Funding now needed to reveal the Roman city of Balsa as the Algarve’s premier archaelogical attraction
Recent archaeological field work at Roman city of Balsa, near Luz de Tavira, has revealed both artefacts and vital information, with experts agreeing where the centre of the city lay and planning further stages of work to define the ancient city’s limits.
One of the main impediments is the inconvenient fact that the land is privately owned but local mayor, Jorge Botelho has determined that the area should be purchased by the State, so precious are the buried ruins and such is the opportunity for Tavira to host a visitors’ centre at this internationally important site.
An update session held last Saturday at the Living Science Center of Tavira saw experts gather to confirm that the Roman city limits were still unknown but the work to-date had revealed vital information confirming the site indeed is that of the important Roman port.
The problem, as ever is funding but the head of the Algarve’s culture directorate said that Algarve 2020 funding now can be applied for by the council, pointing out that Balsa already is noted as a priority project.
The culture directorate was responsible for applying to expand the current protection zone over a 233 hectare area where the Roman city is thought to lie buried.
The urgent need to protect the site and commission initial archaeological work came to the fore in November 2015 when a Spanish fruit company started to install irrigation and greenhouses on land at Quinta da Torre d’Aires, without authorisation from the CCDR-Algarve or from the Regional Directorate of Culture.
The manager of fruit company Surexport, Ignacio Márquez, offered the implausible excuse that no one had informed the company that the project had to be approved by more than one entity – the director of the Ria Formosa Natural Park, Valentina Calixto, said the fruit-growing business could go ahead with its destructive groundworks but further permissions were needed.
The site protection process advanced with an entry in Diário da República on May 9, 2017 suggesting that a 233 hectare area near Luz da Tavira in the eastern Algarve should be protected, incorporating the existing 53 hectares. This process remains tied up in red tape with delays blamed on the Ministry of Culture, where the minister has yet to protect the expanded site.
The cultural and tourism potential of Balsa is substantial, depending what is unearthed and how it is presented.
The Tavira mayor is determined to access local, national and then EU funds to see the project develop into a fully revealed Roman site of international importance.
Whether Jorge Botelho is able to drive the project forward remains to be seen but the city is there, albeit buried, funding can be made available and the Algarve can become a stronger magnet for those interested in the region’s varied archaeology and long history of occupation.
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