Archaeologists excavate, clean, and leave the ruins of one of the main entry gates into Ancient Egitania for everyone to see.
A team of archaeologists that has been working in Idanha-a-Velha for a year discovered what would have been the South Gate of one of the main cities of the Roman Empire, the ancient Igaedis, the capital of Civitas Igaeditanorum, what is now Beira Interior.
This discovery was made during the excavating and cleaning of a stump of the existing wall almost 300 meters from the Cathedral of Idanha-a-Velha, adding further to the already rich heritage of the Historical Villages of Portugal and proving once again that there is always more to discover on these lands.
Everything began three years ago with a project defined in a partnership established between the New University of Lisbon, the University of Coimbra, and the municipality of Idanha-a-Nova. Under this project, a team of archaeologists discovered a part of a wall that was almost 10 meters in length. Subsequently, the ruins of the gate were uncovered, which must have been 3 meters in width.
In order to know exactly when it was constructed, how the gate was made, and the details of its complexity, cabinet work and even continued excavation at the location will be needed.
As for the wall of Idanha-a-Velha, which revealed this new gate after excavation, we know that it is nearly 800 meters long, making it one of the most significant and best conserved on Portuguese territory. In each one of its stones, it hides the history of almost one thousand years of continuous construction and repair since the Roman era until the 12th/13th centuries, the time of the Knights Templar.
In fact, according to Patricia Dias of the Cabinet of Archaeology, Conservation, and Restoration of the Municipality of Idanha-a-Nova, “Idanha-a-Velha constitutes one of the main scenarios of the History of the Beira Interior Centro region of Portugal. It was one of the main meeting places amongst cultures throughout centuries. It was the district capital city during the Roman period. It was diocese headquarters during the Suebi-Visigoth period, and it continued to demonstrate its centrality until the time of the Templars and the transfer of episcopal headquarters to Guarda”. Reinforcing the importance of this discovery and other archaeological remnants of the village, she added, “For almost 1200 years, [Idanha-a-Velha] may have been the most important place between the Tagus and the Douro in what is now Beira Interior. The present-day Historical Village still preserves important evidence from these eras”.
A territory that had once been occupied by peoples as distinct as Romans, Muslims, or Visigoths, Idanha-a-Velha still preserves remnants from these times. In fact, all the ruins among the walls in Idanha-a-Velha are so rich that this village occupies a place of prominence within the context of archaeological stations of the country.
Erected in the space where the ancient Igaedis, the capital of Civitas Igaeditanorum, once stood long ago, there are still constructions from this period, of which the Courthouse Temple stands out. However, the village that we now know as Idanha-a-Velha was an episcopal base under Suebi and Visigoth power, when it was called Egitania. From this period, we can still observe two baptisteries and perhaps part of the wall that surrounds the current village. Notwithstanding, it was donated to the Knights Templar in the 13th century.
The discovery that turned out to be one of the main entryways into Egitania, through the territory that we now know as Idanha-a-Velha, once again shows the importance of conserving the Historical Villages of Portugal, in addition to its priceless historical and archaeological value.