Category Archives: PORTUGAL

Ancient Roman Military Camp Uncovered in Portugal

Ancient Roman Military Camp Uncovered in Portugal

Pioneering technology has helped experts find a lost camp built and used by thousands of Roman soldiers sent to conquer Northwest Iberia. The discovery is the largest and oldest Roman military fortified enclosure excavated so far in Galicia and northern Portugal. The foundations of the enclosure wall date from around the second century BC.

The 2,100-year-old Roman military camp of Lomba do Mouro in Melgaço, Portugal.

Experts analyzed a section of sediment from the wall’s foundations using an optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating technique. This made it possible to date the last time the quartz crystals were exposed to sunlight and how long they were buried under the walls.

The discovery means Lomba do Mouro is the oldest scientifically identified Roman camp to date in Galicia and northern Portugal and may link its construction to the first Roman military campaigns in Gallaecia.

The camp of Lomba do Mouro, in Melgaço, Portugal, was constructed by around 10,000 Roman troops who were crossing the Laboreiro Mountain between the Lima and Minho rivers. It was designed to be a temporary fortification, used for a day or weeks at most in the warmer months, and was built quickly.

The army was crossing high ground for safety. Written sources describe fighting during their excursion, but also some potential agreements were made with the local community.

Temporary camps are hard to spot because little archaeological evidence is left behind—due to their non-permanent nature and because they were often destroyed on purpose when the Roman Army left.

Dr. João Fonte, from the University of Exeter, a member of the research team, said: “Written sources mention the army crossing different valleys, but until now we didn’t know exactly where.

Because of the temporary nature of the site, it’s almost impossible to find without using remote sensing techniques, and radiocarbon dating wouldn’t have been accurate because plant roots creep into the structure.”

“We have found numerous military camps in the Northwest of the Iberian Peninsula in recent years, but their dating is very complex.

As they are temporary enclosures, there is very little material or organic evidence in them that would allow a scientifically valid dating to be obtained, until now.”

Covering more than 20 hectares, Lomba do Mouro was discovered using remote sensing techniques by the romanarmy.eu research collective and was the subject of an archaeological survey in September 2020.

Ancient Roman Military Camp Uncovered in Portugal
Detail of trench 2

The campaign was led by University of Exeter archaeologist João Fonte as part of the Finisterrae project funded by the European Commission through a Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant (grant agreement 794048).

Until now the oldest dated Roman camp in Galicia and northern Portugal—excavated by the same team—was Penedo dos Lobos (Manzaneda, Ourense), where coins could be found linking this enclosure with the war campaigns known as the Cantabrian Wars (29-19 BC), with which the Emperor Octavian Augustus put an end to the process of conquest of Hispania. Lomba do Mouro was built a hundred years before Penedo dos Lobos.

In 137 BC the Roman consul Decimus Junius Brutus entered Gallaecia with two legions, crossing the rivers Douro and Lima and reaching the Minho.

The dating of the walls, together with the large dimensions of the enclosure, support the hypothesis that the camp may have been erected by a contingent linked to these times, although due to the degree of uncertainty of the dates it is difficult to establish a direct association with the episode of Decimus Junius Brutus campaign.

Is This 400,000-Year-Old Hominin the Great Grandpa of Neanderthals?

Is This 400,000-Year-Old Hominin the Great Grandpa of Neanderthals?

According to new research, a 400,000-year-old hominid skull contains a few telltale features that imply it’s more of a Neanderthal than a Homo sapiens relation, a new study finds.

Is This 400,000-Year-Old Hominin the Great Grandpa of Neanderthals?
The hominin cranium, nicknamed “Aroeira 3,” that researchers found in a Portuguese cave.

The cranium, discovered in a Portuguese cave, is helping anthropologists understand how hominins, particularly Neanderthals, evolved during the middle Pleistocene epoch in Europe, the researchers said.

The team isn’t sure whether the skull belongs to a newfound species of hominin, but noted that the skull appeared “broadly ancestral” to the Neanderthals, said study co-researcher Rolf Quam, an associate professor of biological anthropology at Binghamton University in New York.

