Wednesday, June 8, 2011

0024 - Monte da Ponte walled and ditched enclosures

Geophysical image and topographical profile of Monte da Ponte (after Kalb & Hock, 1997)

Location: Évora municipality, Évora district, Alentejo, South Portugal)
Chronology: Chalcolithic
Bibliographic references: Kalb & Hock, 1997.

Monte da Ponte is one of the two chalcolithic enclosures known in Portugal that combine walled and ditched enclosures (the other is Salgada). This can be observed in the geophysical prospection image (obtained by Helmut Becker). In a small hill there are a set of several walled enclosures, some of them with bastions. In the beginning of the plain, a double circular ditched enclose the hill and its walls.

This circumstance has been used to argue in favour of a direct relationship between walled and ditched enclosures (an issue I’ll come back latter), but it is premature to assume that connection just based on a geophysical image. Facing the actual chronologies available for ditched enclosures in South Portugal, that go back to Late Neolithic (2nd half of the 4th millennium BC), we cannot assume a priori that ditches and walls are contemporaneous at Monte da Ponte. Furthermore, several occupations of a same site, separated by abandonment phases, don´t imply continuity of function and meaning, as can be seen and argued for quite a few other sites.

So, just like a lot of other complex and enduring enclosures (like Perdigões, for instance), we must put temporality in the different structures and establish their context before assume certain conclusions.


  1. Hi Antonio,
    also Monte da Ponte had burnt wood-earth walls like most of the other chalcolithic sites in Portugal - there is even an English publication available:

    Becker, H., 2001.
    Ultra high resolution caesium magnetometry at Monte da Ponte, Concelho Evora,
    Portugal 1994-1996. Monuments and Sites, 6, 43-46.

    I am not happy about the division into "ditched enclosures" and "walled enclosures" - much better would be the classification into wood-henges and stone-henges - most of the ditched sites include wooden walls or palisades - also Xancra had burnt wooden walls - if you look carefully to the magnetogram you even can see single posts ! - between the outer huge ditches at Perdigoes we have a burnt wood-earth wall - so also Perdigoes would be a "walled enclosure" - enough for to night., Helmut

  2. Well Helmut, things are little more complicated than that. But I will send you some papers in press so you can have a wider notion of the problems we are facing with ditched enclosures in South Portugal. Things here are not exactly the same as in central Europe. But you are ritgh in one thing. There is a lot of built with wood that it was not recognized by Iberian archaeology. And your work is particular important in that matter.