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Faro bypass yields Roman remains
“These were humble people”, Teresa Barbosa, 31, the archeologist in charge of excavation work tells us. “This was probably a necropolis associated with a rural structure, not the town”, which, at the time, was known as Ossonoba.
Although they are between 1500 and 1800 years old, a lot of the skeletons discovered were in relatively good states of conservation due to the permeable limestone rock they were buried in, causing any rainwater that seeped through to be low in acidity. In all, there are 72 skeletons, which the archeological team say have brought new details to light which could have a bearing on modern-day understanding of the times.
“There are lots of Roman necropoli throughout the Algarve – the problem is that not many of them were investigated using archeological methods that we use today”, anthropologist Carlos Pereira, 30 – doing his doctorate thesis on the find – explains.
“Normally, there was a whole ritual surrounding death in Roman times. It wasn’t that the Roman was a citizen afraid of death, more one that wanted to die, above all, with dignity”, he adds. “This meant being accompanied in the tomb by items that in some way or other imitated his or her way of life”.
And thus the humble origins of these particular folk from the past: “Other than sundry pots of ointments, we only found a few coins”, which, according to the mythology of the times would have been used to pay Charon (the boatman who rowed the dead into the underworld).
“We found these people’s teeth had been very badly worn – most likely from a cereal-based diet – and about 50% of the buriels were subadults” (the anthropological term for children and youngsters under the age of 15). The team also discovered “neo-natal burials, in amphora”, says Barbosa
“We think that the area south of the city could correspond to a much older occupation than this necropolis – which dates back to the second century A.D. Later, we have a larger area – an extension - that dates to the middle of the 3rd century”, she explains, citing preliminary data.
The team estimates that the area where they have been digging corresponds to less than a third of the total area of the ancient Roman cemetery – which continues to be used as an orchard on private land. “This is perfectly normal in Portugal,” Carlos Pereira smiles. “The different layers of human occupation…”
So far, this has been the most important archeological discovery on the by-pass. Depth soundings have also been made further north, at Campinas. There, Estácio da Veiga, the father of Portuguese archeology who made a study of the Algarve – still required reading today – suggested there was another necropolis. Up until now though, nothing significant has been found.
Very soon, after this particular site has been declared “archeologically sterile”, construction of the bypass will get underway. All the finds – after being carefully inventoried and studied – will go to Faro’s municipal museum.
The investigating team say talks on their discovery will also follow at the annual archeological meetings that take place in Silves.