Roman age Portuguese Jewish archaeological discovery


This video says about itself:

The ancient city of Conimbriga is the largest Roman settlement in Portugal, as well as the best preserved, and well worth visiting.

From the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena in Germany:

Oldest Jewish Archaeological Evidence on the Iberian Peninsula

25 May 2012 Friedrich Schiller University Jena

Sensational Discovery by Archaeologists of Jena University at a Portuguese Excavation Site

Archaeologists of the Friedrich Schiller University Jena (Germany) found one of the oldest archaeological evidence so far of Jewish culture on the Iberian Peninsula at an excavation site in the south of Portugal, close to the city of Silves (Algarve). On a marble plate, measuring 40 by 60 centimetres, the name “Yehiel” can be read, followed by further letters which have not yet been deciphered. The Jena archaeologists believe that the new discovery might be a tomb slab. Antlers, which were found very close to the tomb slab in the rubble gave a clue to the age determination. “The organic material of the antlers could be dated by radiocarbon analysis with certainty to about 390 AD,” excavation leader Dr. Dennis Graen of the Jena University explains. “Therefore we have a so-called ‘terminus ante quem’ for the inscription, as it must have been created before it got mixed in with the rubble with the antlers.”

The earliest archaeological evidence of Jewish inhabitants in the region of modern-day Portugal has so far also been a tomb slab with a Latin inscription and an image of a menorah – a seven-armed chandelier – from 482 AD. The earliest Hebrew inscriptions known until now date from the 6th or 7th Century AD.

For three years the team of the University Jena has been excavating a Roman villa in Portugal, discovered some years ago by Jorge Correia, archaeologist of the Silves council, during an archaeological survey near the village of São Bartolomeu de Messines (Silves). The project was aiming at finding out how and what the inhabitants of the hinterland of the Roman province of Lusitania lived off. While the Portuguese coast region has been explored very well, there is very little knowledge about those regions. The new discovery poses further conundrums. “We were actually hoping for a Latin inscription when we turned round the excavated tomb slab,“ Henning Wabersich, a member of the excavation reports. After all, no inscriptions have been found so far and nothing was known about the identity of the inhabitants of the enclosure.

Only after long research the Jena archaeologists found out which language they were exactly dealing with, as the inscription was not cut with particular care. “While we were looking for experts who could help with deciphering the inscription between Jena and Jerusalem, the crucial clue came from Spain“ Dennis Graen says. “Jordi Casanovas Miró from the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya in Barcelona – a well-known expert for Hebrew inscriptions on the Iberian Peninsula – is sure that the Jewish name “Yehiel” can be read, – a name that is already mentioned in the Bible.“ Not only is the early date exceptional in this case, but also the place of the discovery: Never before have Jewish discoveries been made in a Roman villa, the Jena Archaelogist explains.

In the Roman Empire at that time Jews usually wrote in Latin, as they feared oppressive measures. Hebrew, as on the re-discovered marble plate, only came back into use after the decline of the Roman supremacy, respectively in the following time of migration of peoples from the 6th or 7th century AD. “We were also most surprised that we found traces of Romans – romanised Lusitanians in this case – and Jews living together in a rural area of all things,” Dennis Graen says. “We assumed that something like this would have been much more likely in a city.“

Information about the Jewish population in the region in general was mostly passed down by scriptures. “During the ecclesiastical council in the Spanish town Elvira about 300 AD rules of conduct between Jews and Christians were issued. This indicates that at this time there must have been a relatively large number of Jews on the Iberian Peninsula already”, Dennis Graen explains – but archaeological evidence had been missing so far. “We knew that there was a Jewish community in the Middle Ages not far from our excavation site in the town of Silves. It existed until the expulsion of the Jews in the year 1497.“

In the summer the Jena Archaeologists will take up their work again. Until now they have excavated 160 square metres of the villa, but after checking out the ground it already became clear that the greater part of the enclosure is still covered in soil. “We eventually want to find out more about the people who lived here,” Graen explains the venture. “And of course we want to solve the questions the Hebrew inscription has posed us.“

Bee-eaters and flamingos in Portugal


Friday 13 April.

After yesterday, today is our last morning in Tavira, Portugal.

This video is about nature in the Algarve.

Black-winged stilts and avocets in the salt pans.

Dunlins. A redshank.

Curlew sandpiper, Tavira, April 2012

Two curlew sandpipers.

A sanderling.

A zitting cisticola sings, flying.

A corn bunting sings.

On a salt pan dike, a Kentish plover.

