Buraco de poste do povoado neolítico das Murteiras

Buraco de poste do povoado neolítico das Murteiras

 

Buraco de poste do povoado neolítico das Murteiras

Buraco de poste do povoado neolítico das Murteiras

 

Pedreira megalítica do povoado das Murteiras, em fase de escavação

Pedreira megalítica do povoado das Murteiras, em fase de escavação

 

Settlement

The Murteiras settlement occupies an area of about 12 hectares on a granite rise.

The physical surroundings – surely the same in prehistoric times – are marked by spectacular rocky outcrops of suggestive, rounded shapes that often evoke human figures or animals; others call to mind the megalithic monuments that are one of the most characteristic features of the cultural landscape of Central Alentejo.

These elements are now to be found amid a relative dense cork oak grove that provides welcome shade during the torrid summers of the interior south of the country.

The selection of this type of landscape is characteristic, in the region, of ancient Neolithic settlement (5500-4500 BC), frequently extending into the late Neolithic and early Copper Age (3500-3000 BC) or even the 1st Iron Age  (8th-5th centuries BC). Despite several older findings, the main occupation dates from the late Neolithic.

The settlement undoubtedly dates from the time of the Murteira de Cima dolmen.

Indeed, the settlement of Murteiras seems to be a part of a regional settlement network that, in the late Neolithic, involved large villages set in dominant parts of the landscape, particularly at Alto de São Bento, near the city of Évora, or at Porro, near the Monte das Flores railway station.

In landscape terms, Murteiras is the best-preserved of all the known settlements in that, contrary to the others, it has not been used as a granite quarry, in historic times.

The fact that the megalithic monument builders set down their roots in these natural surroundings probably stems from the symbolism of the rock formations used in the construction of their megaliths.

 

Post holes

During the excavation of the upper platform of the dwelling area, several post holes were found, differing in their morphology and dimensions. Two of them are twinned, on plan, and were apparently intended to strengthen the timber constructions that presumably went through more than one stage of construction/reconstruction. Bearing in mind their topographical position in the context of the Murteiras settlement, it is likely that they are the remains of special buildings that performed functions of a public nature (political, social or religious).

In this hypothesis, it is interesting to note that the post holes have a very precise north/south alignment, revealing application of well-tested construction rules to the “domestic” structures of the region’s megalithic architecture.

 

Megalithic quarry

Near a natural bank formed of horizontally elongated blocks, several traces were found, during the excavations, of quarrying of large blocks that would presumably have been used in the construction of megalithic monuments.

This evidence consists of gaps in the natural banks of stone seen at various levels; on the other hand, very carbonaceous sediments were observed at the base of the rock strata, together with angular fragments of granite. This confirms that fire was used in quarrying the blocks. On the other hand, the excavation showed that the working of the megalithic quarry predated the use of the site as a dwelling place, in that both the layers rich in carbon (though poor in artefacts) and some of the quarrying remains are overlaid by an archaeological layer very rich in household materials (ceramics in particular).

Bearing in mind the size of the blocks that were quarried and the stratigraphic observations, the quarry is probably connected with the construction of the Hortinha tombs and/or of other similar monuments found in the surrounding area.

 

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