It takes a great deal of History to produce a little History

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Um projecto de prospecção geofísica de Balsa



A Câmara Municipal de Tavira (CMT) declarou recentemente a sua intenção de proceder a prospecção geofísica na zona da antiga cidade romana de Balsa.

http://ml.ci.uc.pt/mhonarchive/archport/msg02007.html

Trata-se de um projecto já antigo e há muito esperado, que finalmente se vai concretizar.

A CMT afirma que o fará com o intuito de contribuir para o aumento do conhecimento sobre a cidade, o que é um objectivo muito louvável , que conta sem dúvida com o total apoio da comunidade científica e do público civilizado.

Quero querer que o título "desmistificar a cidade de Balsa" se trata de um lapso. Penso que o relator deve ter querido dizer "desmitificar" e que o infeliz erro alterou significativamente o sentido. De facto, desmistificar através de prospecções poderá ser entendido como a intenção prévia de pôr fim aos erros e enganos sobre a alegada (como agora de diz...) existência de ruínas no local!

30 anos de destruições na Torre d'Aires

Vem isto a propósito de se comemorar no próximo ano (2008) o 30º aniversário do início da destruição radical das ruínas enterradas, pelos proprietários da Quinta da Torre d'Aires, iniciada em 1978. Essa destruição teve episódios mais selvagens em 1980 e 1996 e continua esporadicamente ainda hoje, embora o essencial já tenha sido eliminado.

Quinta da Torre d'Aires. Destruição do solo arqueológico 1

Quinta da Torre d'Aires. Destruição do solo arqueológico 2

Quinta da Torre d'Aires. Destruição do solo arqueológico 3

Quinta da Torre d'Aires. Escombreira de remoção clandestina de materiais romanos
Fotografias aéreas de Lúcio Alves - 1996
Dos cerca de 42 ha da quinta foram subsolados talvez mais de 30, deixando apenas escarpas e bosque, zonas marginais, logradouros, caminhos e a área urbana. Embora subsista aparentemente intacta a zona do casario (da maior importância arqueológica!) e de haver esperança que o fundo do porto interior possa estar intacto sob nível de destruição, de resto já não sobreviverá muito.


As zonas excluídas de Balsa

A limitação de Balsa à Quinta da Torre d'Aires constitui um erro arreigado, que tem sido perpetuado por publicações sobre materiais da cidade.

Não se trata de um mero detalhe mas de um erro com graves consequências, pois fundamentou a exclusão das zonas do Rato, Arroio e da maior parte das Antas do perímetro classificado de Balsa, apesar da sua conhecida ocupação arqueológica (já para não falar das Pedras d'El-Rei, onde ainda recentemente foi descoberta mais uma fábrica de salgas, a 3ª registada no local).

É sobretudo nestas zonas, quintas parceladas há 30 anos ou mais, que se verifica um escandaloso crescimento urbanístico em plena zona arqueológica, associado a fascinantes histórias "off-the-record" sobre achados e destruições.

De facto, as moradias, piscinas e a jardinagem paisagística têm sido os principais factores da destruição recente e continuada dos vestígios de Balsa. Essa destruição prossegue com grande vigor na actualidade (2007) devido ao mercado imobiliário, que transformou a zona numa área de grandes moradias, de elevado preço.

Uma análise elementar sobre os prédios urbanos definidos no cadastro elaborado na década de 1980, contrapostos às casas efectivamente construídas, assim como a evolução do crescimento das áreas implantadas, constitui um exercício revelador da metástase imobiliária em acção.

Tratam-se, naturalmente, de obras e construções legais e devidamente licenciadas e haverá certamente substanciadas razões para a CMT assim proceder!

Na maioria desta área não há porém indícios de destruições tão profundas como na Torre d'Aires, permanecendo uma zona de eleição para prospecções não invasivas.


A parte submersa de Balsa

Devo sublinhar também a importância da zona da ria limítrofe à antiga cidade. Como se sabe, as dragagens no canal norte, junto à margem, revelaram por duas vezes materiais de construção de muros, não muito longe do local onde, também no canal, foram descobertos vestígios de estruturas e as célebres lápides referentes ao circo de Balsa.

