The Arade River Artifact Collections

The Arade collections are well outside the scope of this report.  Given the importance and number of the artifacts found, however, I decided to include a short note for my students information.

As a result of the recharge of the nearby beaches with sediments from the Arade River mouth, many artifacts were found on these beaches after the 1970 dredging work. Since then, both locals and tourists have engaged in year-round, more or less intense search activity on the beaches of Rocha and Alvor, and no one will ever know how many things have been found, kept, sold, or lost for lack of conservation treatment.

Several artifacts have also been reported found in the waters in front of the Ponta do Altar promontory, probably from the 1926 and 1927 deposit of sediments.

In the 1980s a local restaurant owner, Mr. Cabrita, reported many finds in the press (Fig. 51).  When contacted by both Lisbon's Museu Nacional de Arqueologia and the local municipality, however, he proved to be somewhat reluctant to handle all his collections.  Although parts of Mr. Cabrita's artifact collection eventually made it to museums, others are not likely to be seen again, probably lost to private collectors (Fig. 52).


Fig. 53 - Mr. Cabrita showing a ceramic shard. [1]


Among the most interesting artifacts found in the 1980s and early 1990s were two sounding leads, discovered in sediments from the mouth of the Arade River.  Possibly Roman, these two sounding leads were found by the same person on a nearby beach named Praia dos Careanos.


Fig. 54 - A sounding lead, possibly Roman, whose whereabouts are unknown.[2]


Fig. 55 - The second sounding lead, now in Museu de Portimao.[3]


Many pieces of pewter ware are reported found at the Arade River mouth, but it is difficult to point out the provenience of each of these before a serious investigation of the past takes place.  In an internal CNANS report João Pedro Cardoso has inventoried 16 different objects of pewter with many different proveniences.  Some have disappeared and some are deposited in museums, both national and regional.  The dispersal of this collection has made it difficult to study and publish them.[4]

However, one particular set of artifacts has been catalogued by two students in the 1980s.[5]   These include a collection of eight pieces found by the operator of a bulldozer working on a pile of sediments at the left margin of the river.  These pewter pieces were bought by a private and deposited in a regional museum - Museu do Mar de Cascais - for a number of years.  Unfortunately this collection was later separated and several pieces were sold.  For their beauty and uncommon shapes, drawings of five of these pewters by Miguel Lacerda - at the time a collaborator of Museu do mar de Cascais - are presented below (Figs. 56 to 62).[6]

Also included is a drawing by Miguel Lacerda of a pewter plate whose provenience in the Arade River bottom I could not find (Fig. 54).[7]


Fig. 56 - Plate. Around 21 cm in diameter and 2 cm deep. [8]

Fig. 57 - Footed plate. Around 20 cm in diameter and 8 cm high.[9]


After many unsuccessful efforts and attempts to sensitize known collectors as well as local and national authorities, in the late 1990s CNANS' director Francisco Alves managed to convince the Portuguese government to issue legislation regulating the use of metal detectors. 


Fig. 58 - Salt cellar. Around 8 cm high and 6 cm in diameter on its central portion.[10]

Fig. 59 - Creamer. About 15 cm high on the rim and a 10 cm maximum diameter.[11]


Fig. 60 - Ewer. About 31 cm high on the rim, and 12 cm at its maximum diameter.[12]

Fig. 61 - Ewer. About 23 cm high on the rim, and 11 cm at its maximum diameter.[13]


After the publication of the law regulating the use of metal detectors, Dr. Alves was approached by a group of local citizens that seized the opportunity and created a private program to survey the beaches where sediments from the Arade River had been deposited.[14]

Following an extremely well planned project, the citizen group surveyed the beaches around the Arade River mouth and retrieved - after their positions were carefully recorded - an impressive amount of small artifacts.

Both competent and passionate, this group of people transformed a weekend hobby into a well-managed systematic survey of the beaches around the Arade mouth that has already produced hundreds of artifacts of major interest.

Among these are pottery shards and pewter, copper, bronze, and lead objects, as well as several large collections of coins.

Several of these coins were found in small areas and bear close dates, corresponding perhaps to coherent collections provenient from shipwreck sites.

The first was composed of about 50 coins bearing the names of João I of Portugal (1385-1433) and Henrique de Trastâmara of Spain (1366-1379), and was found at Praia dos Careanos.  It is presumed to have been dredged in 1982/83.

The second was composed of about 30 coins bearing the name of Edward III of England (1327-1377).  It was found in the sediments deposited on the left margin, near Ferragudo.  It was probably dredged in the early 1990s.

The third was composed of 18 denarius from Domitian (81-96), Trajan (98-117), Hadrian (117-138), and Antoninus Pius (138-161).  It was also found in the sediments deposited on the left margin, near Ferragudo, and it is believed to have been dredged in the early 1990s.

The forth was dated roughly to the 3rd century AD and was composed of around 100 coins found at Praia dos Careanos, probably dredged in 1982/83.

Finally, the fifth collection of coins, composed of between 500 and 1,000 coins, was dated to the 1st century BC or 1st century AD.  It was also found at Praia dos Careanos, and was probably dredged from the river bottom in 1982/83.

All these artifacts have been deposited in Museu de Portimão, one of the institutions sponsoring this project.

During the summer of 2002 the museum opened an exhibition showing part of its already impressive collection of artifacts (Figs. 61 and 62).  This was a very important move in the struggle to raise the interest of the local population in their own submerged cultural heritage.  More important, it showed the commitment of the local politicians in the preservation of the Arade underwater cultural heritage, which has been abandoned for too long.  


Fig. 62 - The 2002 exhibition at Museu de Portimão.[15]


Fig. 63 - Another aspect of the same exhibition. [16]


[1] Photo: Francisco Alves (CNANS Archive).

[2] Photo: Filipe Castro at Mr. Cabrita's restaurant (CNANS archive).

[3] José Sousa personal communication.

[4] I am indebted to João Pedro Cardoso for all the information he supplied me, which included a copy of the extremely rare report by Gabriella Maria Casela and Isabel Maria Santos da Silva Almeida cited below.

[5] Casella, G.M., Almeida, I.M.S. da S., and Lacerda, M.,  Trabalho de Investigação sobre peças de Estanho encontradas na Foz do Rio Arade (Portimão), Paper for the course of  Introdução aos Estudos de Arqueologia e da História de Arte at the Faculdade de Letras of the Universidade de Lisboa, teacher Luís Manuel Teixeira, June 1984.

[6] Ibidem.

[7] Ibidem.

[8] Ibidem, No. 833.

[9] Ibidem, No. 832.

[10] Ibidem, No. 831.

[11] Ibidem, No. 830.

[12] Ibidem, No. 828.

[13] Ibidem, No. 825.

[14] I am extremely indebted to José Sousa for all the information he supplied me about the marvelous work developed by his group.

[15] Photo: Filipe Castro.

[16] Photo: Filipe Castro.