Cacela Velha (meaning "Old Cacela" in Portuguese) is a small village located in the civil parish of Vila Nova de Cacela, municipality of Vila Real de Santo António, Algarve, Portugal (Figure 1). Cacela Velha is situated on top of a hill with a view to the easternmost lagoon of Ria Formosa. The area was a stopover for Greek and Phoenician navigators, and it is also the location of Roman settlements and possibly Celts. Archaeological excavations led by Dr. Cristina Garcia determined the village to be the Medina of Qast’alla Daraj, an Islamic town dating back to at least the 10th century, when much of the Iberian Peninsula was controlled by the Moors and Berbers who arrived from North Africa. The
Islamic settlement extended beyond the modern limits of the village, which was the focus of another archaeological project led by Dr. Garcia, in which the Islamic quarters of Poço Antigo where excavated. This excavation also brought to light the cemetery of the earliest post-Islamic Christian cemetery associated with the early Church of Nossa Senhora dos Mártires de Cacela which were built on top of the ruins of the Islamic settlement. The church and associated cemetery comprise the earliest evidence of Christian occupation after the reconquest led by the Portuguese king D. Sancho II in the 13th century.
The field school and the archaeological project of Cacela focuses on the excavation of the cemetery, church, the Islamic settlement, but also will survey the area for the Islamic cemetery and evidence of earlier occupation of the area. In the photo below, the Poço Antigo archaeological site is seen at centre, in the clearing between Cacela-Velha at the back and the trail that borders the forested area in the front. On the back and left, the photo offers a glimpse of the Ria Formosa lagoon, and the beach at Monte Gordo Bay, facing the Atlantic Ocean.