Debates on cultural heritage and collective memory emphasize the contested role of archaeology in national narratives to the exclusion of other parameters. Yet, cultural heritage can be made visible or remain invisible for reasons other than (un)conscious ideological preoccupations. The representation of the Phoenician archaeological record in Portugal is used to demonstrate that, despite its detachment from collective memory, the ancient cultural heritage can transcend its distance from the past, attaining significance within the contemporary social milieu. The Portuguese embrace their links with Phoenician cultural heritage, investing in academic research and cultural heritage. The corresponding ancient culture remains an adjunct of the archaeological evidence, researched and publicized, but not as an extension of the ‘collective self’ of modern society. Shifting this devoid-of-symbolic-meaning archaeological record onto the level of contemporary reality accords it visibility, even as the long-forgotten Phoenician origins of some still practiced traditions remain an unacknowledged, ‘invisible’ heritage.

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