SESSION 5 | MARCH 3 | 9:30-10:45

Chair Jacinta Bugalhão (UNIARQ)

In search of the Aljama Mosque of Silves. Possibilities and limitations of archaeological data

9:30-10:00 |  Maria José Gonçalves and Carlos Oliveira (CMS)

Even though the old Silves’ Cathedral does not show any architectural features or elements that remind us of any mosque, it has been argued, over time, that the two buildings overlap. Despite the extensive area already excavated within the walls, nobody has found evidence of the Muslim religious building, but some researchers have suggested hypotheses regarding its location in spaces not always coincident with the Christian Sé. The systematization of the documental data and its articulation with others, resulting from archaeological works, allows us, nowadays, to present some working hypotheses. Theaim is answering the questions that have always been raised, namely about the eventual superposition of the Sé to the main Silves mosque, thus contributing to the topographic reconstitution of Islamic Xīlb.

The Old Castle Mosque of Alcoutim: transformations in the urban plot, construction and dynamics of use

10:00-10:30 |  Helena Catarino (CEAACP) 

The excavations in the Old Castle of Alcoutim allowed us to recognize several phases of occupation, between the Visigothic/Paleo-Islamic transition and the Almoravid period. In addition to a small citadel at the top, the lower walled platform – interpreted as an alcazar – had different stages of residential remodelling, one of which was the construction of a prayer building, a small mosque from the caliphal/taifa period. The Mosque of the Old Castle of Alcoutim, discovered during the excavation campaigns of 1989 and 1999, is located to the left of those who enter the first fortified enclosure and corresponds to a small and rectangular religious space, with access from an atrium, or portico, open on the wall of the qibla. It displays a mihrab, or prayer niche, in a sub-rectangular form on the outside, located in the middle of the same wall facing Mecca. The construction of the mosque required a profound change of the previous urban fabric, with some houses being destroyed and other spaces altered, so that the mosque was centred in a wide open area between the gates of the alcazar and the citadel – near the street/beyond the east wall. And a narrow, elbow-shaped alley was opened on the north side so that the qibla – which is south-south-east oriented (about 180 degrees) – was free from other residential constructions. The issues addressed in this communication are, therefore, the characteristics of this Islamic religious space, the urban transformations that preceded its construction, the phases of use and the problems concerning its foundation and abandonment, which coincide, respectively, between mid/late 10th century and, above all, during the 11th and 12th centuries.


Maria José Gonçalves. BA degree in Archaeology from the University of Coimbra (1988), post-graduated in Regional and Local History from the University of Lisbon (2005), and a MA degree in Archaeology from the University of the Algarve (2008), having produced a thesis on the theme "Silves Islâmica, a Muralha do Arrabalde Oriental e a Dinâmica de Ocupação do Espaço Adjacente". She has been a technician at the Silves City Hall since 1988, having played various management and coordination roles. She’s currently the coordinator of the areas of Archaeology, Cultural Heritage, Conservation and Restoration and Museums; she’s also director of the Municipal Archaeological Museum. Member of the CIGA Group, a research group dedicated, since 2008, to the study of Islamic ceramics of the Gharb al-Andalus and invited teacher at the Faculty of Human and Social Sciences of the University of Algarve, where she teaches the Medieval Archaeology, Islamic Archaeology and Urban Archaeology, in the Degree in Cultural Heritage and Archaeology, and of Settlement and Material Culture in the Gharb al-Andalus, in the Masters of History and Heritage of the University of Algarve.

Carlos Oliveira. He has a BA degree and a MA degree from the Faculty of Arts of the University of Lisbon and has worked professionally in archaeology since 2001. At the beginning of his career, he collaborated as a contract researcher in several research projects, within the scope of the study of proto-historic and Roman era societies. As a freelance archaeologist, he has participated in multiple archaeological works, having assumed responsibilities of coordination in several excavations and archaeological monitoring, as well as in some prospection works within the scope of environmental impact studies. Currently, and since 2018, he is part of the team of the municipal archaeology service of Silves.

Helena Catarino. Retired Professor at the Faculty of Arts of the University of Coimbra (DHEEAA-FLUC) and integrated researcher at the Centre for Archaeological Studies, Arts and Heritage Sciences (CEAACP-FCT). She has a PhD in Archaeology, in 1997, from the same university, with a thesis entitled: "O Algarve Oriental durante a Ocupação Islâmica: Povoamento Rural e Recintos Fortificados", published in three volumes in the journal Al'Ulyã, n.º 6, published by the Arquivo Histórico Municipal de Loulé. In more than 40 years of research and teaching, she has developed several medieval and Islamic archaeology projects, of which the studies in Alcoutim and in the Serra do Algarve stand out, as well as the Salir Castle (Loulé) and the Paderne Castle (Albufeira). She has directed other excavations, namely at Campo Militar de S. Jorge de Aljubarrota and at the Patio of the University of Coimbra. She has published more than a hundred titles, individually and in collaboration, and, in recent years, on Islamic ceramics, as part of the CIGA Group, of which she has been a member since its foundation. The group is integrated in a line of research at the Centre for Studies in Archaeology, Arts and Heritage Sciences (CEAACP), functioning as a Section of the Campo Arqueológico de Mértola (CAM).