Citania de Briteiros - History and Facts | History Hit

Citania de Briteiros

Briteiros (Santo Estevao) e Donim, North, Portugal

Citania de Briteiros is a Portuguese archaeological site containing the ruins of an ancient settlement.

Peta Stamper

20 Apr 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Citania de Briteiros

Citânia de Briteiros in Portugal is an archaeological site containing the ruins of an ancient settlement dating back to the 2nd century BC. Citânia de Briteiros was home to a people part of the castro culture, named as such because the high areas on which they settled where known as “castros”.

Today, visitors can see the remains of the Iron Age hillfort and a cremation furnace. There’s also a small exhibition of excavated finds at the visitor’s centre, with stunning views across the valley.

Citânia de Briteiros history

Constructed between the 1st and 2nd centuries BC, the settlement at Citânia de Briteiros was located in an area popular for rock art engravings during the Atlantic Bronze Age. Many of these engraved rock surfaces were destroyed as the boulders were cut to built family dwellings and defensive ramparts. The inhabitants of Citânia de Briteiros were Celts of the Castro culture, building forts on hilltops and storing their precious goods in rocky outcrops.

During the 1st century AD the settlement was defeated and occupied by the Romans as the empire expanded into the region under emperors Augustus and Tiberius. The Roman settlers made a small impact on the site; Romanising the alleys and buildings on the eastern slope. After the Roman decline, Citânia de Briteiros experienced a transitory reoccupation during the Middle Ages when a medieval chapel was constructed, alongside a graveyard on the acropolis.

From 1874, the settlement remains were excavated when Portuguese archaeologist Francisco Martins Sarmento tried out new excavation methods to preserve Portuguese heritage. Martins Sarmento discovered much of the acropolis containing over 150 stone huts linked by paved paths, as well as a water distribution system, later reconstructing 2 of the rounded homes with cone-shaped roofs from his research.

A society founded in his name continued surveying the site into the 21st century, collecting objects such as pottery and Roman coins.

Citânia de Briteiros today

Today, you can walk around the remains of Citânia de Briteiros, the highlights of which include Martins Sarmento’s reconstructed huts that transport you back to the settlement’s early habitation, as well as a intricately patterned stone doorway leading to the bathhouse down the hill.

Comfortable shoes are recommended as the paths are uneven cobblestone. About 2km down the hill from Citânia de Briteiros, the Museu da Cultura Castreja displays artefacts from the site, within Sarmento’s 18th and 19th century manor house.

Getting to Citânia de Briteiros

For those driving, Citânia de Briteiros is around 10 km past Bom Jesus on the winding N309 road heading southeast from Braga towards Guimarães. Via public transport, a weekday bus passes within 1 km of the site, so hop off between the towns of Briteiros Salvador and Santa Leocádia.

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