Conhece-se em termos gerais o processo de evolução do sistema dunar e das ilhas-barreira, mas aqui a prospecção geofísica é uma técnica insubstituível para tentar reconstituir a barra, o canal e a ilha-barreira antigas e tentar localizar as estruturas que, sem dúvida, existiram nesta última e sob as dunas da margem. Isso para além do bónus de eventuais descobertas do âmbito da arqueologia naval.


Uma intervenção científica ou perversa?

Sou da opinião, portanto, como estudioso dedicado de Balsa desde 1999, que a CMT, para cumprir o seu objectivo declarado de contribuir para o conhecimento de desaparecida cidade, deve desenvolver um criterioso plano científico de prospecções, baseado no conhecimento fino do terreno arqueológico e que articule as perspectivas de retorno de conhecimento com as disponibilidades financeiras existentes.

Limitar a intervenção a uma prospecção cega e sistemática do terreno da Quinta da Torre d'Aires não tem fundamentação científica e pode, pelo contrário, ser interpretado de duas maneiras perversas:



  • Como um bodo aos proprietários da Quinta da Torre d'Aires, que após estarem 30 anos a destruir uma parte enorme da cidade romana, vêm recompensados os seus esforços com um relatório oficial que vai revelar não existirem ruínas (ou quase), podendo assim accionar o pedido de desclassificação de um terreno de c. 42 ha numa situação única no Algarve, com um valor imobiliário incalculável e para o qual há muito que correm rumores sobre interesses milionários. Neste cenário, um canteirinho de ruínas romanas providencialmente descobertas daria imenso sainete ao “Balsa resort”!
    Neste contexto é significativo referir que os proprietários, aquando do processo de classificação arqueológica realizada pelo IPPAR, salvo erro em 2005/6, protestaram contra a classificação por não haver provas da localização de Balsa ou existiram ruínas significativas no terreno!
  • A exclusão das Antas, Arroio e demais zonas limítrofes pode também ser interpretada como uma manobra de ocultação/desvalorização da sua importância arqueológica, tendo com objectivo o livre prosseguimento da actual política de urbanizações e consequente destruições.

Perante estes dilemas estou seguro que Tavira, através da Câmara Municipal, saberá tomar a melhor decisão para honrar o seu compromisso histórico perpétuo com a memória de Balsa e dos malogrados balsenses.



Para obter uma versão vectorial dos mapas ver

http://www.arkeotavira.com/balsa/destr-balsa.pdf

Este post tem uma actualização aqui.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The roman road of Vale da Serra (Moncarapacho)


Its destinations and historical context
Companion text to the Roman road site, created for the AAA (Archaeological Association of the Algarve) and also for "Friends of the Museum", of São Brás de Alportel.
Best thanks to Peter Booker for his careful text review. All current obscurities are my sole responsibility.
Abstract
The slabbed road section at Vale da Serra (Moncarapacho) is of Roman origin and belongs to the inland road that joined Ossonoba and Balsa to Pax Iulia and Emerita. The branches from Ossonoba and Balsa met at Moncarapacho, where the roadway to the North started.
This major public road was integrated in the Antonine Itinerary Item de Esuri Pace Iulia, at the stage Ossonoba-Aranni. The terrain distance, from Ossonoba to Arannis (identified with Santa Bárbara de Padrões), is 60 Roman miles, the same value as in the Roman itinerary.
Moncarapacho was a secondary agglomeration (vicus) of the Balsa territory, a religious centre of regional importance at a main crossroad.
Roman road at Vale da Serra
Copyright Sandra Rodrigues, 2004

Introduction

The area which is known as the Algarve was under Roman domination from the first years of the second century BCE. Roman influence was of much longer duration here than most of Gaul, Germany, Britain or even the greater part of Iberia.
The first 150 years of Roman presence were basically military, due to their long struggle to conquer Iberia and prolonged by the continual Civil Wars of the late Republic. Subjected indigenous political entities could therefore keep their territories and wide formal autonomies, taking sides in the Roman internal wars until the time of Caesar (60-44 BC).
It is only after the defeat of Sextus Pompeius, in 36 BC, that Augustus and Agrippa were able to begin the final colonial "pacification" and "resettlement" of the Iberian shores of the Gulf of Cadiz.
The resulting territorial organization of the Cuneus Ager (The Eastern Cynetum* in Southern Lusitania) established three civitates in the old western Turdetanian lands: Ossonoba, Balsa and Myrtilis.
Cynetum
Is a pre-roman latinized choronym, used by Rufus Festus Avienus (IV AD)in his poem Ora Maritima, referring the territory and people of actual Algarve in pre-Roman times (c. VI BC):



