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Burial pit in Portugal testifies to the violence of the Christian Reconquest


The remains of an ancient child buried for centuries under the historical town of Silves in Portugal have finally been revealed by archaeologists.

Burial pit in Portugal testifies to the violence of the Christian Reconquest
Experts think the child was around one years old but are not sure whether they were a boy or a girl
[Credit: University of the Algarve]
The find is so unusual because the child appears to have been 'dumped' there and stacked up between the remains of several animals including a horse, a sheep or goat, a cat and a bird. The discovery was made back in 2017 during normal urban rehabilitation works near the local church.


Archaeologists have dated the remains back to the 13th century Almóada’ period when Muslim rule over Silves was coming to an end. They were amazed to find a child's skeleton underneath a horse along with lots of other animals.

Burial pit in Portugal testifies to the violence of the Christian Reconquest
The remains had been thrown into a pit [Credit: University of the Algarve]
Although the finds are still being investigated, the researchers think that the weapons in the pit suggest that the child's death was collateral damage of the violence during the reconquest of Silves and that no care was taken with burying the body.


Archaeologist Carlos Oliveira told the Barlavento newspaper: "At first it looked like an archaeological find like so many others.

Burial pit in Portugal testifies to the violence of the Christian Reconquest
The remains of the horse were fully intact and it even had horse shoes and a bridal
[Credit: University of the Algarve]
"This was a structure that had been dug in the rocks and filled with rocks, construction materials and other trivial objects. But as we dug through it, we started finding an unusual amount of bones at a depth of around one metre and a half. We quickly reached the conclusion that many complete animal skeletons were there, which is an uncommon find."


The horse was discovered first with its horse shoes still on and fragments of its harness. The researchers also discovered either a sheep or a goat, animal carcasses that may have been partially cut and eaten, a donkey or a foal, a feline and a bird. This unusual variety of animals piled together is what makes finding a discarded child's skeleton even more shocking.

Burial pit in Portugal testifies to the violence of the Christian Reconquest
The remains of a child that were discarded along with those of animals
[Credit: University of the Algarve]
Oliveira said: "It belonged to a child who shouldn’t have been more than a year old. Due to his/her tender age, which we estimated after examining the teeth, we were not able to identify his/her gender."


Smashed pottery and an arrow underneath the child's head all suggest that their death occurred during a catastrophic scenario. The archaeologists now suspect that the arrow was lodged in the child's muscle but don't know if this injury was fatal.

Burial pit in Portugal testifies to the violence of the Christian Reconquest
Lot's of broken pottery was also discovered [Credit: University of the Algarve]
Oliveira explained: "The child was, surely, collateral damage. It became clear that the child was not buried. There was no care in how he/she was put there. The child was face down and had one of his/her hands underneath his/her body. Thus somebody threw the child into the pit with all the other animals and objects we found."


Experts think that whoever buried the child had to do it quickly or maybe didn't even spot them amongst all the animal remains. The history of Silves includes many battles and conquests by Christian and Muslim groups but the full extent of the brutality that may have occurred remains unknown.

Burial pit in Portugal testifies to the violence of the Christian Reconquest
The finds are still being analysed [Credit: University
 of the Algarve]
Maria João Valente, assistant professor at the Faculty of Human and Social Sciences at the University of Algarve told the Barlavento newspaper: "My preliminary ground-based assessment is that it seems to be a rapid accumulation after a violent episode. This explains why an entire horse is thrown into a pit. The truth is that throughout our history there have been cases of great brutality that can only be revealed through archaeology. Personally, I think this may be one of those. It is a unique context."

Author: Charlotte Edwards | Source: the Sun [August 01, 2019]

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1 comment :

  1. Too much speculation in this article, not enough evidence for a scientific conclusion. New Hypothesis using same evidence: 1. Animals died from hoof and mouth virus cast into trash pit. 2. Bird is chased by cat into pit. 3. Child falls into pit rescuing cat. 4. Good luck arrowhead carried by child fails to work. Same evidence, different conclusion. A tragedy, no violence.

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