic enclosures, Perdigões has several contexts where dogs or parts of dogs were deposited. From burials, to the depositions of skulls, mandibles or parts of limbs, dogs represent a specific type of deposition of animal remains at the site. Recent isotopic studies carried on in a project funded by Portuguese Science Foundation (developed by Era Arqueologia, ICArEHB-UAlg and Hércules-UÉvora) show that humans and dogs had similar diets (with dogs in the same trophic level of humans), showing an already well-established proximity between them in social terms.

Biliographic references:

Valera, A. ; Žalaitė, I. ; Maurer, A.F.; Grimes, V.; Silva, A.M.; Ribeiro, S.; Santos, J.F.; Barrocas Dias, C. (2020) -  Addressing human mobility in Iberian large prehistoric ditched enclosures: the case of Perdigões (South Portugal). Journal of Archaeological Sciences Reports. 30: 102264.

Zalaite, I.; Maurer, A.F. ; Grimes, V. ; Silva, A.M. ; Ribeiro, S.; Santos J.F.; Dias, C.B.; Valera, A.C. (2018) - Diet and mobility of fauna from Late Neolithic–Chalcolithic site of Perdigões, Portugal. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, 19, p.674–685,

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

0434 - The ditched enclosure of Borralhos published

Magnetogram of Borralhos ditched enclosures. Published in Valera, Pererio 2020. You may download the publication here.

Monday, April 13, 2020

0433 - About social resistance strategies at Perdigões enclosure

This video talks a bit about the strategies of social resistance and identity management that we may detect in the funerary practices at Perdigões enclosure (in Portuguese).

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

0432 - Interpreting Borralhos

This is a proposal for the interpretation of the magnetogram of the ditched enclosure of Borralhos, South Portugal. From a paper in press at the journal Apontamentos de Arqueologia e Património, coming out by the end of the month.

Friday, March 27, 2020

0431 - Paper on mobility of humans and animals at Perdigões


To access the role of mobility in the social trajectory of Late Neolithic and Chalcolithic societies in the South of
Portugal (Southwest Iberia) a project was design to address the human, animal and object/raw material flow
present at Perdigoes enclosure. Perdigoes, located in the inner Alentejo region, has a long chronology from Late
Middle Neolithic to Late Chalcolithic/Early Bronze Age (middle 4th and 3rd millennium BC). It is a large complex
of ditched enclosures (with at least 16 ditches), presenting several funerary contexts, an abundance of faunal
remains and significant concentrations of exogenous materials in tombs. In this study human and animal mobility
are addressed through 87Sr/86Sr isotopic analysis. 69 individuals dating from Late Neolithic and Chalcolithic, with provenance from 9 different archaeological contexts inside the enclosures (tombs, ditches and pits) were analysed.
Human data are presented along with previously published strontium isotope ratios from fauna (n = 28; Canis
familiaris, Bos taurus, Sus sp., Ovis/Capra, Cervus elaphus, Equus sp.) from the same chronological range and several contextual provenances (Zalaite et al., 2018). Plant samples (n = 20) that cover local and peripheral lithologies were used for establishing local bioavailable strontium isotope ranges. To compare with the Perdigoes results, 9 human samples from 3 megalithic monuments (Cebolinhos 1, Comenda 1 and Vidigueiras 2) of the local settlement network were also analysed. The results show a significant scaled mobility of humans and animals in Perdigoes, a contextual variation between the funerary contexts within the site and a significant contrast with the individuals from local megalithic monuments. These results, combined with other archaeological data at the site, agree with the interpretation of the site as a large aggregation centre integrated in large scale interaction networks.

Monday, March 23, 2020

0430 - New web-page of Perdigões enclosure

In this new web-page there is a lot of information about Perdigões ditched enclosure: research organisation, team, projects, structures, archaeological materials, main excavated contexts, bibliography, isotopic and radiocarbon data bases, etc. Explore it here.

