Wednesday, February 27, 2013

0161 – Fraga with snow

Today it will snow in Beira Alta above 400m of altitude. Fraga da Pena, located at 750m, will be like this.

4000 years ago it would have been the same. But inside no hut evidences were recorded; nothing that suggested that people were living there. On the contrary, the materials present (and the ones that were missing) suggested a ceremonial place. The ambiance of the granitic tor, the painting on it, the open passage through it and the natural amphitheatre in the slope making the enclosure look like a stage, all reinforce this image. And so does the snow.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

0160 – Bastions, towers, huts: perceptions of walled enclosures structures

It is a fact that a significant number of walled and ditched enclosures have plans that tend to circularity and that angles are rare. Well, if this statement is a rule for ditched enclosures, for walled ones it has some exceptions.

In fact, there are some walled enclosures that present designs made by strait sections of walls that connect forming open angles, where we usually find circular constructions that in Portuguese archaeological literature are immediately interpreted as bastions or towers. 

One of the classic sites is Pedra do Ouro (Lisbon district) walled enclosure. But more recently, walled enclosures with a polygonal tendency have been recorded in Alentejo, namely Porto das Carretas in Mourão municipality and São Pedro in Redondo Municipality, following designs also suggested in some sites of south Spain, like Cerro de los Vientos de La Zarcita or Campos.

 Plans of São Pedro (Mataloto, 2010) and Porto das Carretas (Silva e Soares, 2002). Click to enlarge.

This rupture with circularity is also seen in some French walled enclosures, like Boussargues. But here some new perspectives were developed that I think it would be interesting for Iberian archaeologist to consider and some Spanish colleagues have done just so (inclusively for the well known forts of Los Millares). At Boussargues, the round structures at the angles of the walls were taken as previous constructions. It was later, in a second phase of construction, that they were united by sections of strait walls (Colomer, et al. 1990), like dots united by lines in a paper. In this case, the strait design of the walls seems to be induced by the previous circular structures (that are not bastions or towers, but households), generating a more polygonal shape. This is a quite different process from building an enclosure that was planned ahead and it raises a lot of questions about the way some archaeological structures have been interpreted in Iberia.  

Boussargues (Calomer, et al, 1990 adapted)

If we look to the published plans of Porto das Carretas and São Pedro we can see that in several situations the areas of the angles and the connections to the so called bastions or towers are quite destroyed. Sometimes stratigraphic relations between the structures cannot be observed and interpretation is relying on presumptions.

Well, it seems that examples like Boussargues were not taken in consideration in the interpretation of similar Portuguese enclosures. But I think it would be useful to approach the records of this sites (Porto das Carretas and São Pedro are no longer physically available for research, as we all know, so we only rely on the records of the excavations) with this perspective and question them free from some prejudices.

Bibliographic References:

Colomer, A. , Coularou, J. e Gutherz, X. (1990), “Boussargues (Argelliers, Hérault). Un habitat ceituré chalcolitique : les fouilles du secteur oust.”, Documents d’Archéologie Française, 24, Paris.

Mataloto, Rui (2010), “O 3º/4º milénio a.C. no povoado de São Pedro (Redondo, Alentejo Central): fortificação e povoamento na planície centro alentejana“, (GONÇALVES, V. e SOUSA, A.C., Eds), Transformação e mudança no centro e sul de Portugal: o 4º e o 3º milénios a.n.e., Cascais, CMC, p.263-295.

Silva, C.T. e Soares, J. (2002), "Porto das Carretas. Um povoado fortificado do vale do Guadiana", Almadan, 2ª Série, 11, p.176-180.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

0159 – Monte Novo dos Albardeiros walled enclosure

Location: Reguengos de Monsaraz municipality, Évora district, Alentejo, South Portugal)
Chronology: Late Neolithic (?), Chalcolithic, Bronze Age
Bibliographic References: Gonçalves, 1988/89; Gonçalves  & Alfarroba, 2010

Image of the wall and associated tower (after Gonçalves & Alfarroba, 2010)

Located in a small hill over the Álamo stream, Monte Novo dos Albardeiros site had a first occupation probably dating from Late Neolithic. Then, in the first half of the 3rd millennium BC a walled enclosure was built. In the excavations a thick wall and a tower were detected, together with some votive depositions and metallurgical activities.

