The project's scientific director and professor at the University of the Algarve, João Pedro Bernardes, told Lusa on Monday that very little is known about Balsa, so project's main intentions is "to understand the real extent and limits of Balsa," and to discover more about this ancient Roman city, since much of what was published "is speculation.”

The initiative, called "Balsa, in search of the origins of the Algarve", was presented at the Álvaro de Campos Municipal Library in Tavira, Faro district.

Balsa would be a connection point to Tunisia and Andalusia (Spain), and some traces show that it received the ships that made the connection between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean.

On the first day of work, excavations were carried out in the northern necropolis, confirming the northern boundary of the city, followed, later this week, by excavations to delimit the western zone, which is thought to be near the Luz stream - near Luz de Tavira - and "where there may be old port structures" and, possibly, the city's forum.

In the next three years, geophysical surveys will be carried out, which will make it possible to make "a kind of X-ray" of the land, which will then indicate where the excavations should be carried out.

This is followed by the compilation of information in a database, the enhancement of heritage and the dissemination of knowledge and, in the future, educational activities in schools and with the general public. The creation of a museum centre is another possibility.

Balsa was discovered in 1876 by the Tavirense archaeologist Estácio da Veiga, in the area of the parish of Luz, having done the first research after reports of findings by the people.

The role of citizens in defending this ancient port city, which was between Ossónoba (Faro) and Baesuris (Castro Marim), was essential for its preservation, said João Pedro Bernardes.

It was a popular movement in 2016 that prevented the construction of greenhouses in the protected area, leading to new research with ground-penetrating radar technologies and magnetic prospecting with a magnetometer, which revealed that, over the years, "not everything had been destroyed," said the professor. These are the studies that serve as the basis for the new research and excavation project since the existence of a neighbourhood has been detected.

With the work that began today, the aim is to find out what remains stillexist and to delimit its area, to "allow the coexistence of other activities, namely agriculture", said João Pedro Rodrigues, councillor of the Tavira City Council.