Stone Age & Iron Age Sites | Portugal Visitor


Stone Age & Iron Age Sites in Portugal

The Almendres Cromlech is older than Stonehenge

Portugal has many Stone Age and Iron Age sites mostly located in the north and center of the country.

These include Neolithic stone circles or cromlechs, menhirs (standing stones or monoliths) and dolmen (tombs) as well as rock art in the Côa Valley.

Later Iron Age sites include castros or hill forts, the most famous being Citânia de Briteiros near Guimarães.

In the Algarve region of southern Portugal the most important sites are the Megalithic Monuments of Alcalar north of Portimão, the Menires de Lavajo and the Menires de Padrão near Vila do Bispo.

Portugal has several archeological museums of note such as the National Archeology Museum in Belem and the Museu Arqueológico da Sociedade Martins Sarmento in Guimarães. Even the smallest municipal museums usually have a collection of ancient finds including stone tools and pottery.

Côa Valley

The Côa Valley rock carvings are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and date from the Upper Paleolithic Period (22,000-10,000 BCE) and were discovered only in 1992 near the sleepy town of Vila Nova de Foz Côa, located in the Beira Alta region west of Porto near the border with Spain. The thousands of engravings are “the most outstanding example of early human artistic activity in this form anywhere in the world,” according to UNESCO. This important discovery of early rock-art was only made during surveys for a new dam which was to flood the area. The engravings include animals, ibex, cattle and horses as well as some human shapes.

The Almendres Cromlech is aligned in an ellipse.
The Almendres Cromlech is aligned in a rough ellipse

Almendres Cromlech

The Almendres Cromlech (Cromeleque dos Almendres) is an ancient stone circle close to Evora in the Alentejo region of Portugal. The stone circle lies close to several other Neolithic sites including menhirs (standing stones or monoliths) and dolmen (tombs). Altogether there are 95 stones set in two circles. In fact, the area has one of the highest concentrations of stone age monuments in Europe and is set in one of the oldest man-made ecosystems in the world. The name “Almendres” comes from the site’s shape which resembles an almond or almendra in Portuguese. The Almendres Cromlech is approximately 7,000 years old and predates Stonehenge in Britain by 2,000 years. The site was “rediscovered” in 1964 and subsequently excavated and restored.

The Menhir dos Almendres.
The Menhir dos Almendres

Menhir dos Almendres

A standing stone 2 km from Almendres Cromlech, the 4 meter high Menhir dos Almendres, is aligned with the sunrise of the summer solstice and provides another point of observation along with the stone circle itself.

The Zambujeiro Dolmen.
The Zambujeiro Dolmen

Zambujeiro Dolmen

Also in the area near Almendres Cromlech is the Zambujeiro Dolmen (Anta Grande do Zambujeiro) a tomb dating from 5,000 years ago. Archeologists believe that a leader was buried here along with pots, tools and weapons that would be needed in the afterlife. The tomb buried under a man-made hill resembles a womb and is thought to symbolize rebirth.

Pedra Formosa de Briteiros, Guimarães, Portugal.
Pedra Formosa de Briteiros from the baths of the Citânia de Briteiros

Citânia de Briteiros

Citânia de Briteiros, located north of Guimarães towards Braga, is a large pre-Roman settlement in Portugal that contained around 200 homes. It was also later settled by the Roman occupiers of the Iberian Peninsula. The settlement dates back to the Neolithic Period and there are several examples of rock art at the site. The settlement was a walled village or hill fort. There are visible remains of fountains, ramparts, roads, two bath houses and a large meeting hall.