Monday, March 16, 2020

0428 - Copper metallurgy at Perdigões enclosure

Copper metallurgy was important at Perdigões. Raw material, crucibles, slag, hammers, artefacts and  waste occur in significant numbers. Here are some examples of the tools present at the site.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

0427 - Perdigões at an exhibition of Iberian prehistoric idols

An exhibition joining some of the most fantastic Neolithic and Chalcolithic idols was organised at the MARQ (Archaeological Museum of Alicante, Spain). The ditched enclosure of Perdigões is represented with several items and a paper on the the role of these human figurines at the site was published in the catalogue of the exhibition. This is the image of the Spanish version. But an English one is in press.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

0426 - Comparative Archaeology

I thank to Gábor Szilagyi for bring to my attention these fantastic African sinuous enclosures, that present some similarities with the Prehistoric ones of the Guadiana basin. It is possible that there is here food for a project in comparative Archaeology.

The African ones.

Some of the Portuguese ones.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

0425 - "Tombs" for pots.

In the centre of Perdigões ditched enclosure there are contexts of depositions of human cremated remains dated from the middle of the 3rd millennium with no parallel in Iberia. Those remains were transported in large pots and deposited in pits. Some of the pots were broken in situ inside the pits with the humans remains. For others, small pits were opened for receiving the broken shards of these pots. That is the case of Pit 91, that received part of a big pot and a pile of shards of another bigger one. The shards were deposited in a pile and slide down, as their removing sequence shows. In the involving sediments some few human burned bones and a burned arrow head were collected (they were probably attached to the pot's walls).
This is not a funerary pit, but a pit related to the ritual (involving the braking of the transportation pots) performed in that area regarding the human cremated remains.

The big pot:

Removing the shards in their stratigraphic sequence:

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

0424 - "Sun eyes"

This is one more schematic anthropomorphic figurine from the context of depositions of human cremated remains in the central area of Perdigões ditched enclosures. This one, from 2019 campaign of excavations, just missed the  exhibition of Iberian Prehistoric Idols that recently opened in Alicante, where some of its companions from the same context are present.

Friday, February 7, 2020

0423 - Experimental archaeology at Perdigões

Last campaign at Perdigões we initiated a project to value the effort involved in the digging of ditches at the site. The goal is to estimate, in more solid grounds, the amount of work involved in opening ditches, namely the relation between time / number of workers / excavated volume. We aim to have a better understanding of the social, logistic and economic impact of the big public enterprises that took place at Perdigões.
For this, the Era project had the collaboration of Pedro Cura, who built the tools according to what we know about the tools used in Prehistoric mining, and excavate a part of the geologic in Perdigões, controlling time, volume and the use of different tools. We also aim to see the effect of the work in the tools, aiming to contribute to the identification of archaeological artifacts that might have been used in these tasks.
This was just a first approach that we want to develop in the context of the Perdigões Research Project developed by Era Arqueologia.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

0431 - Permanence through periodicity and repetition

The crazy overlaps in the central area of Perdigões ditched enclosures during all the 3rd millennium BC (and between the timber constructions and the stone cairn there were 3 pits with the deposition of human cremated remains and a depositions of human cremated and none cremated remains in open air - more than 260 MNI in total).

Sunday, December 22, 2019

0430 - Completing the magnetogram of Monte da Contenda ditched enclosure

In the context of a collaboration between the NIA-ERA project on ditched enclosures and the University of Kiel, the geophysics of Monte da Contenda enclosure was completed and published here. Another highly complex site with many enclosures, some of them using the stream as a border and having more than 400m long. And in the centre, another one of those patterned wavy enclosures, so typical of the Guadiana basin. This project of NIA-ERA has been giving a major contribution to change our knowledge about the Prehistoric landscape of Alentejo in empirical and theoretical terms. And to save some of these sites (or the knowledge about them) from the destruction in process due to intensive agriculture with the connivance (by absence and impotency) of the Portuguese State. 

Monday, December 16, 2019

0429 - Publication on intentional fragmentation and depositions

This book brings the conferences presented in Lisbon 2017 about fragmentation and depositions in Pre and Proto Historic Portugal. It has some information and debate about the presence of human remains inside the ditches of Perdigões and depositions in other contexts of ditched and walled enclosures.