inde Cempsis adiacent 200
populi Cynetum. tum Cyneticum iugum,
qua sideralis lucis inclinatio est,
alte tumescens ditis Europae extimum
in beluosi vergit Oceani salum.
Ana amnis illic per Cynetas effluit 205
sulcatque glaebam.
...hinc dictum ad amnem solis unius via est, 222
genti et Cynetum hic terminus




Translation Afterwards, the Cempsis (people) lay adjacent to the people of the Cynetum.
Aft
er, (lays) the Cape Cyneticum, where the sidereal light (the Sun) sets, rising highly as the furthest extremity of rich Europe,where she plunges in the waves of the Ocean inhabited by monsters. The river Ana flows through the Cynetas, furrowing their territory....It is said that from here (the Sacred Promontory) to the (Ana) river there is a journey of a single day;
here is the limit of the Cynetum and its people.

Ossonoba and Myrtilis (the actual Faro and Mértola) kept their pre-Roman location with the Augustan revolution. Balsa was moved from Cerro do Cavaco (1 km North of Tavira) to a coastal settlement, founded most probably by Pompey the Great after 67 BC, after the "Pirates War".
The three towns, together with Baesuris (modern Castro Marim which was an old VIIth century BC oppidum at the Anas delta, now downgraded to a vicus of the Balsa territory) became the nodal points of the Roman occupation and its road system.
The natural obstacle to transportation constituted by the Algarvian "Serra" highlights the role of the few existing natural pathways, used and reused since Pre-History to the XIXth century. The most obvious of them all is, of course, the river Anas – Guadiana - and its accompanying road in the right margin of the narrow lower valley.
The inland roads, through the mountains, were also essential for the local economies, tending to gain or lose importance according to the prosperity or decline of the coastal centres and territories to which they were connected.
The longitudinal road parallel to the coast, from Baesuris to the Sacrum Promunturium – Cape Saint Vincent – became, in Roman times, the fundamental communication axis of the Cynetum, connecting the Anas delta to Balsa, Ossonoba, Portus Magnus, Ipses and Laccobriga.
The main archaeological sign of its importance is the Terminus Augustalis and miliary of Bias, the milestone found at "Ribeira das Fontes Santas" (Bias do Sul, Olhão) and nowadays kept in Moncarapacho Museum. Dating from the 1st half of the first century CE, it signals the distance of X roman miles from Ossonoba, in the direction of Balsa, and it defines the border limit between the territories of both towns.
The milestone inscription reads:
[...] AVG(usto) PONT/IFICIM/AXIMO / M(illia) P(assuum) X.Augustus, Pontifex maximus, 10 miles
Milestone of Bias
Copyright Vasco Mantas, 1997


The absence of further known milestones is partially compensated for by the relative abundance of original bits of road pavement (either surviving or recorded), fossil name places and strings of Roman settlements, along reused roads or reconstituted limits of ancient tidal estuaries.
The result allows us to have a convenient working model of the Roman road system of Algarve, integrated in a general geography of the Roman domain.


Roman settlements and roads between Ossonoba and Balsa
The Antonine Itineraries
As in many other parts of the Roman Empire, the ancient document collection known as Antonine Itineraries (AI), dated from the IIIth century CE, provides useful information about the Roman road network and its role in administrative, military and fiscal organisation.
In Algarve, and in the whole of Conventus Pacensis, following the geo-economic evidence and the interpretations of Denis Van Berchen and other investigators, the AI reflects the hierarchy of roads selected by the provincial government for the cursus publicus (official courier and State authority transport) and for the regional collection of the annona tribute, paid in kind, towards the exporting ports or the provincial and conventual capitals.
Three of the known AI crossed the Cynetum:
Salacia – Ossonoba
This itinerary from Alcácer do Sal to Faro is, unhappily truncated, missing all intermediate mansiones (travel stops with accommodations in tax gathering centres). This is not the place to summarise the conjectures about its course but it could eventually pass along an important Roman axis identified by means of archaeological and topographic studies, running though Alvalade, Garvão and Messines.


