2012 - June : Visit to Cacela Velha and the Sta. Rita information centre
In the little village of Cacela Velha we were guided by Manuel Godinho and were shown the imposing taipa walls built to offer protection to the village itself against inroads from the Ria Formoso. The main occupation here has always been fishing, shell fishing and garum production, especially in the nearby settlements of Manta Rota and Quinta do Mouro, which also produced ceramic artefacts.
We were fortunate to be able to visit the GNR fort. This has been a stronghold since the 10th C, but was reconstructed after the 1755 earthquake and is still in use by the police. Set in a shady peaceful courtyard with enormous rubber plants, it holds a commanding view of the coastline. From the wall we were able to look down on a site being excavated of a Christian settlement dating to the first half of the 13th C, just after the time of the Reconquest. Although there is known to have been Islamic occupation here, the only record is in writings that have been researched. Indeed the main square is named after Ibn Darraj al-Qastalli, (958-1030) a Berber poet of great renown who was born here.
The main Church, of A Nossa Senhora do Assumção dates from the 15th C.
Near the village of Sta. Rita we were shown the megalithic tomb of Santa Rita by Catarina Oliveira who has been in charge of excavation here since 2007. The tomb is part of a vast ritual and symbolic prehistoric landscape, well preserved with a diversity of grave goods now kept in the Information Centre. A large passage leads to the chamber which is of red sandstone, but with a white limestone lintel on the door to create a visual impact. At least 8 individuals were buried here in foetal position shown by carbon dating to be about 4500 years ago. Subsequently there were later burials, as an ossuary was found at the back of the grave.
In the Investigation Centre in Sta. Rita we were welcomed by Patricia Leal who showed us stone tools and arrowheads from the tomb, and Islamic ceramics found in the Cacela area, some local, and some from other areas. One beautiful jar depicted the hand of Fatima and there were also Roman items such as a lanterna.
The centre organises day walks (Passos Contados) with many different subjects. Their web site is www.ciip-cacela.blogspot.com.