In addition, the scientists unearthed hand axes in the cave, a stone-crafted technology that was likely developed in the Middle East about 500,000 years ago.

Thanks to the excavations, researchers now have proof that this technology spread as far west as Portugal within 100,000 years of being developed in the Middle East, Quam said. 

Acheulean hand axes discovered at the Aroeira site in Portugal

Prize find

Researchers found the skull on the last day of their field season in 2014. During previous fieldwork at the Gruta da Aroeira cave from 1998 to 2002, researchers found human teeth, animal remains and stone-made hand axes. But the latest discovery, the skull, was the excavation’s prize find, Quam said.

The team discovered the cranium in the back of the cave, buried in petrified sediment.

“The archaeologists, when they found it, weren’t sure how to get it out,” Quam told Live Science. “They basically had to use a circular saw to cut out a huge block chunk that included the skull.”

The researchers brought the block to a restoration laboratory in Madrid, and a fossil preparator spent 2.5 years extracting the skull.

“That is an incredible amount of labor to get this thing out,” Quam said.

Once they freed the skull, the researchers put it in computed tomography (CT) scanner, which allowed them to create a 3D virtual reconstruction of the bone.

“The skull is only half a skull,” Quam said. “With the CT scans, we were able to mirror-image it and make the other half, so it’s more complete now.”

A virtual reconstruction of the 400,000-year-old hominin skull

Neanderthal-like features

The skull, nicknamed the “Aroeira cranium” after the Portuguese cave in which the item was found, is the oldest hominin fossil ever discovered in Portugal, Quam said. (A hominin is a group that includes modern humans and their recent ancestors, including Neanderthals, Homo erectus, Homo habilis and several species of Australopithecus.)

With a cranial capacity of more than 67 cubic inches (1,100 cubic centimeters), the Aroeira skull is about the same size as other hominin skulls found from that time period.

Modern humans have larger cranial capacities, of about 79 cubic inches (1,300 cubic cm), according to the Institute of Human Origins at Arizona State University, which was not involved with the new study.

Interestingly, the Aroeira cranium has Neanderthal-like features, Quam said. Those include a Neanderthal-shaped brow and a bony projection behind the ear, known as a mastoid process, which is small like a Neanderthal’s, Quam said.

However, the Aroeira individual lived long before the Neanderthals, which existed from about 200,000 years ago to 40,000 years ago, when they went extinct. Still, the skull “can help us understand the origin and evolution of Neanderthals better,” Quam said. “The fact that it is so well-dated is critical because that’s going to help us think about the evolutionary process — what changed first” as Neanderthals emerged on Earth.

‘Sunken Atlantis Pyramid’ Discovered off Azores Coast in Portugal

‘Sunken Atlantis Pyramid’ Discovered off Azores Coast in Portugal

According to an official Portuguese news article, the Portuguese Navy is exploring a massive underwater pyramid close to the Azores. If this is the abandoned city of Atlantis or whether the pyramid is of extra-terrestrial origin is still debated by some people.

Some other more grounded scholars claim this may be part of a larger map incorporating the pyramids found at Giza in Egypt.

A pyramid was accidentally found under the water, close to the Azores when a local sailor was looking for good fishing grounds. He used digital scanning devices to help him locate the Pyramid.

A huge pyramid had been discovered off the Azores islands by Portuguese amateur sailor Diocletian Silva.

The 9 islands that make up the Azorean archipelago we now know as the Azores were discovered uninhabited by the Portuguese in 1427. In recent years archaeologists have discovered ancient rock art on the island of Terceira, which they believe to be many thousands of years old.

They have also discovered a  variety of ancient archaeological remains on all nine islands. They have been identified as an epigraph from Roman times, Carthaginian sanctuaries, cave art, and megalithic structures. It would seem there is a lot more history to these islands that pre-date 1427.

The underwater pyramid was discovered by Diocleciano Silva between the islands of Terceira and São Miguel. It is said that the structure is perfectly square and oriented by the cardinal points.

Using current GPS digital technology it is estimated that the pyramid is around 60 meters high and has a base of nearly 8,000 square meters. That is pretty big!