Baesuris - Pax Iulia (per compendium, by the direct way)
From Castro Marim to Beja, this route corresponds to the direct Guadiana road, passing through Myrtilis; Pax Iulia to Myrtilis by road and Myrtilis to Baesuris both by river and road.
Land transportation was, in average, 7-9 times more expensive than river transportation in Roman times, according to several studies, making rivers favoured inland routes for heavy loads.
Products of the mines from the Anas lower basin and further mining centres (like São Domingos and Vipasca – Aljustrel) were carried to the river over a partially preserved secondary road system. Bulky imported products would also navigate up the river as far as Myrtilis, on their way to Pax Iulia, Emerita and all Southern Lusitania.
Before and after the Romans and until the dawn of the XXth century, the Anas was the only feasible inland approach to the Algarve, in times where road systems were derelict or inexistent. History also shows its strategic value as route of invasion and rear line of military supply.
The fluvial roadSailing (and rowing) on the Anas had limitations (and still has...) due to its strong tides, wind patterns and relatively narrow width.Sailing needs intermediate tide waiting harbours, still functional until quite recently and corresponding to important Roman riverside settlements.A continuous travelling flow also needed a heavy and expensive infrastructure: a waterfront technical road constantly repaired after regular flooding, supporting a boat towing and piloting service and metalled as a quick courier driveway. The disposition of the archaeological river settlements and their connecting waterfront path pinpoints such a Roman infrastructure between the places of Amoreira Velha and Alcoutim.

The river was a provincial border, separating Lusitania from Baetica. The right margin belonged to the territory of Balsa. It is the only one to have clear signs of a systematic structure of service roads, riverside stations and technical harbours, creating a line of dense Roman settlement that shows the geo-economic importance of the river.
In the almost deserted left margin (already in Baetica), a bit to the north of modern Alcoutim, was located Praesidium, a mansio of another AI, with a winding and complex course between Emerita and the mouth of the Anas, away from the river margin.
There are concentrated in the areas of Álamo and Vale do Conde very luxurious villas and a temple of unusual dimension, and they most probably correspond to an official centre, associated with traffic control and riverside fiscal administration.
BeasurisThe Iron-age Baesuris oppidum (The actual castle hill of Castro Marim) seems to have been abandoned in the beginning of the Empire, replaced by a string of industrial and port settlements, dispersed around the ancient inner shore or islands of the delta. The whole constituted an important fish preserving production zone, with pottery factories of garum containers and earthenware. Several spots specialized in storage of imported ceramics and other products, or were prosperous residential villae.

The road measurements both from Balsa and from Myrtilis are consistent with the AI values towards a place some 5 km north of old Baesuris. This mansio would have been therefore located in a Roman settlement nowadays called "Monte dos Castelhanos", a seemingly fortified place on the road, near a harbour in a secondary Anas estuary, nowadays silted up.


Baesuris - Pax IuliaThis third itinerary, also from Castro Marim to Beja, follows an inland course, first to the West by the littoral road to Balsa and Ossonoba and then up North, by the hills, to Arannis and then to Salacia or Sarapia, on the way to Pax Iulia.
In the AI the last stages of this route are notoriously and irremediably interpolated with another route. After Arannis it may probably be mixed up with another itinerary going from Salacia to Arucci.
This is the itinerary that interests us here, in its stage from Ossonoba to Arannis.

From Ossonoba to Arannis
The location of Arannis and the corresponding route from Ossonoba has been matter of discussion since the XIXth century. Arannis was identified with Garvão, but there was reason to doubt this identification, namely that the measured distances either from Salacia or from Ossonoba did not match the AI values.
Garvão
Was an Iron Age Celtic sanctuary in a very small oppidum ("Castelo"), whose well known votive deposit showed an ophthalmological functionality.Its Roman occupation does not seem to go beyond the time of Augustus.The name Garvão, probably derived from the locally documented Arab gentilic Banu Tharouan, has a viable philological evolution from the Celt stem TARVO (bull), and may be hypothetically reconstructed as TARVANNA or *TARVANUM. This name, the absence of Roman Imperial findings and the unmatched distance disqualify Garvão as the location of Arannis, other Celtic contemporary toponym.


