Pontas de seta da Anta da Murteira de Cima

Pontas de seta da Anta da Murteira de Cima

 

Taça da 1ª Idade do Ferro (reutilização funerária da sepultura 1 da Hortinha)

Taça da 1ª Idade do Ferro (reutilização funerária da sepultura 1 da Hortinha)

 

Contas discóides, em xisto, da Anta da Murteira de Cima

Contas discóides, em xisto, da Anta da Murteira de Cima

 

Enxó de pedra polida da Sepultura 1 da Hortinha

Enxó de pedra polida da Sepultura 1 da Hortinha

 

Finds

Materials from the Murteiras Settlement

The excavation of the Murteiras Settlement uncovered a large number of archaeological materials, mainly pottery fragments, but also lithic items, such as tools made from polished stone (axes) and knapped stone (blades, flakes and arrowheads), as well as awls and millstones.

The pottery, almost exclusively plain (for everyday use), generally corresponds to models that were common in the region in the Late Neolithic (second half of the 4th millennium BC). In typological terms, in addition to simple forms, a considerable number of carinated forms also occur.

 

A relatively smaller quantity of clay loom weights and so-called “horned idols” were also collected, clay artifacts characteristic of the Late Neolithic in the southwest of the Iberian peninsula, of unknown but presumably ritual function.

Polished stone tools

Axes and adzes made from polished stone (amphibolite) were used essentially to cut down trees and to chop and hew wood.

 

These functions were vital to early agricultural societies, in a context of intense domestication of the landscape, in which forests were cleared to prepare land for crops and pasturage.

                                                                                                       

The axe has therefore become one of the major symbols of the Neolithic, representing human domination of nature.

 

It is in this economic and symbolic framework that the systematic presence of these objects among Neolithic funerary items should be understood, as in the case of Hortinha tomb 1.

 

Middle Neolithic pottery

Pottery is also normally found in megalithic burial structures. In Hortinha tomb 1, an almost entire spherical vase was found, resting against the end-stone.

 

Although its form is not very characteristic, the artifacts that accompanied it and the type of tomb itself, suggest that it dates from the Middle Neolithic, possibly the first half of the 4th millennium BC.

 

Beneath the funerary structure a small excavated pit was found containing pottery clearly attributable to that cultural stage: this consists of several fragments of ceramics decorated with a groove below the rim which indicates the succession between a place of residence and its reuse as a burial place, within a relatively short space of time.

 

Geometric microliths and arrowheads

Geometric microliths are artifacts of knapped flint or similar stones that were used as projectile tips.

 

These artifacts (triangles, trapezes or circle segments), always with an asymmetrical point, were replaced in the late Neolithic by triangular arrowheads with symmetrical edges.

 

Their presence in megalithic funerary rituals evokes one of the traditional activities of prehistoric societies: hunting. They symbolically represent human domination of wild animals.

 

In proto megalithic tombs, such as the Hortinha tombs, geometric microliths appear, while in the dolmens, such as the Murteira de Cima dolmen, arrowheads are more likely to be found.

 

Necklace beads

Adornments are important cultural markers in practically all human societies, even those in which nudity is the rule. Discoidal, schist necklace beads are one of the most common types of adornment found in the contents of megalithic funerary monuments in the Alentejo.

 

A significant number have been collected, by sieving, from disturbed earth around the Murteira de Cima Dolmen.

 

Schist plaques

Schist plaques are the most unmistakable markers of recent Prehistory in the Alentejo. They occur systematically, sometimes in large numbers, among materials from dolmens and sporadically also in residential contexts.

 

Portuguese and Spanish museums contain thousands of schist plaques; however, despite the fact that they are almost all graphically different, we can recognise in them the same decorative language, with an angular structure and based on alternating light and dark surfaces. They were undoubtedly artifacts with magical-religious functions, related in some way with the veneration of the dead.

 

They have been interpreted as representing a female divinity, with an oriental resonance, or alternatively as parts of a genealogical code, of the heraldic type. Underlying both these interpretations is the anthropomorphic, more or less schematic nature of these objects.

 

At the Murteira de Cima Dolmen a fragment of a baculus was also found; this is a type of votive object that represents a highly stylised shepherd's crook, probably evoking, in the Neolithic, the power of Humans over domesticated animals.

 

It is to be noted that in both Egyptian culture and the Greco-Roman world, the baculus remained an important feature of the attributes of kings and priests; in fact, its use has continued up to the present day as a symbol of Episcopal authority.

 

The only known workshop where the manufacture of schist plaques can be fully confirmed, with all the stages of the production chain, has been recently identified in the Alentejo (Alandroal).

 

It should be recalled that these ritual artifacts have been discovered over an area that stretches far beyond the borders of the Alentejo: from Andalusia to the Beira provinces, with a particularly large number in the Setúbal Peninsula.

 

The funerary items from the Iron Age burial in Hortinha 1

There are few examples of the reuse of megalithic monuments during the Iron Age in Portugal; moreover, in no other case have funerary offerings been found as intact as in the Hortinha 1 tomb.

 

The items from this burial consist of a hand built pottery urn - in which were deposited the cremated remains of the dead person - accompanied by three bowls.

 

The cinerary urn, its shape combining characteristic features of native pottery (hand built and S profile), also presents morphological aspects received from the Phoenician colonial world.

 

One of the vessels that accompanied the urn was a carinated bowl with an omphalos base, made by hand and with a burnished surface that in turn unequivocally recalls the pottery tradition of the regional late Bronze Age.

 

Another vessel, on the other hand, is a very elegant, stemmed, thrown bowl decorated with red varnish, that clearly echoes pottery from Phoenician trade. It was probably used to serve wine, in the context of ritual libations.

 

The third vessel is a hemispherical thrown bowl, quite common in the contexts of the Iron Age with Oriental influence.

 

The set, although rare, reflects the cultural syncretism of the 1st Iron Age, in which indigenous societies acquired many aspects of Phoenician culture, although without relinquishing their own identity.

 

 

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