To be download here.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

0428 - One year of Neolithic Perdigões

It was precisely one year ago that the book on the Neolithic phases of Perdigões enclosures was published online. During this year it was downloaded for almost a thousand times (980 to be precise). It deals with the emergence of the site and its first 500 years of development, between 3400-2900 BC.
To be downloaded here.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

0427 - Borralhos ditched enclosure

Borralhos ditched enclosure was detected in Google satellite images in the context of the research developed by NIA-ERA (the research unit of ERA Arqueologia SA) regarding the prehistoric ditched enclosures in South Portugal. In that same research context geophysics was done. The Nia-Era team, with Taigo do Pereiro, António Valera and Ana Catarina Basílio, did the geophysics of the site with a fantastic result. The magnetogram was first published here and was also presented at the last Iberian Southwest Archaeology  Meeting (held in Zafra, 2018). Its detailed description and archaeological interpretation will be published soon. But this is one more fantastic image of a fantastic enclosure, resulting from personal and institutional commitments that, with a scientific agenda, are simultaneously trying to save this kind of  heritage that is threatened by the savage agricultural practices that are transforming (razing?) Alentejo landscapes.
There is some irony here. Agriculture was related to their origins and agriculture is now related to their destruction. Hopefully, this one will be saved. But apart from that, the image is already material for research, being used by the team to question some specifics of the Prehistoric ditched enclosures of the Guadiana basin in coming talks and publications..

Part of the magnetogram of Borralhos, done by the NIA-Era team.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

0426 - Publication: Cardim 6 - a tholos from the enclosure of Porto Torrão

The study of Cardim 6, a tholos belonging to the complex of ditched enclosures of Porto Torrão (Ferreira do Alentejo, Beja) is published and available for free download here.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

0425 - Portuguese enclosures in meeting

A meeting to commemorate the classification of Perdigões enclosure as National Monument will be held at Carmo Museum in Lisbon next November 23. Here is the program.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

0424 - The (new) twilight of enclosures

A couple of years ago I wrote a paper about the twilight of prehistoric enclosures (see here). It was about the end of enclosures in the late 3rd millennium BC. We are again in the 3rd millennium, now AC, and the enclosures (as heritage) are vanishing again, now at the hands of intensive agriculture. Three more were recently affected or destroyed: Nobre, Folha do Ouro and the large complex of enclosures of Herdade da Corte. 

Folha do Ouro (Serpa)

Herdade da Corte (Serpa)

Nobre 2 (Beja)

The administration continues to do almost nothing, and the silence is general. We are at un elections campaign, but nobody brings up the issue of the systematic destruction of archaeological heritage in Alentejo region. We are only concerned with the destruction of our dreams for the future and seems there is no room for a concern with historical memories. It would be an irony if it wasn’t simply stupidity. As if we could dream without a memory.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

0423 - Back to Santa Vitória enclosure

Entering the inner ditched enclosure of Santa Vitória. Flight done in the end of the last campaign (2018) by Era Arqueologia. 

Next Monday the Era Arqueologia team will be back to the second campaign of the new research project in Santa Vitória (see project goals here), directed by A.C. Valera and A.C. Basílio. The project is developed by Era Aqueologia, with the logistic support of the Municipality of Campo Maior and the institutional collaboration of Direcção Regional de Cultura do Alentejo.

Monday, August 19, 2019

0422 - A Continental Beaker (influence) in Perdigões?

From the later contexts in the central area of the enclosures, this beaker with a high profile and an unseen decoration (circular jagged impressions, almost as stamps) presents a stylistic proximity to some continental beakers, namely in the shape.

Similar high profiles are not common in Iberia, but some are known, also with unused decorations in the walled enclosure of Fraga da Pena (Beira Alta, Central Portugal) with a similar chronology (end of the 3rd millennium BC).

Mobility comes to mind.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

0421 - A timber circle in the centre of Perdigões enclosure

Perdigões central enclosure (timber circle). Unique in Iberia, this structure recently identified reinforces the importance of this National Monument that has been in research by Era Arqueologia for the last 20 years.

Friday, June 21, 2019

0420 - New image of ditches at Porto Torrão

The overlapping of two different images allowed the identification of several sections of ditches in the large archaeological complex of Porto Torrão (Ferreira do Alentejo, Beja). Some are the continuation of ditches already surveyed (dotted lines), but others correspond to new ditches that define central enclosures, where at least one gate is visible.

