Sunday, April 23, 2017

0368 - Salvada in the press

The impact in the large enclosure of Salvada, that was discussed here some posts ago, is in the front page of a national paper and has a significant report inside. As it happens in many other things in life, only when some bad happens things get to the front page. That is the criteria of the media, maybe because that is the criteria of the majority of the public.

Nevertheless, it is an important report for the Portuguese Prehistoric Enclosures, for they dramatically need this public exposure to be known, protected and start to be socially active as the important heritage and economic and cultural resource they are.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

0367 - In fact, they are TWO

Just side by side. A closer look, with some colour control, shows another smaller enclosure just next to the bigger one (that show 4 and not just 3 diches). This is another important site to deal with the problem of the temporalities of enclosures and their periodic rhythms.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

0366 - A new one: number 75

A new ditched enclosure (Monte de Corte Ribas 5) was identified in the context of a Master thesis (Silva, 2015). It presents at list 3 concentric ditches. It is of Chalcolithic chronology. It is number 75 in my inventory.


Silva, C. (2015), O povoado do Monte das Cabeceiras 2. O estudo dos interfaces negativos e análise da componente artefactual das Fossas 13, 16 e 54. Tomar.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

0365 - Dramatic and continued

Salvada. 2/3 afected by a deep ploughing.

The partial destruction of prehistoric enclosures in Portugual continues. The large enclosure of Salvada (around 18 ha) is the later victim. In Alentejo region, after the construction of the large dam of Alqueva, a water supply network is being built. Many archaeological sites have been identified in the context of the assessment programs of that project that dramatically changed the knowledge about the Prehistory of inner Alentejo.

But a new problem emerged. One that has not an adequate response from the responsible institutions. The supply of water is generating a profound change in the agriculture in Alentejo. The region is being invaded by vineyards and especially by olive tries fields that have a huge impact in the soil, because the ploughing is deep and very destructive.  

But if the water supply channels, or highways, or high voltage powerlines, have to do impact assessment studies (and assume mitigating measures for heritage), these agricultural transformations have not. And the municipality plans for territorial management (PDM) are not being attended. The result is obvious. Heritage is being destroyed at an increasing rhythm, and prehistoric enclosures are one of the main victims.

An example of the absurd ways of a “law state” (Estado de Direito) or of the hypocrisy of the modern times. Meanwhile, sites after sites are being destroyed. Small cerebral veins shutting down until the final collapse of memory.  

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

0364 - They keep appearing.

At Perdigões enclosure we are now studying the several funerary structures in the context of the project “Mobility and Interaction in South Portugal RecentPrehistory: the role of aggregation centers”. One of the structures is Pit 40, where cremated human remains were deposited. There are thousands of small fragments of burned bones that are being studied in anthropological terms, and among them fragments of ivory items, also burned, keep appearing.
Several represent parts of anthropomorphic figurines like the ones from the same general context already studied and published (Valera & Evangelista, 2014).
Here is the head of one that lost its face. It presents the hair, the ears and even the final traces of the facial tattoos.

A head like the best preserved one, only smaller.

Number of these figurines is now higher than what it was published and will probably grow as the study of the bone fragments progress. The figurines, like the human bodies, are all in small fragments and burned. Would have this analogy been intentional?

On the contrary, the exception above, when deposited, was intentionally completed in a broken leg with a burned white bone (see publication). Body segmentation and body integrity, parts and wholes. Or windows to the Neolithic mind. Something to be discussed in a coming workshop in Lisbon.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

0363 - Astronomic orientation of gates: also documented in Spain

Orientation of NE gate at Camino de las Yeseras (After Liesau 2013-2104).

The cosmological and astronomic bond of ditched enclosures architectures in Iberia was first addressed in Portugal (Valera 2008; Valera, Becker 2011, Valera 2013). In the context of that research, it was noted that several ditched enclosures present topographical locations towards East and that several of them have their gates aligned with the solstices and/or equinoxes at sunrise and/or sunset. Those are the cases of Perdigões, Santa Vitória, Outeiro Alto 2, Xancra or Bela Vista 5 (see issues in the lateral bar).