In 1994 a huge votive deposit of Roman lucernae (more than 15 000, from the first to the late third century CE, representing the biggest Portuguese collection) was discovered near the chapel and cemetery of Santa Bárbara de Padrões (Castro Verde).
José Leite de Vasconcelos (1897) had already referred the existence of extensive amounts of opus signinum under the whole village and two sections of a Roman wall of Augustan type. The great late master tells the anecdote that the signinus was so common that the villagers thought it was a natural rock.
Later prospection showed a small Roman dam, large areas with scattered Roman building materials and structures of a Roman sanctuary (a large basin and walls), later integrated in a Paleochristian basilica. Our own topographic survey has detected further urban signs of a
Roman town: strong points of past regularity in street alignments and convergence of pathways, allowing the reconstitution of a hexagonal or octagonal walling system containing a simplified hipodamic street layout around a main decumanus, in the same line as the sanctuary axis.
Urban model of Roman Arannis (Santa Bárbara de Padrões)
Museu da LucernaCastro Verde (Beja)
Displays a selection of the lucernae found in the Roman sanctuary of Santa Bárbara de Padrões. The museum organizes temporary exhibitions, dedicated to Classic themes portrayed in lucernae decorations. Has an archive for specialized research.

This small walled town (with an estimated area of about 13 ha) is at the centre of a mining area of scattered settlement, made up of castella from the time of Augustus, many of which were later replaced by neighbouring rural villae. It was an important regional road network centre, and large portions of unslabbed agger pavement have been identified towards the Algarve, in the area of Caiada.
As we will see below, the measure of the terrain road axis from Santa Bárbara de Padrões to Ossonoba is precisely 60 Roman miles, corresponding to the exact value stated in the AI, giving a strong empiric confirmation to the identification of this significant Roman town with Arannis, a hypothesis already formulated by Manuel Maia in 1987.
It must be referred the great similarity of lucernae types found at the sanctuaries of Faro, Santa Bárbara de Padrões and Peroguarda (Beja), all along our road. This discovery by Maria Maia allowed her to put up the hypotheses that the lucernae (made in Africa, Italy, etc.) were imported to Ossonoba and carried to the inland sanctuaries, accompanying the supplicants some of whom would also be road travellers.
In fact, the oldest road map of Southern Portugal (Alphonse Allard, 1670) shows clearly a road starting in Moncarapacho and crossing the "Serra" towards the area of Santa Bárbara de Padrões. However, in the map of 1762 and in other more recent cartography this road is not represented, therefore showing its downgrade after the XVIIth century.
Road from Moncarapacho to Beja by Santa Catarina and Serra do Caldeirãopassing probably in Santa Bárbara de Padrões (1670)
During archaeological mapping of the extensive "freguesia" of Cachopo (2000), the first Roman sites in association with the course through "Serra do Caldeirão" were identified. The part of the road then surveyed proved to be built over a Pre-Historical natural path, signalled by megaliths and used through the Iron Age until Roman times.
Roman findings in Porto Carvalhoso (coins from a probable burial site) and the discovery in 2005 of a section of slabbed Roman road in a good state of conservation at "Ribeira dos Lagares" (Santa Catarina da Fonte do Bispo) revealed the exact route of this less known part of the road.


Roman road at Ribeiro dos Lagares


The direct interpolation became then obvious: from "Ribeira dos Lagares", through Torre, to the well known Roman road section of "Vale da Serra (Moncarapacho)", orientated towards the "Serra". XIXth century maps still show the old roadway, which disappeared after the building of the new tarmac road between Moncarapacho and Santa Catarina.
The piecemeal reconstitution of the road system between Ossonoba and Balsa together with the large scale reconstitution of the road between Moncarapacho and Santa Bárbara (both published in 2006) allowed the first rigorous measurement of the distance (a first trial had been made in 2002 with insufficient data), producing the following results:

Route
Distance
km
m.p.*


Ossonoba-Quatrim
By S. Cristóvão and João de Ourém
11.8
8.0
Ossonoba-Moncarapacho
By Quatrim
16.3
11.0

