PhD thesis by Ana Avila de Melo.
This PhD thesis that is presented to the Faculty of Letters of the University of Coimbra, in order to obtain the degree of Doctor in Archaeology, focuses on the study of the metal artefacts from Pragança (Cadaval, Potugal) prehistoric settlement, particularly those from the Bronze Age and Early Iron Age. This set of metal artefacts is part of the collection of the National Museum of Archaeology (Lisbon, Portugal) since the end of the 19th century. Despite constituting one of the largest collections of pre‑ and proto‑historical metal artefacts in the National Museum of Archaeology collection, with more than three hundred artefacts, fragments and remains of production, it is still poorly known and, above all, these metal artefacts has never been studied as a unique set. At the same time, a small set, residual in numerical terms, of metallic artefacts from Pragança and currently in deposit at the Municipal Museum of Faro was studied in different perspectives ‑ the Archaeometallurgy and the History of Archaeological research in Pragança. These metal artefacts from Pragança are the only set, collected at the end of the 19th century, which is not part of the National Museum of Archaeology’s collection. It was our purpose with this research project and the results we are now presenting to the scientific community with special focus on the Bronze Age and Early Iron Age, in a multidisciplinar perspective, with special emphasis on the archaeometallurgical study of a considerable number of artefacts and metallurgical production remains. The prehistoric settlement of Pragança, commonly known as “Castro de Pragança” is located in the municipality of Cadaval and was identified in 1893 by J. Leite de Vasconcelos, founder and first director of the National Museum of Archaeology (Lisbon, Portugal). In that same year, archaeological excavations began at the site of the “Castelo” which, later on, J. Leite de Vasconcelos started to designate as “Castro de Pragança”. The numerous amount of archaeological artefacts collected there, not only metallic artefacts but also ceramics and lithic artefacts, became part of the National Museum of Archaeology collections. The discovery at the end of the 19th century of such an important site led to more regular archaeological excavations until the beginning of the 20th century. After J. Leite de Vasconcelos’ death there was a sort of “abandonment” of this site, at least a decrease of its scientific interest and archaeological research. The archaeological excavations carried out there were sporadic until the end of the eighties of the last century, when J. L Marques Gonçalves resumed systematic excavations in this settlement during two campaigns. These issues led us to pay particular attention to the history of investigations in Pragança, to an exhaustive documents research in the National Museum of Archaeology’s Historical Archive and in the Personal Archive of J. Leite de Vasconcelos, in order to obtain all the information possible and to allow a better understanding of the site and its archaeological artefacts. Although we have not carried out any archaeological excavation in Pragança, we tried to analyze this site in the context of Portuguese Estremadura. The main focus was to understand the settlement of this region during Bronze Age and Early Iron Age, without ignoring the relevance of the Chalcolithic fortified settlements in this region. Pragança, during the Chalcolithic, is part of an importante group of fortified settlements in Portuguese Estremadura. During the Bronze Age and Early Iron Age these fortified settlements were partially occupied, but this reality was necessarily different, as we will also have occasion to explain. We can say that the typological study of all copper alloy artefacts and metallurgical production remains occupies a significant part of the work, and it could not be otherwise, given the volume of artefacts handled. Alongside this typological study, with everything it includes, from the classification of pieces, to the identification of parallels and possible exchange networks, an archaeometallurgical study was carried out of a significant set of pieces. This archaeometallurgical research was carried out over several years in partnership with Doctor Maria de Fátima Araújo, from the former Technological and Nuclear Institute (Sacavém, Portugal) and, more recently, with Doctor Carlo Bottaini from the HERCULES Laboratory, University of Évora. The chemical characterization of metal alloys and metallurgical production processes was particularly relevant, especially since there are no stratigraphic data available for the excavations carried out in Pragança, with the exception of those carried out in the eighties of the last century by archaeologist J. L. Marques Gonçalves. Finally, and bearing in mind that the evidence of Bronze Age and Iron Age Pragança’s occupation remains a rather problematic issue and raises more questions than the scientific data that we could obtain. Therefore in order to understand these questions we focused on the trade and exchange routes of raw materials and metallic artefacts that put Pragança in contact with the Mediterranean world, but also with trans‑Pyrenean and Transalpine Europe. We hope that this long journey can bring a better understanding of the significance of Bronze and Iron Age metallurgy in Pragança’s prehistoric settlement.