2010 - Sep : Roman remains in Boca do Rio and kilns of Martinhal
At Boco do Rio we were met by Prof João Bernardes who teaches at the University of the Algarve in Faro. Although excavations of the Roman sites had finished for the season in July he was waiting for a team to come to lift the mosaic (c 250AD) from the Boca do Rio site. This work has now been completed.
Prof Bernardes explained that the site at Boca do Rio was dedicated to the fishing industry between the 1st and 5th centuries and in Roman times the area was covered by a large lagoon with the coastline being far out beyond the modern beach. The site is in very great danger of erosion as can be seen by the Roman remains of the fish processing structures on the cliffs that are almost hanging over the beach. The present work is to study the remaining Roman features as well as to record the work carried out by E. da Viega who originally excavated the site but curiously ignored the 18th c. constructions initiated by the M. Pombal, which cut into and overlay the Roman layers. Da Viega excavated and recorded the baths, exposed small areas of red painted wall plaster and 4 rooms have been identified, their entrances exposed, but the internal areas are still unexcavated.
The visit then progressed to Martinhal where kilns for the production of amphorae are also in danger of collapsing onto the beach. These amphorae were used to transport the fish garum. A good number of years ago the AAA was involved in excavations at Martinhal when 4 kilns were identified and 4 years ago others were found: 3 for the production of amphorae and 1 for tile production. Cliff erosion last winter revealed 9 more amphorae kilns and another tile kiln. One of these kilns was found to be of particular interest in that the roof had collapsed and complete amphorae of the 3/4th c. were found inside. These amphorae are about 50 cm tall and similar ones have been found in Palestine and may even have come from the Martinhal site! João explained that the kilns had been fired using heather from the local area as well as olive wood. The clay used was also local and RC dating gives a 4th c. dating limit. It is hoped that more excavations can be carried out on it. All these can be seen today but are in great danger of collapse should we have severe weather.
The site is easily accessible for those who might want to visit…. Travel towards Sagres after Vila do Bispo and look out of a sign to the Martinhal resort on the left. Turn here and go along the road towards the resort, turn right through the houses and head for the beach where there’s a café and a big carpark. Facing the sea go left and walk through the sand dunes after which the cliffs rise over the beach. Go along the beach looking up to the cliffs where the kilns can be seen. It’s probably only safely accessible at low tide.
The pictures are from the excavation sponsored by the AAA in July 2011
Many thanks to João Bernardes for giving us his time to show us these 2 most exceptional and important sites both of which are in great danger of serious damage and subsequent loss.