These perspectives and analysis have now also been developed for a ditched enclosure in Central Iberia. At Camino de las Yeseras a NE gate seems to be orientated to the Summer solstice at sunrise, and the sections of the ditches that define that entrance show evidences of intentional depositions interpreted as foundation rituals (Liesau et al., 2013-2014).

Something that will become more frequent, once we have access to more complete plans of enclosures and have in mind that architecture tends to be holistic
Bibliographic Referece:

Liesau, C.; Vega, J., Daza, A.,  Rios, P., Menduiña, R., Blasco, C. (2013-2014), Manifestaciones simbólicas en el acceso Noreste del Recinto 4 de Foso en Camino de las Yeseras (San Fernando de Henares, Madrid), SALDVIE, 13-14: 53-69. 

Valera, A.C., (2008), “Mapeando o Cosmos. Uma abordagem cognitiva aos recintos da Pré-História Recente”, Era Arqueologia, 8, Lisboa, p.112-127.

Valera, A.C. e Becker, H. (2011), “Cosmologia e recintos de fossos da Pré-História Recente: resultados da prospecção geofísica em Xancra (Cuba, Beja)”, Apontamentos de Arqueologia e Património, 7, Lisboa, NIA-ERA Arqueologia, p.23-32

Valera, António Carlos (2013), “Breve apontamento sobre a dimensão cosmogónica dos recintos de fossos da Pré-História Recente no Interior Alentejano”, Cadernos do Endovélico, Nº1, Colibri/CMA, p.51-63

Friday, February 24, 2017

0362 - Ditch of Carrascal 2 presentation

Ditches do not always enclose. At May 15th it will be presented the study of a ditch that was used as an atrium to access several funerary hypogea and was itself used for secondary depositions of human remains, some cremated and some don’t. It is dated from the Chalcolithic and is located next to the large complex of enclosures of Porto Torrão (South Portugal).

Friday, February 10, 2017

0361 - A new possible ditched site in Lisbon

In excavation by ERA Arqueologia, there is a new prehistoric site in the center of Lisbon, possibly Neolithic, that shows a small irregular ditch, very similar to the ones excavated in the Neolithic site of Senhora da Alegria (Combra, central Portugal).

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Saturday, January 14, 2017

0359 - Addressing interaction at Perdigões – the shells (1).

Patella candei (Lapa Mansa) proveniente do Sepulcro 1 dos Perdigões

The Portuguese large Prehistoric enclosures present many differences regarding the smaller ones: apart from size, they have longer and more complex biographies, evidences of a multitude of social practices (including manipulation of human and animal remains and funerary practices) and show that they were engaged in large interregional networks of circulation of people, animals and exotic goods.

Perdigões is a good example of this large scale interaction developing from the second half of the 4th millennium BC and increasing during the 3rd. A paper addressing the exogenous at Perdigoes is about to get published, but another is being written specifically about one item: the shells. A significant number are shells from salty water molluscs, with probable provenance in the coast of Alentejo and the estuaries of the Tagus and Sado rivers.

Though, this shell of Patella candei, with 8,4x6,7cm, is not from those areas. This species is from warmer waters of Madeira and Canarias islands and the coast of Magreb. Like the ivory already analysed, its origin is probably in Northwest of Africa, documenting that at Perdigões enclosure exogenous items of extra peninsular origin were arrinving.

PS – Last week we just found out that there is also Amber at Perdigões, reinforcing this picture.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

0357 - Winter solstice at Perdigões enclosure

Today, for several reasons, was a special day for Perdigões.
One of them was the celebration of winter solstice (also tomorrow). So, we were there this morning, with 2o of temperature, watching the sunrise just in front of Gate 2 (same happened in the Summer solstice in front of Gate 1 – not so cold though), confirming the gate orientations to the solstices.
First, we put a long stick to mark the entrance. And as you can see, in picture one the arrow signals the post just in front of the Sun, and in picture two a “phantom sun” is just hitting the post.

A text that I wrote for an exibition about Perdigões (don’t feel like translating it):

“A visão do mundo está em tudo. Nas práticas, nos objectos, nas arquitecturas.
O Sol pauta as estações do ano, os ciclos agrícolas e da vida animal. Pauta o tempo cíclico do eterno retorno, expresso pela circularidade. Gera a luz e a escuridão, metáforas de vida e morte.

E a arquitectura, expressando-o, arredonda-se e orienta-se. A paisagem constrói-se de forma a sugeri-lo. Os objectos representam-no.”   

Thursday, October 27, 2016

0356 - New master thesis on Perdigões enclosure

In October 18th, a new master thesis on Perdigões enclosures was presented:

“Exploring Chalcolithic diet and mobility of humans and animals from Perdigões site”, by Indre Zalaite.

It was presented at University of Évora, in ARCHMAT program (ERASMUS MUNDUS MASTER IN ARCHaeological MATerials Science) and was also part of the project on mobility at Perdigões enclosures (see here) approved and financed by the Portuguese Science Foundation.

It is a first output of that project, which results will soon be published, product of the collaboration of the three institutions involved in the project integrated in the Global Program of Archaeological Research of Perdigões: ERA Arqueologia, Hércules Laboratory – Uévora and ICArEHB-UAlg. Center.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

0355 - My contribution to Enclosing Worlds meeting

"Enclosing Worlds. Comparative approaches to enclosure phenomena", a international meeting held at Reguengos de Monsaraz (12-14 October 2016) has just finished. My personal evaluation will be published, by invitation of  the editor, in next number of Almadan journal.

Until then, here it is the link to the draft text that I used in my presentation, "Prehistoric enclosures of Southwest Iberia: tangible expressions of Neolithic immateriality":

Friday, September 30, 2016

0354 - Meeting Enclosing Worlds

In 12 days will start the international meeting Enclosing Worlds, that will take place in Reguengos de Monsaraz, Évora, Portugal. The program can be seen here: (registration to assist in the same site).

For the first time in Portugal we are putting in confrontation historical trajectories from different continents where enclosure building had relevant social roles. It is an exercise of compared Archaeology to discuss social processes and enlarge horizons in the approach to this complex and fascinating expression of the humane: architecture as space organizer, as expression of cosmologies and as social synthesis.

An organization of Era Arqueologia S.A., ICArEHB centre and Municipality of Reguengos de Monsaraz (with the support of Esporão, FCT, DRCALEN, Municipality of Redondo) and with the enthusiasm of Perdigões project.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

0353 - Segments

For some time now I have been stressing the fact that some Portuguese ditched enclosures present evidences that the ditches are built by segments and/or are filled by segments. In this year campaign at Perdigões another situation was recorded, but for the first time to the early period of enclosure building in South Portugal (around 3500 BC).

Here is a section of Ditch 13 where a clear segmented filling can be appreciated. 

That tell us several things:
a) we cannot generalize to a ditch perimeter the observation done in one small section;
b) ditches have a complex biography of excavation, fillings, re-excavation and re-fillings;
c) those processes are mainly anthropic, intentional and meaningful;

d) as any other complex context, the excavation of ditches requires adequate inquiries, theoretical tools and methodological approaches.

Friday, July 15, 2016

0352 - Back to Perdigões

Next Monday we will start the second phase of this year campaign at Perdigões ditched enclosures. As usual it is possible to follow the results here.

Friday, July 8, 2016

0351 - Santa Vitória classified

Image taken from here

Having been excavated in the eighties of the twentieth century, only a few days ago the ditched enclosure of Santa Vitória was classified as an archaeological site of public interest (one of the protection ranks of the Portuguese heritage law).
It was the first ditched enclosure to be excavated in Portugal and stayed like that for more than a decade. It also stayed unpublished…

Image taken from here. When the site was visited in the contextof a meeeting organized by ERA in 2012 about Funerary Practices and Ditched Enclosures. We can identify Alex Gibson, Alasdair Whittle, Niels Andersen, Concha Blasco, etc.

But it still has a great potential for the research of the ditched enclosure phenomena and it would be good to go back there with the new views and inquiries that were developed in the last decades with the emergence of ditched enclosures as a structural expression of the Neolithic and Chalcolithic communities of Alentejo hinterland.

