Paisagem das Murteiras, vista a partir do povoado neolítico

 

Afloramento natural, no povoado neolítico das Murteiras

 

Pedreira megalítica do povoado das Murteiras, em fase de escavação

 

Introduction

Central Alentejo is one of Europe’s great megalithic regions, having nearly a thousand known monuments (menhirs, megalithic sites and funerary structures of various types), some of exceptional dimensions.

 

Herdade das Murteiras, owned by the Eugénio de Almeida Foundation, forms part of a Megalithic route that, in a very coherent space, displays traces of settlements and various funereal monuments, revealing a very dynamic occupation of the area and a cultural continuity stretching over several millennia.

 

Conscious of its role in the conservation of common memory and in making it available for enjoyment by the public, the Eugénio de Almeida Foundation has developed a project calling for the recuperation and enhancement of the Murteiras Archaeological Site comprising the Neolithic Settlement, Tombs 1 and 2, and the Murteira de Cima dolmen.

 

 

Contexts: time and space

 

 

Originally, megaliths were related with the appearance of the oldest of Neolithic societies – the first peoples to be engaged in animal husbandry and agriculture. In Portugal, the last communities of hunter-gatherers seem to have concentrated around the Tagus and Sado estuaries around 8,000 years ago.

 

In those times, Central Alentejo was a virtually uninhabited land, constituting the hinterland along the border between the territories of the groups that had settled around the estuaries.

 

With the Neolithic revolution, which had a profound effect of the way of life of the populations, the first settlements occurred here and the first megalithic monuments were set up more than 7,000 years ago. However, the greater part of them dates from a later stage of demographic growth and territorial expansion throughout the 4th millennium before Christ.

 

The various types of megalithic monuments, funerary or otherwise, have in common the use of blocks of stone of large dimensions. These structures were designed to last and to irreversibly mark the landscape. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that many were incorporated into the ritual universe of subsequent eras.

 

Herdade da Murteira de Cima is located in well-preserved rural surroundings on the border between a somewhat hilly area of granite outcrops and dense groves of cork oak and evergreen oak to the south, and a more open, flatter and geologically different area better suited to farming to the north.

 

On the other hand, this territory is closely related to the watershed of the Guadiana and Sado river basins that constitutes one of the region’s main natural paths. It was next to the watershed separating the Tagus and the Sado that several of the Alentejo’s most extraordinary megalithic monuments were erected.

 

In terms of visibility, Herdade das Murteiras is clearly turned towards this ancestral landscape. Indeed, from the settlement of Murteiras the horizon narrows to the south, though it opens up remarkably to the north, covering an ample arc that stretches from east to west, between the Monfurado hills (where the Almendres megalithic site is to be found) and the Serra d’Ossa hills. In the centre, the Neolithic settlement of Alto de São Bento stands out, adjacent to the city of Évora.