The Portuguese Hydrographic Institute of the Navy is studying the pyramid data to determine whether it is man-made, naturally occurring, or even something more interesting. Extra-terrestrial perhaps? I wonder if Mulder and Scully are investigating!

The pyramid is found in an area of the Atlantic that has been covered by water for around 20,000 years. That time coincides with the last great ice age of the northern hemisphere where the glaciers started melting 2,000 years earlier. Whoever was living there before the ice age, human or not was probably responsible for building the pyramid.

So far the Portuguese Navy has not determined the origins of the pyramid. It is surprising that this has not been reported before or even discovered before. Was it kept secret or had it sat there for years unnoticed?

What is hard to believe is that the area is heavily studied for its volcanic activity by the NOAA, which studies volcanic behavior. You would have thought that they would have found the pyramid through sonar imaging.  So was it kept secret until Diocleciano Silva found it and went public or is he the first person to actually find this incredible mystery?

Some people even think it might not be real and is instead a hoax but that theory seems unlikely especially as pyramids are evident all across the globe with new ones been discovered every now and then.

This is the actual pyramid as shown as reading from a high-tech scanning device.

Archaeologists from the Portuguese Association of Archaeological Research have found evidence on Pico Island that suggests humans did live in the area many thousands of years before the Portuguese discovered the uninhabited Azores.

This adds support to the idea that an ancient civilization was there at the time to build the huge pyramid. There is still no explanation as to who created the rock art found on the islands or why.

So who did build the underwater pyramid? Was it built by a great ancient civilization that spanned the globe from South America to Africa and the East?

Pyramids are found across many continents, was this one giant civilization? Is this the fabled lost continent of Atlantis that connected the distant civilizations together? Or is it not man-made and perhaps Extra-terrestrial in origin?

'Sunken Atlantis Pyramid' Discovered off Azores Coast in Portugal
Here is the original Portuguese news report along with English subtitles (Not the best I may add) for those who wish to check the validity of the claims and the story.

The Azores themselves are a chain of 9 volcanic islands in three main groups situated 930 miles west of Lisbon. They sit around the fault lines between the tectonic plates of the North American, Eurasian and African continents. The energetic qualities of that area are a great place to have a pyramid. Pyramids are supposed to collect and concentrate energy in positive ways.

This video shows the spot where the pyramid might be along with some discussion about the validity of the claims.

The coordinates of the pyramid have not been released to the public, why? We are not sure maybe it is to prevent tomb robbers and Lara Croft from visiting or maybe there are other important secrets that they need to keep quiet for now. What is believed is that there could be two more pyramids in the area and that there could be a design link with those found in Egypt which forms a land based representation of a star constellation.

Adding to the theory that these pyramids were created by people from the stars or that our ancients knew we were created by aliens in ‘their image’ and not native to this planet. These giant star maps could be the real clue to the history of mankind’s origin.

A interesting video about the underwater pyramid and other possible structures in and around the Azores, the Canary Islands, Antarctica, and the Atlantic sea.

16th-Century Shipwreck’s Cargo of Elephant Ivory Analyzed

16th-Century Shipwreck’s Cargo of Elephant Ivory Analyzed

BBC News reports that an international team of researchers led by Alida de Flamingh of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was able to reconstruct complete mitochondrial genomes for 17 distinct elephant herds with samples taken from 100 tusks recovered from the Bom Jesus, a Portuguese trading vessel that sank in 1533 while on a voyage to India.

16th-Century Shipwreck’s Cargo of Elephant Ivory Analyzed
A hundred complete tusks were among the cargo

It was found by chance in 2008 in a coastal diamond mine, making it the oldest known shipwreck in southern Africa. 

The ivory in the cargo hold was just part of a vast haul of precious cargo, including copper ingots and gold and silver coins. Archaeologists have also found personal effects and navigation equipment amid the remains of the ship.

“There are dinner plates, cutlery, and trinket boxes, as well as all the copper ingots, coins, and ivory in the cargo,” explained Ashley Coutu, an archaeologist from the University of Oxford, who specializes in genetic and chemical analysis of artifacts.

