The first vestiges of human presence in the coastal region of the Minho dates from around 250,000 years ago, when the European continent witnessed the appearance of the Neanderthal Man.
The evolution of slice techniques, using quartzite pebbles, shows the extraordinary capacity of adaptation that prehistoric man had to his surroundings, especially in the use of technical procedures which, though progressively simplified, aimed at making the best use possible of the morphological and mechanical characteristics of the available raw material.
MESOLITHIC / ANCIENT NEOLITHIC
The archaeological investigations carried out in the interior of Minho led to the recognition of areas of human occupation of shelters under rocks with a vast set of carved lithic utensils (microliths) and ceramics. Such places not only offered good living conditions, but also allowed the development of a strategy of implantation and exploration of the territory, based on control of the natural routes of circulation, the proximity to water resources and good hunting grounds.
The absence of inhabited places from this period, between the 6th and 4th millennium, can be accounted for by the the mobility of the populations who, in spite of having knowledge of agricultural processes and the raising of cattle, were still very much dependent on hunting, fishing and the gathering of wild plants.
From the 5th millennium on and throughout the 4th was built the first funerary and ritual monumental architecture: dolmens and menirs An example of one of these monuments is the dolmen of Lamas (Braga) from the 4th millennium BC.
From the end of the 4th to the 3th quarter of the 3th millennia, alterations in the relationship between man and his environment took place. Human occupation in open and sheltered places became rather frequent. These habitations were built with perishable materials such as wood, branches, clay and gravel.
In these archaeological sites ceramics, copper and stone objects (axes, arrowheads, stone grinders for milling and beads), cereal seeds, fruits and vegetables can be found. Such vestiges show that the population was involved in a number of domestic and ritual activities within the framework of a farming and pastoral way of life.
The regions of Galicia and Northern Portugal are very rich in rupestral art especially carvings in stone in open spaces, dating from the Neolithic age to the Bronze Age. Specialists categorize these artistic manifestations into two large groups. The group I comprises mostly the region of Alto Minho near the Atlantic Ocean with geometric, zoomorphic, idoliforms and weapon motifs. Group II comprises most of the Minho Region, Trás-os-Montes and Beiras with anthropomorphic schematisms.
The Bronze Age in the North-west Portugal developed between the end of the 3rd and middle of the 2nd millennium Bc and was characterized by the occupation of fertile lands in valleys and mountains and the development od bronze metallurgy.
The most common artefacts found in the tombs are ceramics but, sometimes, the dead were buried with their weapons and jewels which show their prestige and a noticeable social cleavage. During the Final Bronze the first settlements with demarcating barriers appeared, what may be connected with processes of the assertion of power. Metallic tools in bronze, some used for ritual purposes, circulated widely showing an increase in long distance contacts.
During the 1st millennium BC, in the Northwest of Portugal, communities lived in fortified villages that located along the basins of the main rivers. The progressive growth of communities led to their integration into larger regional units, with a regional and eventually ethnic character, which the Romans called peoples. This model of organization led to the appearance of elites, who would have a decisive role in the integration of the indigenous populations into the Roman Empire.
The Iron Age is associated with an intensive and growing exploitation of fertile lands, an extensive control of the natural resources and with a technological development visible in the stonework, ceramics and bronze and iron metallurgy.
The exhibition venue on google maps: