Monday, November 12, 2012

0122 - A visit to Santa Vitória

In the context of the International Meeting “Prehistoric enclosures and funerary practices”, the ditched enclosure of Santa Vitória was visited by three dozens of participants. Being aware of the visit, the Delegação Regional de Cultura of Alentejo and the Campo Maior municipality developed efforts to have the site presentable: it was cleaned and the informative placards renewed. A good example of a joined effort of private and public initiatives to display, at an international level, this important ditched enclosure.

It is, though, a pity that, after all this time and in face of the new approaches and critiques, the discourse expressed by the informative placards stays the same. Santa Vitória did not have an internal bank. There is no evidence of it. Not inside the ditches, that have structured deposits of fauna, pottery and stone structures, and not anywhere else. Also the pits of two meters diameter by two metres deep, full of deposits with fauna and archaeological material, hardly can continue to be assumed as huts. This discourse was elaborated almost 30 years ago. Santa Vitória was the first ditched enclosures to be detected and excavated in Portugal, in the context of the “battle” between diffusion and indigenous approaches to walled enclosures. Born in a research context isolated from the European phenomena of ditched enclosures (in its variety) Santa Vitória had to be a fortified settlement.

But today, in face of new theoretical approaches and new empirical evidence, that interpretation no longer stands. And the image of twenty persons from different proveniences inside the inner enclosure is absolutely suggestive of the social role of this small enclosure.

Information should be renewed in the placards, not just the material support of it. And the data that resulted from the excavations, already aged of thirty years, should be published, so interpretations could be argued. Finally, excavations should come back. Archaeological excavations I mean, because the rain waters are excavating bit by bit the unprotected parts of the internal ditched that were not excavated during the eighties of the last century. And not just to save what is being destroyed by nature, but also to provide empirical data obtained with different questions in mind (which imply different methods and new analysis).

 I believe that Santa Vitória could yet be an important site in the Portuguese Recent Prehistory of enclosures, overcoming the status of irrelevance that results from its abandonment by research.

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