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Title: Castor fiber na gruta do Caldeirão. Existência, distribuição e extinção do castor em Portugal
Author: Antunes, M. Telles
Keywords: Castor
Issue Date: 28-Dec-2010
Abstract: Beaver only had been found in Portugal in a Chalcolithic locality, the Vila Nova de S. Pedro castrum. It has now been identified in the Upper Paleolithic (Solutrean) from Gruta do Caldeirão, near Tomar. The species has been found recently at «Gruta do Almonda»; 4 teeth were collected in bed C, older than a Solutrean sequence (see Anexo for details). The species seems to have been rare, as it was also the case with portuguese Miocene Castoridae Enroxenomys minutus and Chalicomys jaegeri. If account is taken of the presence in the Middle Ages until Castille of words meaning beaver (relared to the popular latin Fiber/Biber), it is obvious that these animais still existed then. Such nouns were largely predominant over rhe rather erudite latin (greek deríved) words as Castor,-óris and derived ones, as it could be expected. This allowed us to recognize that veiro should be the corresponding word with Fiber affinities in archaic portuguese. It was previously supposed to mean only expensive furs then imported into Portugal. Indeed it was also a zoonym. Anywày, beaver should be scarce by XIIIth century since it is not included in the quite detailed price list imposed by the «Lei da Almotaçaria» from December 26, 1253 (see Quadro II). Toponyms in veiro and derived words (fig. 2; Quadro III) (plural, feminines, diminutives, inhabited places) give a resrrictive view of rhe Middle Age distribution. Some of them are certainly older than Portugal itself (firsr half of XIlth cenrury); others existed by the XIVth century bur were probably older. Some rare toponyms seem to be derived from the erudite latin Castor,-óris. Nothing suggests that these words were still in use as zoonyms during the Middle Ages. All toponyms are located in regions near rivers and other freshwaters ecologically suitable for beavers, so we can approximately retrace its former, Middle Age disrribution in Portugal (fig. 2; Quadro III). Most of them are locared in the Center-West and Northwest of Portugal, with a suitable c1imate (rainfall in general over 800 mílimerers per year); the only sure geographical exception is Veiros, in Alto Alentejo province, in a region with comparable precipitations and less dry climate conditions than mosr of the territories South of rhe Tagus. There are less and less of these toponyms towards rhe South and the inner part of the country, and they are enrirely lacking in all drier regions from Trás-os-Montes, Beira, Alentejo beyond Tagus' basin, and in Algarve. Nothing suggests beavers lived there, No post-medieval toponym is known, nor any reference after middle XVth century. No such locality was at, or close by to, any frontier. Hence the hypothesis of veiro (et al.} as meaning but points where expensive furs (supposedly known as veiros in general but without c1early saying from what animal they were obrained from) is to be discarded. During the Middle Ages, beaver discriburion concerned all the main river basins from Minho to Tagus ones. Quite rarefied in rhe XIIIth, the beavers may have disappeared from Portugal during the XVth century. Ecological requiremenrs restricted their former distriburion. Vulnerability to natural causes (i.e., severe drought) and to human pressure may have accounted heavily for this species' extinction. Last (1446) reference for Portugal known to us suggests the species was by then almost extinct.
Appears in Collections:FCT: DCT - Ciências da Terra

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