Gates (or doors) are extraordinary important in any architecture or space organization. Being a building (with gates or doors), being a landscape (with its locals of passage that tradition preserved as “Portelas”, a Latin word, or “Alvalade”, an Arab one). They are that specific point where people cross borders between different meaningful scenarios, places of transition, elements of orientation for pathways and mental reference in construction of space, places to be defended or to be decorated or monumentalized. They are so in the present and they were so in the past.
To ditched enclosures gates are a special issue, for they can provide us with important information about the ideological background that informed the construction of these sites. Namely, the gates show, in several cases, in Portugal as in Europe, that these enclosures were built with astronomic specific orientations, where gates played an important role: they are facing important astronomic events, like the solstices or equinoxes.
We do not have in Portugal many enclosures where we have information about the gates. We have that information for Perdigões, for the sites of the project of geophysics that I developed in the context of my NIA-ERA activity, for Santa Vitória, Outeiro Alto 2 and for a section of Alcalar. I presented some of the architecture of those gates in an earlier post, where the above image was posted.
Recintos de Bela Vista 5
Recently, in Senhora da Alegria was excavated another strange gate (posted here) and after, in Bela Vista 5, three new gates could be recorded. And although this is a latter enclosure, built in the last quarter of the 3rd millennium, it seems to use gates in a way that we can track to earlier moments in Chalcolithic: one is orientated to the sunset in the equinoxes, and the two others are orientated to Summer solstice. And one has a semicircular development by the outside (the “pinças de carangueijo”) similar to several solutions we can observe in Perdigões, Moreiros 2 or Xancra, but at the same time different: coming out of the ditch before the entrance interruption, it stops exactly where the gate begins, not blocking a front entrance or visibility and does not create a lateral entrance as it happens in the other quoted examples.
It’s a clear example that these outside elements of gates respond to intentions that are not easy to understand in their specific motivations.