The earth is dressed in autumn. From here the sky is vast, covering an immense distance, I believe it covers the entire world. The light radiating from this sky distributes colors and shades across the fields. I am on top of Mount São Romão, not far from the city of Guimarães in northern Portugal. Like one of the many birds gliding by, my gaze soars over the River Ave Valley, passes through some villages, and encompasses all of nature. The horizon is far off, outlined by hills slowly dissolving into the sky. The scent of pine trees mingles with the birdsong and this morning hour. I fill my lungs. Autumn touches even the finest blades of grass, but I know that in other months, this same place presents other equally magnificent spectacles: the grandeur of winter, its solemn majesty; spring, with its small bursts of joy at the tips of a thousand branches; summer, incandescent light, and at the end of the day, regenerative peace.

Perhaps the inhabitants of the Briteiros Hillfort, gazing at their autumns, had similar thoughts. I’m amidst what remains of their homes and streets. At the beginning of the visit, the guide explained that this fortified settlement has origins in the Iron Age, reaching its peak in the 2nd and 1st centuries BC. Decline occurred during the Roman presence, and it is assumed that it ceased to be inhabited in the 2nd or 3rd centuries AD. Sometimes the guide stoops to pick up some pottery shards; they are abundant, scattered everywhere. Assessing the way they were fired or decorated, the guide explains they belong to the Iron Age or, in other cases, exhibit characteristics of Roman pottery. The stone walls surrounding us retain the same form they had centuries ago. They are covered in lush moss. It’s exciting to hold a piece of this fired clay in the palm of your hand, touch the small decorations, and know that someone, about two thousand years ago, made the gesture that created these marks. It’s as if my hand is touching that hand.

As the guide explains the function of each building, describing a bit of that remote daily life, I imagine their reality. Entire lives, from childhood to the last days, were spent here. We often direct our imagination towards the future, trying to conceive what has not yet happened. It’s also common for our imagination to propose alternative worlds, things that could have happened. In this case, as we walk through the paths of the Briteiros Hillfort, we direct our imagination into the past, imagining what truly occurred. We are here, and there is truth in this moment. Just like this, with this same truth, that time we imagine existed.

The walls of the Briteiros Hillfort protected an area of sixty acres. Today, seventeen acres of this space have undergone archaeological excavations. This work began in the 19th century and, in itself, is part of the history of Iberian archaeology. Over this time, we have interpreted signs to better imagine them. This landscape, for example, would likely have been a desire for security, a way to detect the approach of external threats. These people formed a community that lived here, within these walls, using these clay pieces, coexisting with this landscape. We, scattered throughout the world, also form a community. We are the people who imagine them, who feel their presence.