“It is an incredible find, incredibly well preserved,” she told BBC News.

Every tusk is an elephant’s life story – a chemical fingerprint laid down throughout its life

That preservation meant that the international team of researchers – including experts from Namibia, the US, and the UK – could unpick exactly how many herds of elephants the tusks came from.

The team examined something called mitochondrial DNA. Mitochondria are the power stations of every cell, converting food into fuel. And crucially for this study, the genetic blueprint that makes mitochondria are passed down from mother to offspring.

This makes it a particularly revealing piece of code for elephants.

“Elephants live in female-led family groups, and they tend to stay in the same geographic area throughout their lives,” explained Alida de Flamingh from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who led the study. “We were able to reconstruct complete mitochondrial genomes from these really old samples.”

Those completed pieces of genetic code showed that the tusks on this single trading vessel came from 17 distinct elephant herds. The most up to date genetic information about the elephants surviving in that part of Africa today showed that only four of those could be found.

“That was quite shocking – that loss of diversity,” said Dr. Coutu. “Next we’d really like to fill in those gaps in a chronological way. We can look at where these pinch points are in history and create a timeline of exactly how and when the huge trade in ivory had an impact.”

“[What we found] definitely has conservation implications,” Dr de Flamingh added: “We know that a loss of genetic diversity is associated with increased extinction risk.”

Every tusk is an elephant’s life story. What the animals eat creates a fingerprint in the composition of the tusks as they grow – something that scientists can unpick using a technique called isotope analysis.

This essentially breaks down the chemical make-up of every tusk, and it suggested that these were forest elephants – living in mixed forest habitats.

That was a surprise because by this point in history the Portuguese had established trade with the Kongo Kingdom and communities along the Congo River. So the researchers expected that elephants would be from different regions, especially West and Central Africa.

Battling the ivory trade

The scientists also hope their detailed examination of this ancient ivory could help inform anti-poaching efforts today.

The scientists also hope their detailed examination of this ancient ivory could help inform anti-poaching efforts today. While recent analysis shows elephant poaching has declined slightly, conservationists say the animals are still being poached at unsustainable rates and the trade is a threat to their survival.

When large-scale confiscations of illegal ivory take place, people analyze the DNA to find out where the elephants were killed in Africa. “Our evidence provides a reference to compare that with, so its origin can be confirmed,” said Dr de Flamingh.

“And once you know where the ivory is from you can develop targeted anti-poaching strategies for those locations.”

Dr. Coutu added: “We’re really going to be able to use this historic data to answer modern conservation questions.”

4,500-year-old ‘Woodhenge’ discovered in Portugal

4,500-year-old ‘Woodhenge’ discovered in Portugal

The archaeological excavations that happened at Perdigões complex in the Evora District of Portugal recently showed that the archaeological excavations uncovered a “unique structure in the Prehistory of the Iberian Peninsula”. In fact, nothing similar has ever been found in Portugal before now.

Only one-third of the circle has been excavated so far, so archaeologists created this projection to give a better sense of its size. The portion that has been excavated is shown on the far left. Archaeologists estimate the circle to be about 66 feet (20 meters) in diameter.

“As described by António Valera, who was the archaeologist in charge of the excavations, the Perdigões structure was a prehistoric ceremonial site found in the middle of a complex of 12 ditch enclosures and “articulates with the visibility of the megalithic landscape that extends between the site and the elevation of Monsaraz, located to the east, on the horizon.

The site was used for religious ceremonies, burials, and rituals as several pits with sacrificial items had been recovered.

People would travel long distances to attend ceremonies and festivals at the location which was a good way for them to socialize and strengthen their bonds with each other.

Woodhenge at North Newnton.

The circular-shaped structure has been nicknamed “Woodhenge” in reference to Stonehenge except this one was made from wood.

“A possible access to the interior of this structure is oriented towards the summer solstice, reinforcing its cosmological character,” Valera explained, adding, “this situation is also known in other European countries as ‘wood henges’ and ‘timber circles’, where astronomical alignment entrances are frequent, underlining the close relationship between these architectures and the Neolithic views of the world .”

