Castro of Zambujal

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Castro of Zambujal (Castro de Zambujal)
Prehistoric Monument of Zambujal
The excavations on the Zambujal promontory in 2007, showing in front the 4th fortification line
Official name: Monumento pré-histórico no Casal do Zambujal/Castro do Zambujal
Named for: Zambujal
Country  Portugal
Region Centro
Subregion Oeste
District Lisbon
Municipality Torres Vedras
Location Santa Maria do Castelo e São Miguel
 - elevation 86 m (282 ft)
 - coordinates 39°4′27.78″N 9°17′8.20″W / 39.0743833°N 9.2856111°W / 39.0743833; -9.2856111Coordinates: 39°4′27.78″N 9°17′8.20″W / 39.0743833°N 9.2856111°W / 39.0743833; -9.2856111
Length 123.25 m (404 ft), Northwest-Southeast
Width 188.45 m (618 ft), Southwest-Northeast
Architects unknown
Style Calcolithic
Material Limestone
Origin c. 2500 BCE
Owner Portuguese Republic
For public Public
Management Instituto Gestão do Patrimonio Arquitectónico e Arqueológico
Operator Câmara Municipal de Torres Vedras
Status National Monument
Monumento Nacional
Listing Decree 35/817; Diário do Governo, 187 (20 August 1946)
Wikimedia Commons: Zambujal

The Castro of Zambujal (Portuguese: Castro do Zambujal) is a Neolithic age archeological site in the civil parish of Santa Maria do Castelo e São Miguel, municipality of Torres Vedras in the western littoral area of the Portuguese Centro Region. The Zambujal Castro is one of the most important Copper Age settlements in the peninsula of Lisbon, and whose culture lasted until the beginning of the agrarian periods of Iberian history. Apart from being the most northerly discovered Copper Age site in Portugal, it went through two main building phases: an import-oriented phase and the second associated with the Beaker culture.


The site was discovered and interpreted in 1932 by the Portuguese archaeologist Leonel Trindade,[1] who, made the first investigation in 1944, and together with Aurélio Racardo Belo in 1959-1961, from 1964 to 1973 the excavations were directed by Hermanfrid Schubart.[2](German Archaeological Institute) and Edward Sangmeister (University of Freiburg).[2]

New excavations were started in 1994 and 1995 by Michael Kunst (German Archaeological Institute) and Hans-Peter Uerpmann (University of Tübingen), the work was continued by Michael Kunst (German Archaeological Institute) with the support of the Municipal Council of Torres Vedras. From 1964 until nowadays the project is mainly financed by the German Archaeological Institute of Madrid.


Animation showing five of the constructive phases on the site according to E. Sangmeister and H. Schubart, updated by the new excavations of M. Kunst
The Copper Age nucleus of the fortified site of Zambujal in autumn of 1994

Occupation of the site was initiated in the Chalcolithic period, in the beginning of the 3rd millennium BC. Research of the last 30 years suggest that the region of the actual Portuguese Estremadura in Central Portugal was the region where the so-called Bell Beaker phenomenon started around the middle of the 3rd millennium BC, and from there spread to other European regions during the later Chalcolithic or early Bronze Age;[2][3] in this context Zambujal is with its relative good conservation (some walls existing still up to a height of 4 meters) and large stratigraphies one of the most important sites. The site and surrounding land was specifically tied to a Chalcolithic settlement that constructed a wall around itself to protect its community from attack,[2][3] the settlers, who may have been from the peninsula but perhaps with Eastern Mediterranean contacts, based their economy on intensive farming. They were also part of an economic network importing minerals like copper and amphibolit stone, also ivory and gold, between 3000 and 1700 BC.[2][3]

According to the excavations and analysis of Edward Sangmeister, Hermanfrid Schubart, and Leonel Trindade (1969), the site went through successive phases of occupation and development:[2][3]

  • the construction of "soft walls", relatively straight, yet, narrow channels, with the fortifications developing in sections;
  • a period of reinforcement of the northern gateway, through the construction of new soft bastions, and reinforcement of sections;
  • the reinforcement of all walls, construction of small semi-circular towers, and sections;
  • a period of fortifying the walls, construction of large semi-circular towers completed in sections;
  • also completed in sections, the construction of projected barbicans, free-form walls constructed using small slabs;
  • the constructed of massive buildings surrounding the structure;
  • the towers developed interior, rounded spaces, covered by cupolas, while the fortifications were reinforced, around 1700 BCE[3]