A

Ossonoba-Bias (Rib. Fontes Santas)

By Quatrim and Canada de Bias

14.8

10.0
Bias milestone


10
B
Ossonoba-Santa Bárbara de Padrões
By Moncarapacho, Calçadas de Vale da Serra and Rib. dos Lagares, Porto Carvalhoso, Fronteira, Mealha, Monte da Estrada, S. Pedro de Solis, Caiada, Sete
88.9
60.1
Ossonoba-Arannis
(Antonine Itinerary)


60

C
Ossonoba-Balsa
By Bias
23.8
16.1
Ossonoba-Balsa
By Moncarapacho
24.1
16.3
Ossonoba-BalsaAntonine Itinerary)




16



Balsa-Fonte Santa

2.11
1.4
Balsa-Bias


9.04
6.1
Balsa-Moncarapacho
By Fonte Santa
7.80
5.2
Balsa-Gião (Marco)
By Fonte Santa
7.20
4.9

* milia passuum: "a thousand steps". Roman mile of 1479 meters.
The table shows that Moncarapacho is 11 roman miles from Ossonoba, a convenient distance for a road station (mutatio).
It also shows that there were two alternative roads between Ossonoba and Balsa, both fulfilling the 16 miles indicated in the AI. They had a common course from Ossonoba to Quatrim and then split: one went through Moncarapacho; and the other through Bias needing a ferry through the ancient and wide Tronco estuary, nowadays silted up. The roads joined again at the sanctuary of Fonte Santa, in the neighborhood of Balsa.
Quatrim was a four ways crossroad between Ossonoba, Moncarapacho, Balsa and Marim. Its name reflects this situation, deriving most probably from *QUATRIN[I]VM , with the sense of four roads.
The distance from Moncarapacho to Santa Bárbara de Padrões is 49 Roman miles, therefore adding up to 60 Roman miles from Ossonoba, what corresponds to the AI distance.
Finally, the distance indicated in the Bias milestone (10 miles) corresponds to the measured distance, confirming its original location at Ribeira das Fontes Santas
Roman course from Ossonoba to Arannis

Vale da Serra
The road section of Vale da Serra was first described by the José Fernandes Mascarenhas in 1967.
Much later, in 2004, Sandra Rodrigues "discovered" the same road, even if it was already identified and located in the "Carta Arqueológica de Portugal" of 1995! This author had the merit of being the first to publish a photo of the pavement (above reproduced) and to denounce in the press its later destruction by the "Câmara Municipal de Olhão", still another of the uncountable patrimonial crimes perpetrated by local authorities and State-controlled companies.

A shared road

The North course from "Ribeira dos Lagares" to the crossing of river "Vascão" (the Northern limit of Algarve) coincides with the accepted boundary between the civitates of Balsa and Ossonoba. This and its pied-de-poule start, at mid-distance from both towns, reveal it to be a common frontier road, shared by the two populi .
Its choice by the cursus publicus and later integration in the AI has therefore two weighty justifications:
  • It was the shortest carriageable route between both Balsa and Ossonoba and Pax Iulia (and therefore Augusta Emerita).
  • As the maintenance of the public road service and of its infrastructures was the responsibility of the local communities through which they passed, a shared road might represent a very substantial economy to the respective municipal finances, specially a mountain road with its heavy support costs.
Its regional economic value as a mining road was equally relevant, connecting the exporting centres on the coast with the gossan rich area of Mealha-Barrigões (silver, gold, copper and iron).

Moncarapacho and its mountain sanctuaries
The referred pied-de-poule road topology highlights its centre at Moncarapacho, defining it as a pivotal road station between Ossonoba, Balsa and the interior of Lusitania. The orientation of its original streets and many other modern cadastral limits are perfectly aligned with the Roman cadastral limites of Balsa, showing that it belonged to the pertica (the centuriated area) of Balsa and therefore to the territory of this town.
Roman road of Monte Figo