It has been described as a “monumental wooden construction, of which the foundations remain, with a circular plan and more than 20 meters in diameter,” Valera noted.

While this “Woodhenge” is the first of its kind to be found in Portugal, it is incredibly similar to other structures found in the central part of Europe and the British Isles – like Stonehenge.

This may indicate that the people of Perdigões were in communication with those living in locations far from them and that those living across Europe were much more connected with each other during the Neolithic period than previously thought.

Woodhenge at North Newnton.
Woodhenge is the wooden version of Stonehenge.

The complex dates back from around the end of the Middle Neolithic Period (about 3400 BC) to the start of the Bronze Age period (around 2000 BC) – a time frame that lasted approximately 1,400 years.

This time period brings up the possibility that the ancient Bell Beaker culture may have constructed “Woodhenge” as they are believed to have originated in Portugal and their culture thrived from around 3500 BC to 2500 BC.

The timber circles date back 4,500 years.

Valera finished off by stating the importance of finding this structure, “discovery reinforces the already high scientific importance of the Perdigões enclosure complex in the international context of European Neolithic studies while increasing its heritage relevance,” which was recognized as a National Monument in 2019. Several pictures of “Woodhenge” can be seen here.

Neolithic “Woodhenge” Discovered in Portugal

Neolithic “Woodhenge” Discovered in Portugal

The 4,500-year-old ring of large ‘ shafts ‘ has been uncovered by archaeologists in the great Durrington Walls and the famous site at Woodhenge, just a few kilometers from Stonehenge, in southern Britain.

The newly-discovered circle is over 2 km in diameter and has been carbon-dated to 2500 BC.

The archaeologists identified up to 20 shafts — which are up to 10 m across and at least 5 m deep — but estimate there may have been more than 30 originally.

The 2-km-wide ring of shafts around the great henge at Durrington Walls and the famous site at Woodhenge.

“The size of the shafts and circuit surrounding Durrington Walls is without precedent within the UK,” said Professor Vince Gaffney, a researcher in the School of Archaeological and Forensic Sciences at the University of Bradford.

“It demonstrates the significance of Durrington Walls Henge, the complexity of the monumental structures within the Stonehenge landscape, and the capacity and desire of Neolithic communities to record their cosmological belief systems in ways, and at a scale, that we had never previously anticipated.”

The scientists think the ring of shafts marks a boundary around the massive henge at Durrington. The features, along with an internal post line, could have guided people towards the religious sites and warned others not to cross the boundary.

“It was extraordinary such a major find had been made so close to Stonehenge,” Professor Gaffney said.

“It is amazing that our seamless survey of the Stonehenge landscape, which apply the latest technology and extends over kilometers of the countryside, has revealed major new features including these huge shafts,” said Professor Wolfgang Neubauer, an archaeologist in the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and the Virtual Archaeology/VIAS-Vienna Institute for Archaeological Science at the University of Vienna.

“They are not only clearly visible in the geophysical data sets, but the survey also provides the opportunity to place these features within a wider context comprising the many monuments associated with Stonehenge including the super-henge at Durrington Walls, just 3 km north-east from the iconic stone circle.”

“The Stonehenge landscape stands apart, not only as one of the most important archaeological landscapes in the world but also amongst the best studied,” said Dr. Eamonn Baldwin, an archaeologist at the University of Birmingham.

“To make such a major discovery within such an area is remarkable, and a testament to how archaeologists have begun to integrate technology with traditional research methods including excavation and aerial photographic survey.”

“After centuries of study of the Stonehenge landscape, the discovery of such an incredible new monument is testament to the value of interdisciplinary research,” said Professor Henry Chapman, an archaeologist at the University of Birmingham.

“Our understanding of this outstanding place has been transformed in recent years, and the identification of such a significant and extensive new site highlights that there is always something more to discover.”

“We’re tremendously excited at the prospect of applying ancient sedimentary DNA technology to these mysterious structures to discover their purpose in ancient Britain,” said Professor Robin Allaby, a researcher at the University of Warwick.