In fact, the site has at least two enclosures, both sinuous. The inside one, the one that has the entire plan defined, is well patterned, with the gate orientated to the Summer solstice.  As far as I know, the ditch was filled with significant accumulations of archaeological materials and faunal remains (maybe humans too), possibly through structured depositions. Lots of materials to be dated and to provide a good chronological sequence. Summing up, un important archive still with important information, that gained more importance when just 3km away the large and complex set of ditched enclosures of Monte da Conteda was discovered a couple years ago (See other posts on both sites in the blog).

Well, at least now the site has legal protection.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

0350 - The solstice at Perdigões: new observations

Last May we put a large post in the NE entrance of the outside enclosures of Perdigões, the one that we have been saying that was orientated to the summer solstice. The goal was to confirm that with present direct observation and establish the possible relation with the semi-circular hut in the center of the enclosures.
Here are the results from today’s morning observation at sun rising (the solstice is from today until Tuesday).

Observed from the center of the enclosure, the sun appeared precisely over the post that was in the NE gate, confirming its orientation.

The sun just over the post at the gate NE

But the central post of the semi-circular hut is also aligned with the post in the gate and the sunrise, as we have suggested some posts ago. 

The alignment of the central post of the hut with the gate and the sunrise.

It is also quite probable that this same central post is also aligned with the SE gate to the Winter solstice at sunrise. We will be checking that next December (if the weather allows it). If that is confirmed, then this central hut of semi-circular plan that replicates de visibility of the natural theatre over the landscape to East, will show a central post that combines the axes of orientation with both gates to both solstices at sunrise.

So far, there is no doubt that there is an orientation of the axe hut-gate to the summer solstice.

The post at the gate.

The central semi-circular hut with its central post.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

0349 - I don't believe in witches, but...

Now tell me it wouldn’t be fun to do some geophysics in this field? I don’t believe in witches, but… 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

0348 - Enclosing Worlds Programme

The programme for oral presentations at the meeting Enclosing Worlds (to be held in Reguengos de Monsaraz, Portugal, 12-14 October 2016) is now available here.

Lower registration fees to attend until 31 July (here).

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

0347 - Remembering Moreiros.

Moreiros 2 is a set of ditched and probably palisade enclosures dating from the 4th millennium BC (but possibly also from the 3rd). Basically is still to be excavated. Only some sections of ditches were cleaned (where they were affected by a query) when the site was discovered by Rui Boaventura, and were dated from the Late Neolithic in the context of my project on ditched enclosures. The collected material was recently studied in a master thesis, hopefully to be published in the coming times. But the geophysics done in 2011 provided the main information about the site, showing its complex temporalities and plans (see here).  

Today I remembered those days, when a small and happy team was measuring Moreiros, escorted by the local cows.

Becker and the cows. 

The team: Rui Boaventura, Helmut Becker, António Valera. Nelson Cabaço.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

0345 - Enclosures and mobility: the case of Perdigões

Ditched enclosures, namely the large ones, are some of the best contexts to develope research on mobility, for they congregate numerous evidences of interaction and movement of people, animals and objects.

At an Iberian scale, Perdigões is now one of the main sites where this research is being developed.
There is a Portuguese Science Foundation project dedicated to this specific topic: “Mobility and interaction in South Portugal Recent Prehistory: the role of aggregation centers”. In this project participate the research unit of ERA Arqueologia, the research centre ICArEHB of university of Algarve and the laboratory Hércules of Évora University.

But this research has a wider projection, for this project is in articulated collaboration with several others related to the same topic.

We also integrate the project “Beyond migration and diffusion: peoples and technologies in prehistory”, financed by the Australian Research Council, and involve Era Arqueologia, the Australian National University, Griffith University and the Centro Nacional de Investigatión sobre l Evolución Humana. The goal will be research and compare mobility patterns between Prehistoric Iberia and the Pacific Islands.

Furthermore, we are establishing a partnership in this topic with another FCT project: “Beaker origins: Testing the hypothesis of late Neolithic dispersals from Iberia using both ancient and contemporary mitochondrial genomes” developed by Minho University with the collaboration of the doctoral scholarship programme at Huddersfield University (UK) entitled Genetic Journeys into History: The Next Generation (running 2015–2020).