Scores of Roman findings in the area of the village or its surroundings (most of them identified by Fernandes Mascarenhas in the decades of 1950 and 1960) show its importance at the time, enhanced by the proximity of two important pre-Roman sanctuaries: "Cerro de São Miguel" and "Cerro da Cabeça".
"Cerro de São Miguel" has been identified by several authors with the arcis summitas Zephyris vocata refered by Avienus (Ora Maritima, 223-4), that is, a mount dedicated to Zephirus/Favonius, the deification of the Western Wind, whose yearly start signalled the beginning of Roman Spring.
It is historically the most important natural maritime daytime beacon of the Gulf of Cadiz. It has a rich ethnographic tradition as a meteorological oracle, with influence as far as Huelva. Locally it has a tradition as a sacred place with archaic "pagan" rituals, barely hidden by the cult of Saint Michael (such as the "miraculous healing earth", banquets in May and September and summit fires lighting).
"São Miguel "or "Monte Figo" also contains a Roman road up to the top or to a sanctuary where a source existed (a "well of singular water", according to a friar's text of the XVIth century, which may be translated from the language of the time as "reputed miraculous or holy without the certification of the Church ").
The road comes from the direction of Moncarapacho and has well-preserved slabbed and stone-cut sections, with curves and pavements adequate for vehicular traffic. Some wheel marks may be visible as well as remains of Roman style side drains. Such an expensive road may be justified by the use of the mountain as a maritime night light beacon, besides its obvious religious role.
"Cerro da Cabeça" has an equally rich archaeological and ethnographic register, whose details are too numerous to fit in here. Its memory as sacred mountain ground is kept alive in a popular "enchanted Moorish " fairy tale. In this tale, a Moorish fairy will appear and make rich to whom will tour around the "Cerro" three times at midnight. This topic of pre-Christian religious symbolism is significantly not a stereotype, as it occurs only once in the whole Algarvian tale corpus which was put together in the beginning of the XXth century. 



Map of Roman Algarve



Bibliography
Encarnação, José d’1984: Inscrições romanas do Conventus Pacensis, 2 vols., Univ. Coimbra, Coimbra

Fraga da Silva, Luis2002: A região de São Brás de Alportel na Antiguidade, Campo Arqueológico de Tavira, Tavira
2004: Atlas de Balsa, Campo Arqueológico de Tavira, Tavira, http://www.arqueotavira.com/balsa/atlasb/index.html

2006: Calçada romana da Ribeira do Lagar, Campo Arqueológico de Tavira, Tavira, http://arkeotavira.com/arqueologia/via-sc/
2006: Marim Romano, Campo Arqueológico de Tavira, Tavira, http://arqueotavira.com/alg-romano/marim/
2007: Balsa, cidade perdida, Campo Arqueológico de Tavira e Câmara Municipal de Tavira, Tavira

Maia, Manuel1986: Os castella do Sul de Portugal, separata de “Madrider Mitteilungen 27, 1986”, Mainz, 195-223+lâmin. 20-21
1987: Romanização do território hoje português a Sul do Tejo: Contribuição para a análise do processo de assimilação e interacção sócio-cultural 218-14 d.C., 3 vols., policopiado, Lisboa
2006: "De Baesuris a Pax Iulia por Arannis" in Actas das I Jornadas "as vias do Algarve da Época Romana à Actualidade", C. M. S. B. de A., S.Brás de Alportel, pp. 39-45

Maia, Maria e Maia, Manuel1996: Os Castella do Sul de Portugal e a mineração da prata nos primórdios do Império, in “Mineração no Baixo Alentejo”, C.M. Castro Verde, Castro Verde, 60-81
1997: Lucernas de Santa Bárbara, Cortiçol, Castro Verde

Maia, Maria; Maia, Manuel e Silva, Luis Fraga da2007: Vias de Penetração Terrestres entre o Sotavento Algarvio e a Região de Beja da Proto-História à Idade Moderna in “Actas das IIIas Jornadas/Congresso da revista ‘Arquivo de Beja’ (2000)", Arquivo de Beja, Beja.

