Digs uncover Tavira’s Roman past in ancient town of Balsa

Archaeological digs carried out in Tavira to discover more about the ancient Roman town of Balsa have confirmed the existence of “several buildings and a road”, although archaeologists are still trying to establish exactly how large the town really was.

This is described as the “main goal” of a project launched this year by the University of the Algarve and the Tavira Science Centre.

It is backed by the Regional Culture Centre and Tavira Council and will involve three years of digs on private land in Quinta da Torre D’Aires in the parish of Luz de Tavira.

Ualg researcher João Pedro Bernandes is happy about the findings of this first round of digs, which he says uncovered “important structures”.

“The town had a golden age between the first and second centuries, when big structures and buildings were built, and then there was a phase of decline, which started in the third century and lasted until the seventh,” he told Lusa news agency.

The town was apparently a stopover destination along the Mediterranean as many materials from other countries were found, such as fine ceramics, one of which is believed to have been imported at the time from France.

“By cross-referencing information from other digs or even ovens that were found, we will be able to determine where it came from and even which decade it was made in”.

Archaeologists have also learned more about how agriculture damaged some of the relics that were buried beneath the earth, as the machinery left marks on some of the findings.

The main goal for the next two years of digs will be discovering exactly where the town started and ended.

“To do so we will likely have to negotiate with several owners because we believe the town continues onto other properties,” he said.

The local council hopes that these digs will help determine all the information that there is about Balsa so that “it is known exactly what is there” and so that the areas where there aren’t any vestiges of the town can be “released” from their protected status (Zona Especial de Proteção, or ZEP).

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