Muge Mesolithic Shellmiddens

Salvaterra de Magos, Portugal
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The Mesolithic-Neolithic transition remains one of the most controversial issues in prehistory archaeology, marking the end of the last hunter-gatherers and the appearance of the first food producing societies in Western Europe. The case of Central Portugal, and more specifically of the Tagus valley, with the Muge shellmiddens complex, is currently one of the most important regions to study this transitional phase and certainly help move debate forward. On the one hand, because there is an overlap of a few hundred years in the region between the Muge Mesolithic and the exogenous early Neolithic populations, and on the other, because recent work carried out in the Mesolithic shellmiddens of Muge revealed preliminary evidence of cultural and genetic interaction between both populations. This last point contradicts the prevailing traditional perspectives on a full human population replacement during the transition. This project will develop and expand our knowledge of the transition of Mesolithic hunter-gatherers to Neolithic farmers in central Portugal, and to increase our understanding of the complex changes not only in technology and subsistence, but also in how people thought about themselves and their worlds, the nature of their interactions and the related social processes. The project aims to continue excavations in order to get new data on the absolute chronology, isotopic and DNA, material culture, paleoenvironment, and human burial contexts and patterns that will allow us to test the hypothesis of a cultural and genetic integration process between the Mesolithic and Neolithic communities in the Muge region.


Nuno Bicho


Célia Gonçalves
João Cascalheira
Lino André


Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia
Câmara Municipal de Salvaterra de Magos
Casa Cadaval
Earthwatch Institute


2008 - 2020


Gonçalves, C., Cascalheira, J., Costa, C., Bárbara, S., Matias, R. and Bicho, N. (2017). Detecting single events in large shell mounds: A GIS approach to Cabeço da Amoreira, Muge, Central Portugal. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports.

Bicho, N., Cascalheira, J., Gonçalves, C., Umbelino, C., García Rivero, D. and André, L. (2017). Resilience, replacement and acculturation in the Mesolithic/Neolithic transition: the case of Muge, central Portugal. Quaternary International, 446: 31-42.

Umbelino, C., Bicho, N., Perinha, A., Ferreira, T., Cunha, E. and Curate, F. (2017). Cortical bone loss in a sample of human skeletons from the Muge Shell Middens. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, 2016.

Monteiro, P., Zapata, L. and Bicho, N. (2017). Fuel uses in Cabeço da Amoreira shellmidden: An insight from charcoal analyses. Quaternary International, 431(Part A): 27-38.

Monteiro, P.D., Fermé, L.C. and Bicho, N. (2017). Charcoal analyses from Muge shellmidden (Portugal): Comparative analyses from Cabeço da Arruda and Cabeço da Amoreira. Quaternary International, 457: 190-197.

Aldeias, V. and Bicho, N. (2017). Embedded Behavior: human activities and the construction of the Mesolithic shellmound of Cabeço da Amoreira (Muge, Portugal). Geoarchaeology, 31: 530-549.

André, L. and Bicho, N. (2016). Perforation techniques and traces of use on the Mesolithic adornments of the Trench Area at Cabeço da Amoreira Shellmidden (Muge, Central Portugal). Comptes Rendus Palevol, 15(5): 569-580.

Gonçalves, C., Cascalheira, J. and Bicho, N. (2014). Shellmiddens as landmarks: visibility studies on the Mesolithic of the Muge valley (Central Portugal). Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, 36: 130-139.

Bicho, N., Pereira, T., Cascalheira, J., Marreiros, J., Gonçalves, C. and Dias, D. (2013). Chronology of the Mesolithic occupation of the Muge valley, central Portugal: The case of Cabeço da Amoreira. Quaternary International, 308-309: 130-139.