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Posted by portugalpress on July 12, 2018
From left, archaeologist Cristina Garcia, zooarchaeologist Maria João Valente and Paulo Águas, Rector of the University of the Algarve

Caption: From left, archaeologist Cristina Garcia, zooarchaeologist Maria João Valente and Paulo Águas, Rector of the University of the Algarve

Quote: ‘Back in 2001, a series of excavations that lasted seven months uncovered 56 graves and the remains of 74 people. Since the latest digs started, 10 new skeletons have been discovered’

Archaeologists are hard at work in Cacela Velha, carrying out new digs to discover more about the medieval history of the beautiful seaside village.

The works are taking place in the Poço Antigo area near the village’s old fortress where an old Islamic quarter is located and where there is believed to have been a link to a port and Christian necropolis.

The first round of archaeological digs will continue until the end of this week although the initiative will involve several digs taking place until 2022.

“Cacela Velha is a very special place,” says Cristina Garcia, an archaeologist for the Algarve’s culture board (DRCA).

“As urban development hasn’t invaded this area, it has kept its traces of historic occupation intact,” she told Barlavento newspaper.

The goal of the digs is to study the transition between the periods of medieval Islamic and medieval Christian occupation.

Back in 2001, a series of excavations that lasted seven months uncovered 56 graves and the remains of 74 people. Since the latest digs started, 10 new skeletons have been discovered.

“We knew they would be here. This is a cemetery that dates back to the foundation of Portugal. I am convinced it is one of the oldest built by the Christian settlers following their conquering of the Algarve,” the archaeologist explained.

Carbon-based tests were conducted which confirm her guesses.

“In this whole lower Guadiana area, people arrived after the military men and occupied the land, bringing their livestock and developing agriculture and metallurgy. Cacela Velha became the religious centre of this whole rural area,” she said.

Maria João Valente, a zooarchaeologist who teaches at the Faculty of Human Sciences at the University of the Algarve, is also taking part in the initiative and is hoping to find an Islamic necropolis in next year’s digs.

“The people who lived here had to be buried somewhere. We think we know where it might be, but the digs will only take place next year,” she explained.

Hopes are that the discovery of the supposed necropolis could shed some more light on whether the Islamic people abandoned Cacela after it was conquered again by the Christians, or if at least some of them continued to live in the area.
Another goal is to eventually create an outdoor museum that would allow people to visit the medieval remains of the village.

“I think Cacela deserves this; a museum that shows people the true value of this place,” said Maria João Valente.

The initiative is being carried out by the University of the Algarve and Canada’s Simon Fraser University with the support of VRSA council and the Algarve culture board (DRCA).

Most of the works are being carried out by students from the universities, giving them the opportunity to gain some real experience in archaeological digs. Some local high-school students are also helping out.

The project is a follow-up to digs that took place between 1997 and 2007 in the historic village.

On Saturday, July 14, Cristina Garcia, Maria João Valente and physical anthropologist Hugo Cardoso from the Simon Fraser University will be presenting the results of their findings to the public. Those interested in learning more should meet at the Largo da Fortaleza at 6pm.

Registration is required: 281 952 600 | ciipcacela@gmail.com

Photos: BRUNO FILIPE PIRES/OPEN MEDIA GROUP

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