Circulation in seventeenth-century Lisbon (Portugal): Traffic signs and traffic rules

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By the 17th century, Lisbon was a large and complex city—the capital of a large empire in which thousands of people and goods originating from different places around the world circulated. Yet the city was still organized according to its medieval footprint, one consequence of which was numerous documented traffic problems. In 1686, King Pedro II decreed that places in Lisbon where the problems were most recurrent should be marked with signs establishing circulation rules. Consequently, 24 such signs were put up in different parts of the city, three of which still survive today, even after the destruction of the 1755 earthquake. Based on archaeological, historical, cartographic, and geographic information, this article aims to discuss how these signs are a reflection of medieval Lisbon’s circulatory patterns and how the narrow streets were not able to adequately support the circulation of large vehicles introduced in the 17th century. The combination of this information not only allows the recreation of Lisbon’s circulation patterns, but also parts of the city’s social and cultural landscape as well.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalHistorical Archaeology
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Sept 2023


  • Lisbon
  • Signs
  • Traffic rules
  • Urban circulation


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