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Nautical Archaeology in Portugal

Positioned in the nexus of the Baltic and North Atlantic, and the Mediterranean worlds, the Portuguese coast has a rich and abundant submerged cultural heritage, although largely unknown, and waiting to be studied in a systematic and professional manner.

Following the pioneer efforts of the municipal Museu do Mar, in Cascais, in the 1970s, a number of attempts have been made to establish a consistent policy for the study, assessment, protection, and divulgation of the country's nautical cultural heritage.

Texas A&M University, the Institute of Nautical Archaeology, or the ShipLab have been party or fully involved in some of the projects implemented since 1998.




These projects were possible through the generous support of Dr. and Mrs. Peter Amaral, the Portuguese Ministry of Culture, the Câmara Municipal de Lagos, and CMAC.


Lagos - 2006/2007

The Nautical Archaeology Program has organized a Summer School in Lagos, Portugal, during the month of June of 2006, with the support of the City of Lagos, a city with a long seafaring tradition and the place where Prince Henry the Navigator lived and planned the first effective steps of the Portuguese expansion overseas, which lead to the discovery of a maritime route to India.

The 2006 summer school was the first step of a series of actions to be developed at Lagos by Texas A&M University, in a cooperative plan expressed by a Memorandum of Agreement signed this year between the Municipality of Lagos and Texas A&M University.

Halted by bureaucratic problems, in 2007 the Lagos Project became nevertheless the core of a wider project, which has gathered the support of some of the most important centers and institutions dedicated to the study of Portuguese seafaring and Portuguese history of shipbuilding.

Although the ShipLab eventually gave up trying do field work in Portugal due to the bureaucratic complications and difficulties raised by the country's authorities, several scientific events have been organized around Lagos' Centro de Estudos Gil Eanes, and more events are planned to take place in the coming years.

The objective of the Lagos Project is now the study, protection and publication of the maritime history of Lagos region from an historical, rather than archaeological viewpoint. A wider cooperation between several universities and institutions aims at the study of the Portuguese maritime history.


Conquered from the Umayyad rulers during the 12th century the stretch of coast that extends from the old Baía da Pederneira, near the city of Alcobaça, to the small harbor of Porto Novo has a rich past with plenty of maritime activity.

This long-term project intends to reconstruct region's maritime history for the general public, a guide to its many shipwrecks, coastal monuments, and the ways of living of its population, which stretch between the exploitation of both its fertile soils and once rich seas.


While living in the Azores through the 1990s Paulo Monteiro studied the region's incredible maritime history and shipwrecks.

Most of his work - reports, memos, short articles in the local press - has not been published, but its relevance justified the creation of this space.

Although the ShipLab has never worked in the Azorean archipelago the interest of its maritime cultural heritage is obvious, namely in what pertains to the study of Iberian shipbuilding.


Arade 1 Shipwreck - 2002

The Arade 1 shipwreck was located by a team from the extinct Centro Nacional de Aqueologia Náutica e Subaquática (CNANS) during the summer of 2001. After an agreement was secured with the local municipality and archaeological museum for a long-term project of survey, excavation, study and preservation of the Arade River shipwrecks, excavations started. Part of the Arade 1 shipwreck was excavated and recorded by a team from CNANS during the summer of 2001. 

In the summer of 2002 a team from Texas A&M University's Nautical Archaeology Program, in the Anthropology Department, was invited to excavate this shipwreck. Our cooperation lasted only one season, however, after which CNANS took over the excavation again.

Cais do Sodré Ship Timbers - 2001/2002

The Cais do Sodré ship was exposed in 1995, during the excavation works for the construction of a subway station at Cais do Sodré Square in Lisbon, Portugal.
Presumably a derelict, this hull was preserved to the turn of the bilge along 24 m of a flat keel. The walls of the subway hall had cut the stem and sternposts, and with the exception of part of a whipstaff no loose artifacts were found in any of the layers above and below the ship remains. Two wooden samples were taken for radiocarbon dating and yielded dates around the end of the fifteenth century.

The ShipLab helped recording the ship's timbers in the summers of 2001 and 2002.

Oeiras Guns - 2000

A group of five iron guns was found on the path of a jetty planned to be built during the summer of 2000. Heavily concreted to the rocks they were removed with jack hammers. Since there were almost no sediments in the area no other artifacts were found.

Nearby, a number of artifacts have been recovered by diver Paulo Pimentel, clearly indicating the existence of a shipwreck in this area.



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Last Updated: 10/14/08