Finally, we are engaged in other projects in phase of application, namely two on diets and mobility of animals in Iberia and another that will join the European Atlantic facade, “6,000 years of Farmers and Food: Reconnecting Atlantic Heritage” (working title), that will join institution from Ireland, Scotland, Wales, England, France, Portugal and Spain.

The participation of Perdigões complex of enclosures in all these projects, some of them already with preliminary results, puts it in a unique position (in Iberian terms) in the context of the actual focus of research in mobility in Prehistory at an international level.

But this is the result of the way the Global Program of Research of Perdigões was conceived and is being developed.

(post taken from:

Monday, May 9, 2016

0344 - Beakers and enclosures

In the next 12 and 13 of May, in a Iberian meeting taking place at the Faculdade de Letras of Lisbon University, I will be talking about beakers and their social roles in two different enclosures: Fraga da Pena in Central/North Portugal and Perdigões in the South. A walled enclosure and a ditched one. 

Some International beakers from Perdigões enclosures

Nailed impressed Beakers from Fraga da Pena walled enclosure.

There are many differences between these two contexts and between their “beaker expressions”. But there are also some similarities: the ways the characteristics of both sites are intrinsically related to the social roles that beakers seem to have been performing there. Two good examples of a contextualism sound bite: that objects and contexts are meaningfully bonded.  Discussing beakers as an entity regardless their contextual specificities is a possible approach at a large scale of analysis, but it would hardly enlighten on the diverse ways they were historically active and regionalized.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

0343 - Perdigões enclosure and the Guadiana river

A paper about the exploitation of Guadiana river resources in the enclosure of Perdigões was recently published (and it is available here). It is a paper about a unique decoration inside a pot.

To interpret this decoration two hypothesis were suggested. It could be a representation of a river raft (similar to present reed rafts of the Southwest coast of Portugal) or it could be a representation of a fishing trap (my first bet).

Comparing the Perdigões image with ethnographic fishing traps.

In favour of this last possibility the presence of fish bones of river species in Perdigões was underlined, revealing the exploitation of Guadiana river resources by the communities that circulated in the enclosure.

This paper has already generated some comments from colleagues and one of them (Gabriel Martinez, from Granada University) alerted me for this evidence: a Neolithic fishing trap recovered in Russia that seems to be very similar to the ethnographic ones presented above, reinforcing the possibility that the image from Perdigões is evoking the importance of the river Guadiana to these communities.

Fishing trap from the Neolithic site of Zamostje (Russia). Taken from here

Sunday, April 10, 2016

0342 - The diversity of ditched enclosures

Area of interaction of Perdigões. Image taken from VALERA, A.C. (no prelo), “The “exogenous” at Perdigões. Approaching interaction in the late 4th and 3rd millennium BC in Southwest Iberia”. Proceedings of the Meeting Resource Cultures (June 2015), Alcalá de Henares/Madrid.

It is clear that ditched enclosures present significant differences between them: size, location, temporality, complexity, etc. So, if at a very general scale they can be addressed as a whole, sharing some general principals, it remains to be established by research if they correspond to a useful formal category. We can talk about religious architectures, but putting cathedrals, monasteries and small chapels in the same bag is not particularly useful for understanding the historical processes of Christianity. They played structural different social, cultural, political, symbolic and economic roles in those processes.
Regarding the Portuguese prehistorical enclosures one significant difference (that can be extended to the southern Spanish ones) is the evidence for interaction. This evidence is intense in the large ditched enclosures and scarce or absolutely absent in smaller enclosures, according to actual available data. For instance Perdigões has a significant amount of exogenous materials squandered in funerary contexts that show relations with the entire Southwest quarter of Iberia and North Africa, while the neighbours smaller enclosures of Montoito, Torre do Esporão or Luz 20 do not present evidences of such interaction or evidences that they were stages for funerary practices. And we could extend these differences to temporality, intensity and periodicity of construction, evidences of rituality and feasting, etc.

