Archaeology in Portugal SI

Archaeology in Portugal

Signs of human presence are preserved in our familiar landscapes, relics of times before the creation of Portugal and of its frequently evoked eight centuries of history. We pay tribute to Portuguese archaeology, because it is through archaeological methods that these pieces from a distant part of a history we share are released from the ground. In this philatelic issue you will find the rock engravings from the Côa Valley that holds some of the oldest expressions of human art which, since then, has not ceased to manifest itself in different ways; the large megalithic constructions, monuments to the dead, built and used by living communities of farmers; or the castors, walled hill settlements, found in the northwest of Portugal, where the influences of a Mediterranean urbanism, with a rectilinear street layout, blend with ancient local traditions, such as circular plan houses or typical public baths, with elements so profusely decorated that one of them, in the Citânia de Briteiros, quite justly was given the popular name of ‘pedra formosa’ (‘beautiful stone’); and the archaeological remains from the former roman province of Lusitania, with its cities, fields dotted with farms and its multiple architectural achievements, from abundantly coloured mosaic pavements to monumental constructions that defy the passing of the centuries, the old civilization of Italian farmers who found a sea of resources in this European finisterra that they explored extensively. All these places, evocative of the most distant past of the western part of the Iberian Peninsula, also play an important role in the history of archaeological research in our country. The megalithic structures, that always rouse curiosity owing to their striking presence in the rural landscapes, leading to various explanations as to their origin and function; the roman past, because it has, at all times, constituted one of the cultural moulds of the west; the castros, perched on the top of the hills and surrounded by stone walls, because they evoke resistance to external invasions and preserve a marked identity, even during roman dominion wherefore they are widely extolled in nationalistic speeches. And last but not least, because of its enormous impact and relevance, the art from the Côa Valley that literally revolutionized the conventional ideas on the subject of the oldest artistic manifestations from the Palaeolithic, which ceased to be regarded as images reserved for the inside of caves and shelters, to reveal themselves as exuberant outdoor expressions. Because the knowledge of the past is not the result of happenstance, but of persistent research, one cannot fail to evoke one of the ‘fathers” of Portuguese archaeology, José Leite de Vasconcelos, founder of the Museu Nacional de Arqueologia and author of an immense work which is also a priceless national heritage.

Technical Details

Issue Date: 08.09.2011
Designer: José Brandão / Susana Brito
Printer: Joh. Enschedé
Process: Offset
Colours: 4-colour offset
Size: 40 x 30,6 mm, 95 x 125 mm
Values: EUR 2.50, 3.27, 3.83, 4.59