Crops on the Rocks: Production, Processing, and Storage at the Early Medieval Site of Senhora Do Barrocal (Municipality of Sátão, Central Portugal)

Luís Seabra, Catarina Tente, Filipe Costa Vaz, Cláudia Oliveira, Lara González Carretero, João Pedro Tereso*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Small rural places are largely absent from early medieval written sources, but they were profuse and relevant in regional settlements and economies. Only through archaeological and archaeobotanical investigation is it possible to unveil their structure and productive strategies; however, this kind of investigation is still uncommon in Iberia. Here, the assemblage of fruits/seeds, wood charcoal, and food remains from Senhora do Barrocal (SB) (Sátão, Portugal) will be presented and discussed in order to understand the crop production, processing, and storage. The site was destroyed by a fire somewhere between the 10th and the 11th centuries AD, which allowed the preservation of abundant plant remains in a storage area. Charcoal analyses suggest that the building was made with oak and chestnut timber. The massive fruits/seeds assemblage was dominated by cereals, mostly oat and rye, but also barley, millet, and naked wheat, some fully dehusked, others still hulled. Furthermore, evidence of food products has also been found, suggesting that the area was used for the storage of multiple foods and crops at different processing stages. SB is a good example of how communities adopted a diverse set of crops and multifaceted storage strategies to prevent food shortages and to endure in a harsh environment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number471
Number of pages26
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 9 Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

Funding Information:
Funding: The archaeological interventions at Senhora do Barrocal were funded by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (Program Professor Fellowship), the Municipality of Sátão, and the parish of Romãs, and were under the direction of Catarina Tente and Hugo Baptista. The work conducted by L.S. was funded by a PhD grant (Norte-08-5369-FSE000057) from the University of Porto (Faculty of Sciences) and the European Social Fund, through the North Portugal Regional Operational Program “Norte 2020”, under the announcement “Aviso Norte-69-2015-15-Formação Avançada (Pro-gramas Doutorais)”. The work of F.C.V. and C.O. was funded by the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Porto. J.P.T was supported by national funds through the Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT).


  • Charcoal analysis
  • Food remains
  • Fruits/seeds
  • Middle Ages
  • Western Iberia

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