Burials of Africans slaves found at the old rubbish dump in Portugal

Burials of Africans slaves found at the old rubbish dump in Portugal

Adult female skeleton found at Valle da Gafaria, Portugal, suggests a careless burial.
Adult female skeleton found at Valle da Gafaria, Portugal, suggests a careless burial.

Portuguese explorers such as Henry the Navigator started sailing to Africa in the early 15th century, bringing both goods and enslaved people back.

A new archeological study of more than 150 skeletons dumped in Lagos, Portugal, reveals that there were no proper burials given to many of the enslaved Africans and that several of them may even have been tied to death.

The skeletons come from the site of Valle da Gafaria, which was located outside the Medieval walls of the port city of Lagos along the southwest coast of Portugal. Used between the Fifteenth and Seventeenth centuries as a dumping ground, the site also offered up remains of imported ceramics, butchered animal bones, and a few African style ornaments.

When the human skeletons were first analyzed, their shape and unique dental style suggested that they might have been of African origin, and subsequently, genetic analysis confirmed ancestry with Bantu – speaking populations of South Africa. Due to the archaeological and historical information, it is likely that all of these people were enslaved.

In a new research article published in the International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, Maria Teresa Ferreira, Catarina Coelho, and Sofia Wasterlain of the University of Coimbra dug further into the bone data in order to understand how the 158 enslaved Africans came to be buried in a trash pit in Lagos.

Specifically, they investigated the position of each burial, whether or not the burial was made with care, and whether they could identify any evidence that the person’s body had been bound.

Adult female from Valle da Gafaria whose positioning suggests she may have been tied up for burial.
Adult female from Valle da Gafaria whose positioning suggests she may have been tied up for burial.

The Medieval Catholic concern with burial meant that the church was important in handling deaths in Portugal. A body would be ferried to the church in a funeral procession, and a grave would be chosen as close to a religious building as possible.

Elites and nobles were usually buried in an area protected by walls, while more marginal people were located outside. Those people who were further stigmatized by disease, condemned, or otherwise considered not to be deserving of care would be placed far outside sacred spaces.

Enslaved occupants of Medieval Portugal would not necessarily have been prevented from a proper burial. Many were baptized on arrival to Portugal and therefore had a right to a Christian funeral if the slave owner decided to do so.

However, due to the poor conditions aboard the ships, many people arrived so weakened that they died without being baptized. “In such cases,” Ferreira and colleagues explain, “as their humanity was not recognized, the corpses were treated as animal remains: summarily buried in any free field or dumped in the garbage.”

More than half of the people “seemed to have been buried without care,” Ferreira and colleagues note. “Moreover, six individuals showed evidence of having been tied when inhumed.” This suggests that several people had been tied up has intrigued other scholars, although it is unclear from the published research whether the bound limbs were related to the people’s enslaved status or to a more functional method of disposing of bodies.

Biological anthropologist Tim Thompson at Teesside University praised the “sound research” but also told me that “it is difficult to truly assess the examples of tied individuals because there are so few, and no figures are presented.” He suggests that comparing “the anatomical positioning with examples from modern mass graves would allow for deeper analysis. There are many examples of binding and blindfolding in these modern mass violence settings, along with disrespectful deposition of bodies.”

Ellen Chapman, a bioarchaeologist and cultural resources specialist at Cultural Heritage Partners, also told me that she looks forward to further work on this site and this collection of skeletons because “this site is an incredibly disturbing one, and one that clearly illustrates the pervasive mistreatment of enslaved people by the architects of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.”

In particular, Chapman notes that “this skeletal collection is indicative of the high mortality associated with slave ships and the Middle Passage.” Thompson adds that “this work has the potential to contribute to our understanding of both ancient and modern forced slavery contexts.”

In the end, Ferreira and colleagues conclude that “Valle da Gafaria’s osteological collection is extremely important for slavery studies. Not only are there few cemeteries of enslaved people in the world, but also, Lagos is the oldest sample to be discovered and studied in the world.”

Source: archaeologynewsnetwork