Resumen: Este trabajo presenta el caso concreto de la comarca de Riba Côa como ejemplo de la evolución de amplios espacios en el centro de la península ibérica entre los siglos VI y XI. El análisis pone de relieve que nos encontramos ante una periferia, en relación con los focos de los poderes centralizados. a través del análisis de los datos arqueológicos (en especial las tumbas excavadas en roca) y de los documentos escritos, leídos en clave retrospectiva, se observa cómo hay una ordenación del territorio en torno a la ocupación preferente de áreas fluviales (ribeiras) y a la ocupación de sitios de altura. Se trata de una articulación segregada desde las comunidades locales, diferente a la que emana desde la autoridad central y, por esa razón, opaca a las fuentes habituales, que combina la adaptación de la herencia previa con la creación de nuevas estructuras y que dejó su huella en las formas que adoptó la repoblación del siglo XII.
Palabras clave: territorio, antigüedad tardía, alta Edad Media, periferia, poblamiento, necrópolis, sitios de altura
Abstract: This paper analyses the Portuguese district of Riba Côa, located on the Western part of the Beira, between sixth and eleventh centuries. This area is showed as an example of the evolution in large areas of the central part of iberian Peninsula during this period. The aim is studying the territorial articulation as a very important clue in order to puzzle out this dark age, according to the traditional view. The written records and the archaeological data are used to carry out the analysis, with some problems because of the scarcity of sources and the incipient development of the medieval archaeological research in the area. in spite of these troubles, it is possible to go beyond thanks to the retrospective reading of the texts and by means of the use of new strategies to understand the data of excavations and field-workings. The weak shaping of territorial patterns of the central power during the post-roman age was a feature linked to the peripheral condition of the area respect to the suevic and Visigothic realms. The strength of this kind of socio-political spaces, specially the bishoprics, must be connected with the implementation of linking channels with the state, including taxes. But in the periphery, as the example of riba côa proves, the flows from and to the centre were not the key during this age. after the arab conquest, this «thin» central authority vanished without the integration in any polity until the repoblación of the twelfth century. The sources and the spanish historical tradition show this period as a demographic void one, but there were some local structures, which organized the territory with forms that were connected with communitarian initiatives. These local spaces of power were well-adapted to the possibilities and interests of a local aristocracy, autonomous of any central power. on the other hand, some patterns could be showed in the landscape, towards the analysis of the cemeteries of graves dug into the rock, which are the most common and known remain of the early Middle ages in this area, although there are some problems about chronology. The 92 sites with this type of graves were related to the occupation of the fertile plains of the so-called ribeiras, that are secondary water-course of the main rivers (côa and Águeda). on the contrary, the plateaus which define the district (penillanura) were much less occupied. some of the places could be linked to some roman vici, but the majority of the sites with graves seem to be created as new places during these centuries, with maybe an alveolar pattern. The occupation of hilltop sites was another important feature, because of the shaping of hierarchies from these castra or castella. The possible reconstruction of some of the hilltop sites’ territories (such as castelo Bom, Vilar Maior and alfaiates) points out that they were based on the control and exploitation of socio-economic resources, especially cattle, and they did not a geoestrategical interest. so, they could be seen as a working logic before the repopulation. Finally, riba côa was an active periphery, which was able to make its own structures in order to organize the territorial articulation. These structures were not new reminiscences of pre-roman society, but the consequence of adaptation strategies which involved tradition and innovation. They had a great influence in the repoblación process, which did not make a clean sweep, although the implementation of the feudal system.
Keywords: territory, Late antiquity, Early Middle ages, periphery, settlement, cemeteries, hilltop sites.