Prehistoric cave “with traces of Neanderthal occupation” found during construction of Portimão waste water plant

Traces of human occupation from prehistoric times have been found in a cave during the construction work underway in Companheira to build Portimão’s new waste water treatment centre (ETAR) near the Arade River.

According to regional news website Sulinformação, archaeologists have identified “animal bones” and “utensils made from carved stone” believed to have been left behind by a Neanderthal from the Middle Palaeolithic period, at least 40,000 years ago.

Though the cave (which can be seen directly from the EN125 road) is not located on the plot that is being cleared for construction, two other caves have since been found directly in the area meant for building.

Water authority Águas do Algarve has since said, however, that they don’t seem to hold anything of significance.

Spokesperson Teresa Fernandes said “construction work continues to move along nicely” after a meeting held between several authorities determined that, for now at least, the new ETAR project is not jeopardised by the recent findings.

Meantime, a company called Archeofactory has been hired to study the prehistoric remains found in the first cave and determine whether there is a chance that other caves or similar remains are hidden in the area.

In fact, these findings have sparked the curiosity of the archaeological community in the Algarve who believe they may shed more light on the presence of the Neanderthal man during the Middle Palaeolithic period in the region.

“This is a time period that is very rare in the Algarve,” Nuno Bicho, an archaeology specialist and professor at the University of Algarve, told Sulinformação.

He said that only one other cave with similar traits was found in the Algarve, also near the Arade River but on the Lagoa margin and which was “poorly conserved”.

“This is why this is a good chance to learn more about the occupation of Neanderthals in the south of Portugal,” Bicho added.

Hopes for now are that both the ETAR construction work and the archaeological studies can continue in harmony.

The construction of a new waste water treatment plant in Portimão has been in the pipeline for several years, most notably to end the strong odours that the current ETAR emanates, and which assault the nostrils of anyone who drives in and out of Portimão via the EN125 and Arade bridge or lives near the area.

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