Plan of the wall and associated tower (after Gonçalves & Alfarroba, 2010)

After the ruins of the wall another construction was erected already in the 2nd half of the millennia, interpreted as a possible tholoi tomb. When this monument was in ruin, a Bronze Age funerary deposition was recorded.

The site is near Perdigões complex of enclosures and participates of the same general landscape and territorial occupation. Inclusively, the same long chronology suggested for this site is now attested at Perdigões. The relation between this two kind of sites, in this local area or at a regional scale, is one of the interesting problems of the Prehistory of the 3rd millennium South Portugal.To discuss this issue I was invited by the students of Évora University for a talk next month.

Monday, February 18, 2013

0158 – Creating a legend to communicate heritage

Here is the publication of a legend, a recent one, about an archaeological site: the walled enclosure of Fraga da Pena. The idea was explained here, in a previous post 1,5 years ago. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

0157 - Sinuous ditches

A paper of mine, analyzing and debating the designs of sinuous ditches in Portugal, is available here:

            The number of known ditched enclosures in South Portugal has been increasing in the last years, being almost thirty now. Between them, several present a peculiar design that has been designated by “sinuous ditches”. This peculiar configuration didn’t raise the necessary attention to its interpretation, as a result of a axiomatic functional attribution that doesn’t question the ideological foundations of architecture.
            In this paper, I will present the inventory of the sites with this design, which seems to concentrate in the middle Guadiana Basin. A contextual characterization will be done to support a critical analysis of the traditional interpretation and provide the argumentation for an alternative discourse, more related to a “cosmological architecture”.     

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

0156 – “Decorated” Gate at Castro de Santiago

At Castro de Santiago (Valera, 1997, 2007) two walled enclosures were built using pre existent granitic rocks on a hill top.

Each enclosure had a gate, built with lateral vertical granitic slabs and a horizontal threshold in the middle of the entrance. In the gate of the inner enclosure, the threshold slab presents a sequence of nine carved cup marks. Five of them form a circle, three make an curve over the circle and one is isolated.

Quite frequent in the south, these engraving are less common in the region of central Portugal hinterland. They cover a wide chronology and there are several interpretative proposals for their meaning. They are highly speculative, but in general they assume a symbolic role for these cup marks. In the present case, their location in a gate doorstep is particularly relevant, since gates always tend to have a symbolic status related to its role of connecting different significant spaces, of transition between the inside and the outside and their specific meanings. Would these marks helped to create a change of state in who passed through that gate? Would they protect the gate? Would they give some sort of warning? Would they represent something real (for instance a constellation of stars) or just an idea or superstition? And why were they carved in the inner gate and not in the outside one (that is quite similar and also have a doorstep slab)? And why in this specific enclosure? 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

0155 – Three more confirmed

Two possible ditched enclosures detected earlier in Google Earth were confirmed in the field, together with a recent find from last week (also on satellite image). The first two are from Serpa municipality and the third from Beja, just 3,3 kilometers away from Monte das Cabeceiras 2 (which is 3,5 from Salvada).

The new site in Beja municipality: grid stones and Chalcolithic pottery were visible at the surface.

These new enclosures present a similar topographic location, on the top of smooth hills with a great visibility over the landscape, almost in all directions. But at least two of them do not have its centre in the highest point of the hill, but slightly in the beginning of one of the slopes.

Topographical location of the new site.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

0154 – Confirming the ditches at Mte. das Cabeceiras 2

We have identified several tens of new ditched enclosures through Google Earth in the last few months. Last Monday more three were recorded in Beja area. Of course, now conformation on the ground is needed. But one of the major discoveries of a couple of weeks ago, Monte das Cabeceiras 2, is crossed by a water supply system and preliminary survey is being done. There, it was possible to confirm the presence of the ditches, showing that the areal image interpretation was correct, even in an area where the ditches lines here faint. They were where they supposed to be. These are important results to “develop the “eye” for this kind of prospection.    

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

0153 - Fareleira 3 ditched enclosure

By Margarida Figueiredo

Location: Vidigueira municipality, Beja district, Alentejo, South Portugal)
(X=39131.115; Y=128230.640; Z=151.098)
Chronology: Late Neolithic
Bibliographic references: still unpublished

In the context of rescue archaeology related to the Edia´s water supply infrastructures it was discovered and surveyed the ditched enclosure of Fareleira 3, implanted in the Southeast edge of a broad plane surrounded by water, good soils and privileged view.

