2010 – Sep : Visit to Castro da Cola (near Ourique).
The visit to Castro da Cola, in the Alentejo was guided by Pedro Barros and Samuel Meiro. Unfortunately only a small number of people were able to come along but we were guided expertly through the prehistoric landscape which contains excellent examples of Bronze Age and Iron Age tombs and necropoli.
We began at Porto das Lajes which is now a small, shallow Iron Age site, originally being a much larger habitation site, but which is now cut through by the modern road. Here there is evidence of the rock built bases of house walls that would have had taipa walls and straw roofs.
Next we saw the small dolmen of Fernão Vaz 1 dating from the Calcolithic period and would have contained multi-burials and had originally been covered with quartz and so would have been an impressive sight in the landscape. The tomb at Casario is 1.000 years later than Fernão Vaz 1 and would have contained the remains of one individual and differed in that it was constructed of stones and having earth covering. Pedro and Sam explained that the prehistoric landscape was more wooded than today, only as recently as the late 19th century and 1930’s did the area become more agricultural. There is also an on-going study of the whole area to compare the region with other rural settlements of the time.
The large Fernão Vaz 2 necropolis is believed to contain around 50 burials but thus has yet to be excavated. The Iron Age Fernão Vaz settlement was constructed on a small hill in a bend of the R.Mira and contains the remains of a later medieval site. It is believed that the Iron Age settlement may have been the central administrative site for a large area although it has also been suggested that it could have had some religious purpose.
At Alcaria (the Moorish word for village) there is a large Bronze Age circular mound of 6m in diameter around which smaller niches were constructed. In the afternoon we visited large and impressive castle in the town which dominates the landscape and the small group of houses and the church below.