Rock-cut tombs are the most abundant remains of the communities that inhabited the Upper Mondego (Guarda district, Portugal) in the 6th- 11th centuries. Despite being extremely difficult to analyse and study, their distribution and spatial relation with habitation contexts allow us to approach the making of this rural landscape. Several seasons of survey and excavations in three settlements in close vicinity to rock-cut tombs -Penedo dos Mouros, São Gens and Monte Aljão -permitted relevant archaeological data to be obtained. A recent reinterpretation of the above type of necropolises by I. Martín Viso is the motto for the present paper. This new approach permitted different patterns of spatial association and distribution to be typified and interpreted. In addition to the adaptation of the mentioned model, we also attempt to move on the explanation of the identified distribution patterns (isolated, clustered, disordered and concentrated). It is thus possible to deduce the structure of these societies: the first three types of necropolises reflect local household-based forms of social organization while the latter is the outcome of established supra-local powers. Rock-cut necropolises also testify a deliberate intention of marking the landscape in various ways, from long-lasting places for the dead to the economic, social and symbolic appropriation of a rural territory in Early Medieval times. It is revealing that the work put in its construction is greater tan in the habitation sites, which were mostly built with perishable materials. The durability and location of tombs is a deliberate action. Even if we are unable to understand all its meanings, tombs can not be dissociated of the anthropization and appropriation of rural and forested spaces. Tombs, were, at the same time, enduring and legitimating landmarks with their own meaning to the buried people. The presence of tombs with the ancestors and family members is recognized as imbued of a legitimating role of the exploitation and/or possession of a given territory. The distribution of rock-cut tombs in the Upper Mondego shoes an image of a fragmented space, testimony of local communities with households as the nuclear basis of the society. It is not possible to ensure if this fact is reflected in a scattered rural settlement; it is, however, sure that these tombs marked the forested and rural spaces that were exploited. Only the Church would be able to breakdown the Early Medieval funerary manifestations by establishing a parochial system associated to resettlement processes and administrative social and economic reforms from the 12th century onwards.
|Translated title of the contribution||Rock-cut tombs in Alto Mondego (Guarda, Portugal). Distribution patterns, meanings and construction in the early medieval rural landscape|
|Number of pages||20|
|Publication status||Published - 2015|
- Household organization
- Middle Age local communities
- Rural landscapes