Museu Arqueológico da Sociedade Martins Sarmento, Guimarães, Portugal.
Pre-historic stone tools, Museu Arqueológico da Sociedade Martins Sarmento
Goods From Japan delivered to your home or business.
Goods From Japan delivered to your home or business
Citânia de Santa Luzia, Viana do Castelo.
Citânia de Santa Luzia, Monte de Santa Luzia

Citânia de Santa Luzia

Perched on Monte de Santa Luzia in Viana do Castelo behind the huge basilica of the Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is an Iron Age castro or fort, Citânia de Santa Luzia. Known to locals as Cidade Velha or the “old town,” the site is believed to have been occupied from around 500 BCE to the end of the Roman period. The Citânia de Santa Luzia is a notable example of the many fortified settlements found in the Minho region of northern Portugal. The most important being Citânia de Briteiros, around 15 km from both Guimarães and Braga. The excavated site reveals the surviving circular walls of dwellings, as well as the roads and defensive walls of the town. Archeologists believe the entire site was protected by three walls, several turrets and two moats. The houses would have been family compounds with thatched roofs and earthen floors.

Xarez Cromlech

The area around Monsaraz is known for its Neolithic stone circles, megaliths and dolmens (antas) – ancient stone tombs. Xarez Cromlech (Cromeleque do Xarez) is the most famous with a 4-meter high, seven ton menhir standing stone at the center of a circle of 49 smaller stones. It was transferred to its present site before the flooding caused by the construction of the Alqueva Dam (Barragem do Alqueva) in 2002. The Menir do Outeiro is another large standing stone not far from the Spanish border. It stands 5.6 meters high and weighs around 8 tons. The Menhir of Bulhoa (aka Menhir of Abelhoa) is 4 meters high and covered with some mysterious carvings. It is situated between the villages of Telheiro and Outeiro. Visitors can pick up a map of all the Neolithic sites in the area from the Tourist Office.

Menir de Luzim.
Menir de Luzim

Menir de Luzim

A number of megalithic monuments (dolmen) can be seen in the countryside near Penafiel, 35 km east of Porto. These include the Dolmen of Santa Marta and the Menir de Luzim, an impressive 2.5-meter standing stone dating from 3-4,000 years B.C.

The Castro of Monte Mozinho is a Neolithic fortified settlement that probably dates from the 1st century BC. The Municipal Museum in Penafiel has more information on the settlement which also has Roman ruins.

Castro do Zambujal.
Castro do Zambujal – a Copper Age settlement

Castro do Zambujal

The Castro do Zambujal, a few kilometers south west of Torres Vedras, is a Copper Age settlement believed to date to the 3rd millennium BC. Most of the finds are now in the Leonel Trindade Municipal Museum.

Castelo de Giraldo.
Walls of Castelo de Giraldo

Castelo de Giraldo

The Castelo de Giraldo was built over a castro dating from at least the Bronze Age with elements found from even earlier.

The Pedra Formosa at Castro das Eiras.
The Pedra Formosa from Castro das Eiras

Castro das Eiras

The Castro das Eiras near Vila Nova de Famalicão is one of the largest castros in northern Portugal. Archeologists believe it was occupied from the 1st century BC to the 3rd century AD. The Romans occupied the site and built a bath house, a replica of which was displayed at the National Archeology Museum in Lisbon inside the former monks’ dormitory in the the Jeronimos Monastery.

The Menires de Lavajo.
The Menires de Lavajo

Menires de Lavajo

The Lavajo group of standing stones is a megalithic monument located in the municipality of Alcoutim in the Algarve. It consists of three monoliths, one of which is phallic in shape. The largest has a height of over 3 meters.

The Necropolis of Carenque.
A Tomb at the Necropolis of Carenque

Necropolis of Carenque

The Necropolis of Carenque (Necrópole de Carenque) in Amadora, north of Lisbon, consists of three well-preserved late Neolithic tombs, dating back to about 3000 BCE. They were dug into the local limestone outcrops. Various ritual implements were found at the site which was excavated in 1932. These are on display at the National Archaeology Museum in the capital along with human remains also discovered here.

The Necropolis of Carenque.
A Tomb at the Necropolis of Carenque

Megalithic Monuments of Alcalar

The Megalithic Monuments of Alcalar (Monumentos Megalíticos de Alcalar) is a Calcolithic (Copper Age) necropolis north of Portimão in the Algarve region of southern Portugal. Altogether scholars have identified 18 different megalithic tombs and tholos (beehive tombs) in the area.

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