Although uncertain as to the date, the fortification was partially destroyed (principally the central structures) in order to construct a rural adobe farmhouse (today known as the Casal do Zambujal).[2][3]


The inner wall constituting the barbican built in the 2nd phase of occupation
An access corridor between the individual sections of the site

The site is located in the semi-rural area of the parish of Santa Maria do Castelo e São Miguel, along one of the flanks of the Serra do Varatojo mountain range. Situated on a platform, the location extends down towards the Sizandro River, approximately 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) from the urban center of Torres Vedras.[2][3]

Of the original fortification only the central body remains, the interior courtyard includes a space approximately 25 metres (82 ft) diameter, circled by a solid wall, which runs independently for several metres.[2] The exterior is reinforced by 10 cubels, in a semi-circular layout and with diameters varying between 6 metres (20 ft) and 7 metres (23 ft). Of these, four are complete and one incomplete, while five are totally destroyed,[2] the walls themselves range from 1.6 metres (5.2 ft) to 3.6 metres (12 ft) in width and 3 metres (9.8 ft) to 7 metres (23 ft) in height.[2][3]

There are four doors within the structure (south, north, northeast and west), with the likelihood that six doors or passageways provided access to the courtyard between the fortifications inner and outer walls,[3] these passages were short and narrow and permitted only one person at a time from accessing the spaces, likely on all-fours.[2] One of the spaces connects the battlement's gallery and these passages.[2]

The houses on-site were constructed from adobe, in an oval shape, approximately 6 metres (20 ft) in diameter.[2]

Current projects[edit]

To combat archaeological ruin and problems, the Municipal Council of Torres Vedras acquired 48 hectares to guarantee the protection of the national monument in 2006.[2] Most of the artefacts discovered at the site are stored and displayed in the Municipal Museum,[2] the Portuguese Institute of Architectural Patrimony and Archaeology (IPPAR) has an architectural project to restore the adobe houses adjacent to the site, as well as a landscaping project, which included fencing the site, creating greenspaces, and the construction of support facilities, walkways/trails, explanatory signs and a small museum.[2]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Zambujal - Deutsches Archäologisches Institut Archived 2014-01-03 at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Noé, Paula (1991), SIPA, ed., Monumento pré-histórico no Casal do Zambujal/Castro do Zambujal (v.PT031113130010) (in Portuguese), Lisbon, Portugal: SIPA –Sistema de Informação para o Património Arquitectónico, archived from the original on 29 March 2014, retrieved 20 April 2012 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Martins, A. (2011). "Monumento pré-histórico existente no Casal do Zambujal, com o terreno circunjacente, em que assenta uma povoação do começo do bronze" (in Portuguese). Lisbon, Portugal: IGESPAR - Instituto de Gestão do Património Arquitectónico e Arqueológico. Archived from the original on 29 March 2014. Retrieved 20 April 2012. 


  • Sangmeister, Edward; Schubart, Hermanfrid; Trindade, Leonel (1969), "Escavações no Castro Eneolítico do Zambujal", O Arqueólogo Português (in Portuguese), Série III, vol. 3, Lisbon, Portugal 
  • Sangmeister, Edward; Schubart, Hermanfrid; Trindade, Leonel (1971), Escavações na Fortificação da Idade do Cobre do Zambujal/Portugal 1970 (in Portuguese), Série III, vol. 5, Lisbon, Portugal 
  • Santos, Manuel Farinha dos (1972), Pré-História de Portugal (in Portuguese), Lisbon, Portugal 
  • Almeida, José António Ferreira de (1988), Tesouros Artísticos de Portugal (in Portuguese), Porto, Portugal 
  • Abreu, Daniel (28 December 1989), "Povoado Pré-Histórico do Zambujal vai ser Recuperado", Frente Oeste (in Portuguese), p. 10 
  • Humberto, Jorge (7 April 1994), "O Senhor Castro", Frente Oeste (in Portuguese), Torres Vedras, Portugal, p. 4 
  • Torres Vedras, Passado e Presente (in Portuguese), 1, Torres Vedras, Portugal, 1996