Evora, in the Portugese region of Alentejo, is home to an enormous number of megalithic monuments. There are more than 100 free-standing menhirs, over 800 dolmens and more than 450 megalithic settlements. Part of the reason for this large number is because three rivers merge here – the Tagus, the Sado and the Guadiana. Consequently Evora has been an important hub since ancient times.
Evora itself is a handsome city with many historic buildings and it is not surprising that it is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. It makes a good base from which to explore the surrounding area.
Not far from Evora is Almendres, one of the finest megalithic sites in Portugal. The stone circle is the largest megalithic stone circle on the Iberian Peninsula and one of the oldest in the world. The monument is probably more than 7,000 years old and was built in the transition phase from a hunter-gatherer culture to a farming culture. It was not discovered until 1966.
The circle consists in total of around 100 upright stones. The layout has changed somewhat over the centuries as stones have been removed and others have been added. The site is easy to find by following the signposts from the small village of Nossa Senhora de Guadelupe.
Just over a kilometre from the stone circle stands a large solitary menhir in the shape of an elongated egg. On top a sculpture has been hacked out of the rock, representing the importance of nature in Prehistory with links to the domestication of animals.
Anta Grande do Zambujeiro
This dolmen lies not far from Evora, close to the little village of Valverde. It was built between 4,000 and 3,500 BC and has a long entrance passage leading to a chamber. Originally this chamber was covered by a stone 7 metres wide and the entire dolmen was covered over by a mound of sand and stones.
A large menhir once stood in front of the entrance but this has fallen and now lies on the ground. The dolmen was not found until 1964. Many finds from excavations here can now be seen in the museum in Evora.
Text Harrie Wolters
Translation Alun Harvey