This image was published in the book dedicated to the tholoi tomb of Cardim 6, available for download here.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

0417 - New campaign at Perdigões enclosure

Is now in course the 2019 campaign of excavations at Perdigões enclosures. You may follow the news here.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

0416 - Talk about the dramatic situation of Portuguese Ditched Enclosures

Next week, in Serpa (Alentejo, South Portugal), I will be speaking about the actual situation of Portuguese Ditched Enclosure in the region, where these sites have their major concentration and reach the higher monumentality in Portugal.
It is an event integrated in the commemoration of the  International day of Monuments and Sites, that, unfortunately, we have to use to show what we don't do and should be doing regarding heritage preservation.
I will be talking about the drama that Prehistoric ditched enclosures are facing. They represented the social trajectory of Neolithic communities until the end of the 3rd millennium BC, when this path collapsed and ditched enclosures with it. They didn't do well with the transition from the 3rd to the 2nd millennium BC.
Well, again, they are not doing well with another millennium transition, now from the 2nd to the 3rd millennium AC. In Alentejo, they were born with agriculture (not out of agriculture, as some argue), and their archaeological remains are now being destroyed by it.
I will try to show their historical, cultural and social value, and show that are several that still can be saved from the cultural, social, environmental and heritage disaster that is happening in Alentejo, sponsored by the Portuguese Government.

Monday, March 18, 2019

0415 - New image on Folha do Ouro ditched enclosure

This new areal image of Folha do Ouro enclosure, located in Serpa municipality, Alentejo, South Portugal, shows a magnificent enclosure. This enclosure was detected in google earth and published by me and Tiago do Pereiro in 2013. It has now a clearer image, that shows that it is also a sinuous ditched enclosure, similar to Xancra, Outeiro Alto 2, Santa Vitória and the recently submitted to geophysics Borralhos. They all show this pattern of regular sinuous ditched that are a characteristic of the design of the Guadiana Basin ditched enclosures.

Friday, February 1, 2019

0414 - Human bones in ditches

It has just been published a paper about the deposition of human remains in ditches during Recent Prehistory in South Portugal, centered in the case of Perdigões, but integrating it in the Iberian context.
It is a chapter of the book Fragmentation and Depositions in Pre and Proto-Historic Portugal that can be download here:

Thursday, January 10, 2019

0413 - Perdigões enclosure is a National Monument

Perdigões  is the first prehistoric ditched enclosure to be classified as a National Monument in Portugal. After 21 years of continuous research, the site and the knowledge that has been produced about it, have finally received the recognition of the Portuguese state. In a period when many prehistoric ditched enclosures are being affected by agriculture in Alentejo region, this is a light.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

0412 - Perdigões publication

It was published the volume 1 of the series of monographs of Perdigões ditched enclosure. It reports only to the Neolithic phase of the site. It can be download here.

Friday, December 28, 2018

0411 - New image of the new affected one

The enclosure of Nobre 2 was discovered in Google Earth and published by me and Tiago do Pereiro in 2013 (Valera, Pereiro, 2013). It was recently affected by agriculture, as reported in the previous post. Here is a new aerial image of the enclosure (from EDIA), where the ditches are must more clear and we can perceive an alignment of three gates orientated at 140º. It might be  very similar to Xancra and to the recently prospected Borralhos.
 It is important to do, at least, some geophysics there before the plantation.

Valera, A.C., Pereiro, T. do (2013), “Novos recintos de fossos no sul de Portugal: o Google Earth como ferramenta de prospecção sistemática”, Arqueologia em Portugal 150 anos, Actas do I congresso da Associação dos Arqueólogos Portugueses, Lisboa, AAP, p.345-350.

Friday, December 21, 2018

0410 - Another enclosure affected by agriculture

It doesn't stop and just gets worth. In Alentejo, archaeological sites continue to be affected by the agricultural changes, and if in some cases there is preliminary archaeological work, in many other situation sites are affected or destroyed and nothing or very little happens.

This is another situation of a Chalcolithic ditched enclosure, with at least three concentric ditches, detected in Google Earth and published and reported to the Municipal Plan, that was recently affected by the preparation of the field for another plantation of intensive exploitation (almonds or olive trees).

Heritage is being destroyed at an impressive rhythm in Alentejo. 


Thursday, November 22, 2018

0408 - Perdigões web musuem blog

Perdigões ditched enclosure has now a new blog, called Perdigões Museum, to display online to the general public some of the more exquisite archaeological findings in the site.

You may find it here.