Near the orchard, scores of bee-eaters flying.

Bee-eaters, Tavira, 13 April 2012

Some of them rest on high reed stems.

Bee-eater, Tavira, 13 April 2012

A few house martins join a group of bee-eaters on the reeds (see on the left of the photo); then, they fly away. House martin photos: here.

Bee-eaters and house martin, Tavira, 13 April 2012

A Cetti’s warbler sings.

A bit further, a Sardinian warbler sings from a bush.

A crested lark sings while flying.

Then, about seventeen grey plovers on a salt pan dike. Remarkable, as one does not see this species often in big groups. About two of the plovers are already in summer plumage.

A yellow wagtail on top of a bush.

Three white storks flying.

Flamingos flying, Tavira, 13 April 2012

Over fifty flamingos flying.

Flamingos in salt pan, Tavira, 13 April 2012

Later, the flamingos land in various salt pans.

Grey plovers and avocets, Tavira, 13 April 2012

As we walk back, the grey plovers are still on the dike. Scores of avocets, a little tern, Kentish plovers, a ringed plover and dunlins are there as well. The birds keep to the side of the dike where they are most protected against the rather strong wind of today. The photo shows only the grey plovers and avocets.

Birds in Portugal, we won’t forget you.

Europe’s largest underground insect discovered in Portugal


Thiss video from Bangladesh is called Apterygote and Exopterygote Insect Family identification.

From The Portugal News:

Portuguese biologist makes insect discovery in Algarve

14/4/2012

Europe’s largest underground insect was discovered in caves in the Algarve by Portuguese biologist Ana Sofia Reboleira, increasing the number of newly discovered species in Portugal to seven.

Commonly known as ‘silver fish’ or ‘book worms’, the insect’s scientific name is Squamatinia algharbica. According to biologist Sofia Reboleira, “it is the largest underground insect in Europe and the second largest bristletail in the world.”

Being three centimetres long, without eyes, uncoloured and possessing feelers like antennae “that are extremely developed”, the insect is a new species “that lives solely in caves in the Algarve, developing its life cycle underground and not being able to survive outside,” said the biologist.

According to Sofia Reboleira, it is a “bio-geographical relic that survived various episodes of climate change, taking refuge underground” and inhabits the same cave systems where she discovered a giant pseudoscorpion in 2010.

The insect was recently described in the scientific journal ‘Zootaxa’ by entomologist Luís Mendes from the Institute of Scientific and Tropical Investigation.

The discovery was made during research for Ana Sofia Reboleira’s doctorate at the Department of Biology and Centre for Environment and Sea studies at Aveiro University, overseen by professors Fernando Gonçalves from the biology department and Pedro Oromi from the University of Iaguna in Spain.

This new discovery brings the number of new species up to seven described by Ana Reboleira, who has contributed to Portugal’s biological heritage and highlighted … the importance of these species, “which are at risk due to a lack of specific measures to protect underground habitats.”

Birds in Portugal, 12 April


Thursday 12 April.

Today is our last full day in Portugal.

Like yesterday, to Cabanas.

This video is about nature in the Algarve.

Our boat departs from Cabanas harbour. What birds will we see?

On a little beach near the harbour, turnstone and Kentish plover.

A great cormorant swims in the harbour.

A bit further, a score of house martins collect mud from a bank for their nests.

Oystercatchers.

Curlews.

A little egret.

Dunlins.

Sanderlings on Tavira island.

Two black-tailed godwits on a sandbank.

Grey plover on muddy bank, 12 April 2012

A grey plover.

Coots.

Juvenile spoonbill near Tavira, 12 April 2012

Spoonbills, both adults with black bills; and a youngster with a pink bill.

Grey plover, Cabanas, 12 April 2012

Later, back on land, a beautiful grey plover near the harbour.

Grey plover and greenshank in Portugal


11 April 2012.

After the architecture in Cabanas, the birds.

Greenshank, Cabanas, 11 April 2012

In a tidal marsh near the harbour, a greenshank.

A redshank as well.

Little egret, Cabanas, 11 April 2012

A little egret, coming close enough for photographs.

Then, a grey plover. The Dutch name for this species is “zilverplevier”, silver plover. The English name is more apt for the winter plumage. The Dutch name is more apt for the beautiful summer plumage.

Grey plover and turnstone, Cabanas, 11 April 2012

At 15:55 near Cabanas harbour on the mudflat, a grey plover with transition to summer plumage almost complete. Turnstones and a dunlin are there as well.