Maia, Maria e Silva, Luis Fraga da2000: Levantamento da carta arqueológica de Cachopo, Campo Arqueológico de Tavira, Tavira

Mantas, Vasco Gil1997: Os caminhos da serra e do mar in “Noventa séculos entre a Serra e o Mar”, I.P.P.A.R., Lisboa, 311-326

Marques, Teresa (Coord.)1995: Carta arqueológica de Portugal (Algarve-Sotavento), I.P.P.A.A., Lisboa

Mascarenhas, José Fernandes
1967 : "De Ossónoba a Balsa", in Elementos de arqueologia sobre o Algarve, Tavira 1967, 7-25
1967: "Vestígios romanos no ribeiro do Vale da Serra", in Elementos de arqueologia sobre o Algarve, Tavira 1967, pp.32-33

Rodrigues, Sandra2004: As vias romanas do Algarve, CCRA, Faro
Vasconcelos, José Leite de
1927: De terra em terra. Excursões arqueológico-etnográficas através de Portugal (Norte, Centro e Sul), 2 vols., Imprensa Nacional, Lisboa

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Balsa: Memoria damnata


Ao conhecer a história de Balsa, um habitante do mundo greco-romano clássico não teria grandes dúvidas:
Uma cidade que é destruída por duas vezes ,sem deixar memória nos povos que vivem no local, só pode ser vítima de uma terrível maldição imposta pelos deuses sobre os seus habitantes, muito provavelmente devido a hubris, impietas ou sacrilegium imperdoáveis dos balsenses!
Senão veja-se:

  • A cidade antiga padece de um declínio doloroso e muito prolongado (séc. III a VI), gerando inevitavelmente nos espíritos de cada geração um sentimento de fatalidade da decadência e um suplício espiritual de saber-se que a idade dos filhos será pior que a dos pais.
    Esta punição terrível acompanha a extinção dos balsenses até ao último, que não deixam memória nos seus descendentes quase imediatos. Os próprios vestígios da cidade são arrasados, permanecendo apenas uma parte enterrada e oculta.
  • Ao relembrar-se o nome de Balsa, muito mais tarde no sec. XVI, espalha-se a confusão e o erro sobre a sua localização, situação que permanece nos espíritos até hoje, apesar da descoberta das suas ruínas em 1866.
  • À descoberta (acidental e voluntarista) das ruínas e à percepção da sua importância histórica seguem-se cem anos de paralisia e preguiça das agremiações encarregadas do seu estudo, situação em contradição total com os seus princípios orientadores e sem vislumbre racional possível, mesmo num país atrasado.
  • A partir do momento que se inicia timidamente a exploração dos vestígios de Balsa, em 1977, as suas ruínas começam a ser destruídas radicalmente, com uma violência inaudita desde o terramoto do ano provável de 382, de modo a nada permanecer no solo.
    Esta segunda destruição de Balsa é levada a cabo pela obstinação agressiva dos rústicos e pelo ensandecimento dos próceres, incapazes de reconhecer os seus próprios benefícios, num crescendo de confusão deliberada, de ocultações e de participações activas nas destruições. Estes acontecimentos espantosos, que prosseguem ainda hoje em dia, passam-se para além da esfera humana do interesse, da ordem e da razão!

Não haveria assim dúvidas, para o nosso greco-romano, que a maldição não só foi particularmente terrível como continua ainda activa na actualidade, 1800 depois, sendo-lhe possível reconstituir os seus termos gerais:

  • Que a cidade seja arrasada. Que nenhum vestígio dela permaneça à vista. Que os restos enterrados sejam arrancados e raspados da terra e espalhados e destruídos de modo a que nada reste delas e que a sua ligação a Balsa se perca.
  • Que a memória da res publica se extinga, assim como das suas leis e sucessos, das suas famílias poderosas e da massa do seu povo. Que ninguém se lembre ou reconheça os balsenses.
  • Que a localização, o aspecto e a história da cidade permaneçam confusos e incertos, para sempre sujeitos a desmentidos, chicanas e calúnias, tanto de ignorantes como de estudiosos.
  • Que os descendentes dos balsenses esqueçam os seus antepassados e que sejam possuídos por furor obsessivo na destruição dos vestígios e da sua memória, o mesmo sucedendo a quem venha a habitar o lugar maldito!

O nosso greco-romano meditaria então, provavelmente, sobre a importância da harmonia pessoal nas adversidades da condição humana e sobre os desígnios cruéis dos deuses contrariados. Perguntaria a si próprio se seria possível aplacá-los, antes que desapareça a derradeira memória da infeliz Balsa e dos seus tristes manes.