Pre Historic Route
As if on a journey to a distant place, time ies as it travels the land... In the UpperPalaeolithic age, in the open-air sanctuary formed by the stone walls of the banks of the Côa River – declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO – handscarve and scratch out gures. Horses, aurochs, goats and hinds appear on thelarge slabs of schist. Some images can be seen from a distance, others criss- -cross and superimpose each other, sometimes in a confusing tangle of lines, but each carving adds to the symbolism of the place. On the riverbanks, whilethese animals remain xed in the engraved stones, the human groups movearound vast areas, following the herd, in a space with no borders. The carved vista of the Côa Valley is part of this symbolic world, dominated by animalgures.
Time ies as it travels the land... In the Neolithic age, history brings in a new cast of characters and props. Next to the cli s and the riverbanks, thelast hunter-gatherers begin to see the signs of a new world. They are brought cereals and domestic animals, new techniques such as clay pot cooking and stone polishing, by small groups in canoes who have left the Mediterranean behind. Villages and, later, barns mark the landscapes through which theyroam; in forests, they open up clearings that will become elds of wheatand barley. The Cartaxo ceramic vase marks the moment of arrival of theseNeolithic groups and technologies. Its cockle shell decoration places it rmly inthe large family of Neolithic communities of the Mediterranean.
Time ies as it travels the land... During the Megalithic age, our ancestors –those who went before us – start to organise their lives, forming groups that grow larger and denser, leading animals to better pastures, hunting in the hills, foraging in the woods and harvesting mature crops. Beyond the fragility of life, the places of the living, the villages of meagre shelter, stone is chosen for the eternity of death, in the form of large slabs, raised and placed side by side, ordug into caves. The e orts of the living, placing objects from life – stone axes,hunting weapons, ceramic vases – in burial sites, make the dead enduring. Later, the extent of this symbolism becomes obvious, as next to the dead wend images representing female gures, with human features or geometricbodies, prominent eyes – the gaze of the dead, the gaze of the gods – in a face that is sometimes smooth and sometimes distinguished by its features, the eyebrows, the eyes, the tattoos. The carved schist plaque, with geometric decoration, from the Megalithic monument of Praia das Maçãs represents oneof these protective divinities of the dead that de nes the Megalithic age in thesouth of Portugal.
Time ies as it travels the land... In the Chalcolithic age, groups keepgrowing, moving more and more and circulating salt, silex, copper ore, the green rocks used to make bead necklaces, amber, ivory. Agriculturalelds, worked by oxen now hitched to the plough, bring prosperity tothe world of these farmers who live in fear of losing it. They build stone walls in high places to demonstrate their power and defend their stores, they dig lines of ditches on fertile plains to delimit precincts, and inside they come together, living and dead, animal, human and divinity. Hierarchiesbecome de ned and, in death, some receive extraordinary objects. The anthropomorphic ivory idol from the Perdigões precinct reveals the important social role of these rst elites of history.