Archaeology and Nature
This landscape - the Sierra of Monfurado - houses an exceptional concentration of archaeological sites, among which are some of the most remarkable prehistoric monuments in Europe. It is a territory shared by the municipalities of Évora and Montemor-o-Novo.
But we can begin by imagining this landscape about 10,000 years ago - after the end of the last glacial era - virgin and practically uninhabited. At that time the Iberian peninsula was still totally covered by forest, and most of the human communities - nomadic hunter-gatherers - were confined to the coast and estuaries of the main rivers.
It was with the arrival of agriculture and pastoralism (about 8,000 years ago), during the Neolithic period, that the interior of Alentejo ceased to be a peripheral landscape for human communities and became the center of one of the most important megalithic regions in Europe, along with the southwest of England, French Brittany and Malta.
The geographical position of the region seems to have contributed very significantly to its archaeological richness - located at the only point of contact between the ridge lines of the hydrographic basins of the three great rivers of the south - the Tagus, the Sado and the Guadiana. These are the main natural transition paths that connect the estuaries to the interior - water lines and ridge lines - and that converge here, at a true geographical crossroads.
Also, some aspects of this interior landscape - which do not exist in the coastal landscape - seem to have fascinated these first sedentary communities of pastoralists and farmers, especially the abundant natural outcrops of granite.
This Sierra is also rich in ore (perhaps related to the origin of the name "Monfurado" or “hollowed mountain"), namely copper and iron, with gold also occurring in small concentrations. Here, its exploration and trade seems to have assumed increasing importance throughout the Ages of Copper, Bronze and Iron (3000 BC to 200 BC).It’s at the end of this sequence - around the century VIII BC - that peoples from the eastern Mediterranean (such as the Phoenicians and the Greeks) set up commercial settlements along the SW coast of the peninsula, where they exchange - with the Iberian tribes - metals for new products, technologies and ideas.
During Roman times, the importance of this region as a route of natural transit between the coast and the interiorremains. Along the Monfurado are the roads connecting important coastal cities such as Olisipo (Lisbon) and Salacia (Alcaçer-do-sal), to Ebora (Évora) and Emerita Augusta (Merida) - then the capital of Lusitania (one of the provinces in roman Hispania).
Granitic outcrops in Murteiras (Évora)
Paleolithic paintings in the Escoural Cave
Cromelch of Almendres (Évora)
Giraldo's Castle (Évora) Roman Villa of Tourega (Évora) Dolmen Chapel of S. Brissos (Évora)
Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)
Bee-eater (Meropes Apiaster)
We are at the center of a millennial landscape, now called “Montado”. About half of the Montado area in the world is distributed throughout the south of Portugal (33%) and the center and south of Spain (23%), where this landscape is named "Dehesa". It is one of the European sanctuaries for biodiversity and its protection as a habitat of Community interest, was enshrined in European Union legislation under the Natura Network 2000.
The origin of this type of landscape dates back to the Neolithic period - in our region, about 8000 years ago. At that time, the Iberian peninsula was covered with forest and most of the human communities were still confined to the coast and the estuaries of the main rivers. The arrival of the Neolithic innovations (agriculture, pastoralism and polished stone tools) allowed the first sedentary agro-pastoralists to begin to "domesticate" - through burnings and selective cutting - the dense Mediterranean forest that previously existed here.
Today, in these open, man-made forests, two oak species dominate: the cork oak (Quercus suber) - that produces cork - and the holm oak (Quercus rotundifolia) - providing ideal acorns for the grazing of sheep and pigs. Visually, it looks like a savanna ecosystem, with scattered trees and a mosaic of pastures, agricultural crops and bushes, occupying the understory.
It is a delicate agro-silvo-pastoral system, developed and perfected over time, designed to monetise scarce resources in a region characterised by poor soils and a hot, dry and very variable climate. This system has been protected in Portugal since medieval times but from the mid-nineteenth century onwards, with the growing economic importance of the cork and the black pig, the area of Montado grew more than seven times, occupying today about a million and a half hectares.
In the current ecological context - where climate change has gained global importance - the Montado stands out as an example of the balance that can be achieved between Humanity and Nature. In particular, the Montado contributes to regulating the water cycle, preventing soil erosion, capturing CO2 from the atmosphere, and maintaining high biodiversity.
The Montado is still a powerful element of support to the cultural identity of the people who still inhabit it today. The rich heritage found in the gastronomy, traditions, music, imaginary, and popular legends, finds its deepest roots in this landscape.
Recently harvested cork oaks
Aspect of the harvest
Recently harvested cork
Recently harvested cork oaks Aspect of the cork harvest Cork after the extraction
The Almendres Interpretive Center - Archeology and Nature, is located in the village of Guadalupe, near the Cromelech of Almendres. It is a space for visitors and tourists, focused on the rural heritage of Évora and whose main themes are Prehistory and the Cork Forest.
Here you can explore the rich prehistoric heritage of this region and discover its most emblematic sites - such as Cromeleque dos Almendres, Escoural Cave, Dolmen of Zambujeiro or Giraldo's Castle - but also learn about the environmental and cultural importance of natural landscape around us - the cork forest or "Montado".
Access is free and here you can find:
Visitor Support Desk
Interpretive Circuit on Archeology and Nature (12 large format panels)
Wooded Picnic Park
Resting benches along the riverbank
WC's (including for visitors with reduced mobility)
Basic Cafeteria Service
Summer (1 May to 30 October) - 10am to 7pm
Winter (1 November to 31 April) - from 10am to 5pm
How to get to the Almendres Interpretive Center:
You can find us at Rua do Cromeleque in the village of Guadalupe with the following GPS coordinates: 38.567801, -8.027456
By car or bicycle: From Evora follow the national road to Lisbon and after 8 km follow the deviation to the left towards Guadalupe. From there it is 3 km to the village of Guadalupe.
By taxi: There is a stop at the main square of Évora (Giraldo Square) but you can also use the 266 734 734.