2015 - Dec : Ismael Medeiros & João Bernardes :
The Archaeological Site of Boca do Rio :
structures and peripheral settlements.
structures and peripheral settlements.
This year the AAA gave a grant to Ismael Medeiros to help him carry out mapping of sites around Vila do Bispo. In his talk he concentrated on the landscape around the Roman ‘villa maritime’ at Boca do Rio. He began by explaining that part of his project was to research and look for answers about the structure of the villa and its connection and links with other sites on the surrounding slopes and higher land. Ismael then handed over to Prof. Bernardes who described the site in more detail. The villa is situated at the seaward end of the Budens river valley and over the centuries has been severely affected by marine erosion – much of the original site having been lost. We are fortunate that a site plan was drawn by Estácio da Viega in the 19th century which gives an idea of the size of the complex, although it is without doubt that even then some had been lost to the sea. Da Viega was able to record a number of mosaics and part of one of these can be seen in Lagos museum. With the use of da Viega’s plan João went on to explain that the villa dates from the 1st –5th C, but was particularly active during the 3rd and 4th centuries. It was a residential site with mosaics, baths, an industrial area and had a fish salting complex. At its height the villa went through a number of building phases – walls built, rooms extended some having 5
different layers of painted wall stucco.
Very recently the sea eroded an area, which proved to be a kitchen (originally shown on da Viega’s plan). Here a large ceramic pot was found set into the floor and it still contained the remains of at least 5 different fish species which were identified by DNA. A fireplace was also found and whole amphorae recovered – these are now in Vila do Bispo. The remains of a bath complex with mosaics were also recorded. It is evident from excavations that the site was abandoned during the Roman period in the 5th C. but came back into production in the fishing industry during the 16th C. when buildings were constructed over the Roman remains. And again, and at the instigation of Pombal, after the tsunami in the 18th C the complex was developed further.
Ismael’s work has been to try to answer why the site was abandoned in the 5th C and to where the people may have moved. His feeling is that they may have moved to the Budens area where there is evidence of Roman and Medieval occupation. It is also evident from survey work that the ecosystem of the area has changed over the years – there was a lagoon inland from the sea, it is possible that the rivers were more navigable and sedimentation has taken place, and more recently the tsunami would have had marked effects on the landscape. At least one of the surrounding hills – Cerro do Castelo has evidence of later occupation (having been previously occupied in the 2nd Iron Age – 400BC – 27AD) – maybe the early occupants moved down to Boca do Rio, where the earliest phases appear to show it was simply a fish salting complex with no actual occupation on the site, and then returned to Cerro do Castelo at some time in the 5th C. Ismael showed a large aerial photograph of the vicinity on which he had plotted a number of sites that dated from the prehistoric period (the rock shelter of Vale Boi, the possible control points of Zimbral, Ponta de São Lourenco and Cerro do Castelo) through Roman times (Boca do Rio) and into the 16th C when towers/forts were built to protect the area from pirates. From this it could be seen that the whole area was occupied and considered to be of importance to the economy of the times. Archaeologists are now increasingly looking beyond sites in isolation and working to link them with others to build up a model of areas of human activity in the past. We are pleased to have been able to help with his researches and congratulate him on his internship as archaeologist in Lagoa.