In search of the Phoenician Lisbon | Culture

In search of the Phoenician Lisbon | Culture


There was a stone in that wall that did not fit with the others. The archaeologists of the company Neoépica They were preparing the works to turn the old Sommer stores into a hotel, at the entrance of the Lisbon neighborhood of Alfama, they realized immediately and decided to take everything apart to take it out with great care. They knew it could be something important – the building stands on a palace from the Roman late Roman period, that's why they were there – but it was very difficult to foresee that it was something so old: a funeral stele with an inscription in Phoenician around it. VII century before Christ. An epigraphy that has come to support with more force than ever that the Phoenicians – the first great civilization that colonized the entire Mediterranean – came to settle in a stable manner in that area, that is, probably There was a Phoenician Lisbon.

"Until a few years ago, we stopped the Phoenician expansion in the Cadiz area, in the Strait of Gibraltar; there were remains already on the Atlantic slope of the Peninsula, although it was not given much importance, "explains the researcher at the Center of Archeology of the University of Lisbon Ana M. Arruda, one of the highest authorities in the field. That is why it highlights the importance of the discovery, published in 2016, of that funerary stela that supports "that the Phoenicians arrived in the Atlantic and settled in Lisbon as in Malaga, in Cádiz …".

In search of the Phoenician Lisbon

How the tombstone came to the wall of the late-imperial palace of Alfama is relatively easy to interpret: the Romans reused it, as they did with so many materials, after taking it, probably, from a cemetery. However, it is more complicated to say if it was the grave of someone born there or of a colonizing emigrant who came from the east, since the inscription is incomplete and the name is not well read, explains José Ángel Zamora, the epigraphist Portuguese archaeologists (Nuno M. Neto, Paulo M. Rebelo, Ricardo Avila Ribeiro and Miguel Rocha) sent their discovery to analyze it. What is clear, adds Zamora, responsible for the area of ​​Ancient History of the Spanish School of History and Archeology in Rome, is that in the seventh century before Christ "someone was buried in Lisbon, with a Phoenician ritual and an inscription in Phoenician, which shows not only that they arrived in Lisbon, but that there was settlement, "insists the specialist.

The stele has been crucial in the progress of the investigation, but has been added to many other indications that point in the same direction, such as the large number of remains found on the hill of the Castle of San Jorge and that draw a large occupation, about 15 hectares and between 2,000 and 2,500 inhabitants, during El Hierro Age (in the first half of the first millennium before our era).

In this context, the keys that clearly support the Phoenician occupation are the when and how the materials of oriental tradition appear: amphoras, red varnish ceramics, painted ceramics, kitchen ceramics, gray ceramics … "The incorporation of these materials in Lisbon it is not gradual, on the contrary: from the seventh century they are introduced in a massive and almost exclusive way, substituting the autochthonous productions, which happen to assume a practically residual character. This implies not a transfer of knowledge between Phoenician and indigenous agents, but a full implantation of orientalizing productive traditions during the beginnings of El Hierro Age ", explained the researcher from the University of Lisbon Elisa De Sousa during the IX International Congress of Phoenician and Punic studies held last October in Mérida, where specialists Ana M. Arruda and José Ángel Zamora also agreed.

Phoenician funeral stele found in Lisbon.
Phoenician funeral stele found in Lisbon. Neoépica

De Sousa presented an advance of the investigation in Mérida in which he proposes that "Lisbon could have corresponded to a Phoenician colonial nucleus during the initial phase of El Hierro Age". And, even more, that was not the only urban nucleus in the area: "Immediately opposite, on the other side of the river, and at a distance of just five kilometers, another site of at least identical importance is located: the Quinta do Almaraz" .

As in Cádiz

Analyzed the remains found there -including two lines of wall and a pit with an average of 6.5 meters wide and 3.5 deep, and several domestic structures, alabaster vessels, Egyptian scarabeos, Greek ceramics of the Middle Corinthian, plates of ivory and lead weight- and compared with those on the other side of the river, on the Lisbon shore, the specialist says: "The two nuclei could correspond to a single administrative political entity, of a colonial nature, founded by Western Phoenicians from end of the eighth century. " Next to the Quinta, given that there was less population, remains of greater wealth and defensive structures, it would "correspond to the political, social and economic organization"; while the Lisbon side would have "assumed essentially domestic and productive functions, particularly in the framework of the pottery industry," de Sousa added in his presentation.

A division into different nuclei that Diego Ruiz Mata specialist proposed years ago for what was probably the great population of Phoenician colonization of the Iberian Peninsula: Cádiz. According to the specialist this would have been divided between the current Cádiz and the castle of Doña Blanca, in El Puerto de Santa María, De Sousa also remembered.

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