The archaeological context included a wide range of negative structures, excavated in the soft local bed rock consistent with an habitation context: with a great variety of pits and one shack basis, all with circular shapes, and what it appears to be a delimitation ditch, or more correctly 4 segments/modules of the same ditch in clear association with different kinds of post holes.

256- general view of the ditches

Spread over a visible area of around 0,5ha these structures were divided into two different areas and acted like two different and well assumed spaces: the first one delimited by the ditch, with a major concentration of pits and post holes. The second one, with a much more dispersed pattern, and exclusively formed by pits, concentrated in the opposite limit of the site. The very distinctive process of the different fillings in these structures amongst the two groups was itself very meaningful. It showed a much more complex filling, with constant re-cuttings of the preceding layers and with more ample sequence of deposits, joined with a generous quantity of material: ceramic, lithic, faunal remains and large depositions of stones; over the singled filing (very similar to the geologic cut-off during the opening of the pits), with none or very few elements allowing for reasonable dating.  

The profusion of pottery, especially in the interior of those ditches, is essential when framing this enclosure in the last quarter of the IV millennium, with a consistency inherent to all layers. This means that in spite of the different phases of occupation and final abandon, the time line was very short, with no serious alterations in what we may call the way of living.

Although no general plan is available we have almost 40 meter of a circular alignment of 4 short ditches merged with 4 post-holes. These ditches are different in depth, filling and width. The shorter ones (South limit) – [2513], [2402] e [2404] – presuppose a “boomerang shape plan” with similar sizes (5.50m long per 1.80m wide). While the isolated structure on the North limit – [2304] – longer and thinner than the rest (12.5m long per 1m wide) is more sinuously waved. All of them are “U” shaped structures with straight walls and depths that go from 0.46 to 1.30 meters.

218- Surveys 21, 23, 24 & 25

It looks like being the work of two different contractors: the first three interrelated segments on the south end represent a one stage building process with the excavation of the two contiguous segments overlapped by a third one working has a clinch between them, assisted by a multiple post-hole structure. The isolated ditch has nothing to do with this complex building system, but maybe that is because it corresponds to an in-between gate module.

 210- [2508] [2509] [2513]

192- [2402] [2404] [2406]

There were diagnosed two empty spaces in this line of ditches, which can be looked at from two perspectives: either they represent entrances or they indicate an unfinished work. In spite of our belief in a building staged process, it is more likely that those ditches represent deliberate gates. Both are located in the eastern side of the enclosure, a common feature to most of the enclosures spread all over the Alentejo. This fact has been studied and interpreted as a cosmological constraint, the symbolic facing to the winter solstice (Valera e Beckett, 2011).

262 - View of the works.

All these descriptions look familiar, but what do they actually tell us when it comes to their functionality and meanings? We hope that with a thorough study of the materials and a broader view of the site we can get some more answers and associate them with some other similar negative structures.

Margarida Figueiredo

Monday, February 4, 2013

0152 – A new one similar to Xancra?

It certainly looks so. This is the latest new ditched enclosure and was once more detected in Google Earth (by Tiago), in the context of our project of systematic quest for these kind of sites in Alentejo region.

Like Xancra, this new site seems to have well patterned sinuous ditches, probably three concentric ones. It was named Monte da Contenda and is just 4,5 km from Santa Vitória, another sinuous patterned ditched enclosure quite similar to Xancra. The narrow spatial proximity of some ditched enclosures starts to be an important issue for interpretation. Obtaining absolute chronologies is becoming more and more urgent to determine where these sites lived at the same time or not. Either situation is of most interest for comprehending the ditched enclosures phenomena.    

Friday, February 1, 2013

0151 – Excavations at Monte das Cabeceiras 2

They started last Wednesday. The site is going to be crossed by a water supply infrastructure and a survey of the affected area is being undertaken (by Omniknos Company). After some previous diagnosis surveys, the top ploughed soil is being removed and the surface of the preserved contexts is being cleaned. Lots of negative structure started to appear, namely what seems to be a sinuous ditch. But based um the aerial image, several more are expected to appear next week.