Just after Christmas 2019 I headed over towards Condeixa, to visit one of the most famous Roman archaeological sites in Portugal – Conimbriga.
It’s a vast and well preserved site, with plenty of panels describing the various parts of the ruins, aqueduct, public baths, villas and myriad mosaics within them. There’s an museum on site too and a reconstruction of the Casa dos Repuxos (the house of fountains) which is particularly impressive.
The Romans started occupying the site around 139 BC (2nd century BC) and stayed until the late 4th century AD when the town was attacked. A huge defensive wall built around this time remains as a testament to them trying to protect the town, however it failed and the site went slowly out of use.
I studied archaeology at university, so I’m more than happy taking my time at sites like this, nerding out over little details. I look out for interesting things like inclusions in concrete (a Roman invention) finger marks or animal paw prints in tiles, tool marks on stone and anything that helps me visualise the people that used to live in places like this.
The Romans also invented underfloor heating and there are a few great examples of that at Conimbriga. I loved these triangular bricks that make up pillars.
In the museum I spotted these little portable willies.. who knows what they meant to the people that carried them around!?
A network of walking trails converge here, so if you’re on the Portuguese Camino pilgrimage route north, or heading south to see the sanctuary of Fatima, you can stop off here on the way.
The site was first excavated in 1929 and there are still hectares of fields bordering the site that are waiting to be dug. Just think what’s underneath all that earth… I might go back with my trowel and see if I can help out!
Check out visiting times and how to get to Conimbriga.