Are these differences corresponding just to a variability range inside a coherent category of “ditched enclosures”? Or are they showing us a category enclosing different historical entities sharing some general structural principles (that are also shared with other architectures of the time), but that played significant different historical roles? Are the differences of scale and complexity only quantitative or also qualitative? Those are not axioms, they are questions for research.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

0341 - Brasilian (Proto) Jê enclosures come to Enclosing Worlds

(Image taken from

The brasilian Jê enclosures will be present at the meeeting Enclosing Worlds, where the enclosing phenomena will be discussed by confronting different historical situations and trajectories from different parts of the world. You may see the abstracts as they are being progressivelly dislayed at

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Friday, March 25, 2016

0339 - And another paper on Portuguese Ditched Enclosures

Now about the relations of those sites with funerary contexts at several scales (from cosmology and landscapes to specific funerary structures). It is available in Academia and Research Gate.

Friday, March 18, 2016

0337 - Enclosures, Identity and heritage: The Fraga da Pena case.

Fraga da Pena (Fornos de Algodres, Guarda) was discovered for Archaeology by me (and two “Isabels”) in 1991. Between that year and 1998 I excavated the site and produced a scientific discourse about it (part of my PhD thesis). It is now an important context in Portuguese archaeology regarding the bell beaker phenomena and the late 3rd millennium BC, as well as for the debate regarding enclosures in Iberia.

That work gave way to a project of public display that tried to bring the site back to a socially active role (see here what was done). Today, it is used as the main banner of the Municipality page on Facebook (where we can read “A history that touch us”) and its profile is in the logo (left side) of the municipality (curiously with the representation of the sun, something that might have been important in the site’s role in Prehistory (see here).
I am happy. The Fraga is back as a meaningful place and not just for archaeologists. Job done. My thanks to all that have contributed to this, and they were many: from Portugal (obviously the majority), Spain, Czeck Republic, Hungary, Turkey, France, Belgium, USA, Norway, Wales, Poland…

Thursday, March 17, 2016

0336 - Big, but maybe not so big

One of the issues to be discussed today at Oporto meeting about enclosures and methodologies: the need for complete plans in order to interpret these sites. Especially those that seem to be enormous: Being huge, recent data regarding large plans suggest that they might not be so big. The surface distributions might rather correspond to successive constructions through time that have lateral displacements, giving the perception of sites bigger than they in fact were.

Monday, March 7, 2016

0335 - The twilight of enclosures

A paper that was recently published about the trajectory of ditched enclosures in western Iberia:

Valera, A.C. (2015), "Social change in the late 3rd millennium BC in Portugal: The twilight of enclosures". In: H. Meller/R. Risch/R. Jung/H. W. Arz (eds.), 2200 BC – Ein Klimasturz als Ursache für den Zerfall der Alten Welt? 2200 BC – A climatic breakdown as a cause for the collapse of the old world?. 7. Mitteldeutscher Archäologentag vom 23. Bis 26. Oktober 2014 in Halle (Saale). 7th Archaeological Conference of Central Germany October 23-26, 2013 in Halle (Saale). Tagungen des Landesmuseums für Vorgeschichte Halle 13,1–2 (Halle [Saale].

Bela Vista 5. One of the latest ditched enclosures of western Iberia 3rd Millennium BC.

Here are the Final Remarks:

"In Portugal, especially in the Centre-South, the end of the 3rd millennium BC also marks the terminus of the social path that was developing since the Late Neolithic. Is this a direct consequence of a climate break down, of incompatibilities of the global social system or both?
What follows immediately at the beginning of the 2nd millennium BC shows that the operated change was of structural scale, affecting the social and the economic, but also the ideological, the cosmological and the ontological dimensions of communities, their ways of organizing the territories and building meaningful landscapes (as it happens with the enclosures of Perdigões and the megalithic monuments in the Ribeira do Álamo valley) and, most probably, affecting their demographic composition. Some of those changes can be traced back to the third quarter of the 3rd millennium BC, namely the increase of social differentiation and a progressive emergence of individuality in funerary practices. But during that second half of the millennium enclosures, one of the emblematic expressions of Neolithic trajectories, maintain their social role and through their architectures and social practices, were still organizing the landscapes and the social life. So structural changes were in course during the second half of the 3rd millennium BC and these changes cannot be explain by hexogen conditions to the social system.
            However, the abrupt disappearance of enclosures in the last centuries of the 3rd millennium BC is suggesting that some event-like situation may have interfered with that trajectory of social change, but the archaeological record, namely the anthropological one, do not show signs of clear generalized conflict or disease and evidence of climate changes significant enough to be responsible for triggering structural social changes are not suggested by the scarce available palaeoenvironmental data. An environmental impact in the last centuries of the 3rd millennium may not be ruled out, but is not yet demonstrated in this region and especially would not justify the social changes already in course (like the structural ideological changes behind the progressively substitution of collective burials by individual ones). It could however help to understand a sudden demographic break down, a reorganization of settlement patterns and territorialities and a temporary collapse of large scale trade networks. But why enclosures, namely the ditched enclosures, were built no more? For that we must have a cultural answer: the social reasons that were behind their appearance and development (and that were related to the Neolithic cosmologies and to the ways they embodied the social life – Valera, 2012b) were no longer there in the first half of the 2nd millennium BC. Immanent social developments and external environmental causes may be combined to explain the abrupt changes and the outcome observable at the beginning of the 2nd millennium BC, but the relative weight of each element is difficult to evaluate at the moment.
There is also the question of the divergent trajectories presented by some walls enclosure in the Center and North Portugal, namely Zambujal, Castanheiro do Vento and Castelo Velho, where these sites remain occupied and wall construction continues. It is not clear, however, if this traduces in fact continuity or if the occupations present different characteristics and are in some way integrated in new forms of territorial organization. In fact, these continuities are the exception, not the rule and like in the South, changes in several dimensions of the social organization can be appreciated by the beginning of the 2nd millennium: the abandonment of the practice of collective burials, the end of the production of iconographic materials, the decay of large scale trade networks, a profound transformation of the ceramic equipment and an increase of the production of metal weaponry frequently associated to individual status is also documented, especially in Estremadura. So it is not totally clear if the continuity of the occupation with building activity in some walled enclosures is traducing different regional socio-economic trajectories or just local and punctual peculiarities of a more general trend of social change.
            In spite of the significant developments of the last decades in the research of social complexity in the Late Neolithic and Chalcolithic of western Iberia, there is still missing important and consistent information about what happened in the last quarter of the 3rd millennium BC and about the nature of the break of the previous social trajectories. Answers, therefore, have been relaying essentially in the logical formats of theoretical models, frequently with weak empirical support. Interdisciplinary research specifically orientated to this problem is needed, namely to obtain well dated and characterized site occupations of the last quarter of the 3rd millennium BC, to appraise the population of the period in demographic terms and to adequately evaluate and measure climate trends, before we can more confidently talk about this process of social change."

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

0334 - Human remains in ditches at Porto Torrão

The revision that is being done to materials from the excavations of Era Arqueologia in Porto Torrão is providing new information.

As in other ditches of the site, the Chalcolithic ditch 2 has also human remains deposited together with faunal remains and other archaeological materials.

The deposition of scattered human remains in ditches is a practice that is being more and more frequent in Iberian large enclosures, such as Perdigões, Valencina de la Concepción, Pijotilla and naturally Porto Torrão. Something that is well known in European ditched enclosures, confirming social practices that have a wide distribution, possibly related to shared cosmologies at a large scale.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

0333 - Excavating at Montoito ditched enclosure

The site of Montoito has recently been affected again by deep plouwing. Before planting the vineyard and, taking into account the results obtained on site by the geofisic survey, we decided to conduct a small test-pit in the second ditch in order to get a stratigraphic reading. Although a bigger excavation was recommended the circumstances did not make it possible. Nevertheless the results of this small intervention improved the knowledge of the site. 

The excavation has identified a ditch with the V shape, 3 meters wide and 3 deep, cut in the bedrock at a ratio of 1:1. The ceramic collected lets us propose the occupation of the site in the middle of the 3rd millennium BC, or possibly soon after. Thus, the small enclosure ditches of Montoito must have been contemporary of the latest ditches of Perdigões that lies just 8km South.

Rui Mataloto

Monday, February 22, 2016

0332 - New paper on portuguese ditched enclosures

About the large ditched enclosures of Salvada and Monte das Cabeceiras 2 (Beja) and the interesting questions they put by being so close to each other.