Foto 2019: Pleonr – Creative Commons License

During the extreme dry weather in the summer of 2022 many reservoirs dried up, revealing old buildings and archaeological remains which had been hidden under the water. One example was the Valdecañas reservoir which in 1963 flooded the neolithic settlement of Los Milares en Gorafe in Southern Spain.

In the Neolithic, this desert area of Spain was a fertile valley in which stood the Dolmen de Guadalperal, sometimes called the Spanish Stonehenge. Originally this monument stood on the banks of the Tagus river. Unfortunately, the monument was severely damaged by flooding, eroding the stones and their etchings. For the first time in 50 years the entire structure was visible in 2019 when a NASA-satellite photo revealed 150 stones.

Foto: Google Earth 2021

The domed graves were built between 4200 and 2500 BC, originally as a communal grave and later to bury important leaders. The monument consists of 150 granite monoliths placed vertically to form an oval chamber with a diameter of 5 metres. The entrance passage faces the east and is about 21 metres long by 1.4 metres wide. The covering mound was edged with a ring of stones. At the end of the passage, near the entrance to the chamber, stands a menhir about 2 metres high carved with a snake and a number of cup-rings. The snake is thought to represent the River Tagus.

The comparison with Stonehenge was made in an earlier time when no capstones were present, but from a scientific point of view it does not make sense. The monument is actually of the same type as others in Spain, such as that at Montehermoso: an entrance passage and a large chamber with a number of concentric circles.

Among objects found in a nearby rubbish tip were eleven axes, shards, flint knives and a copper piercing tool. In 1925 a settlement was discovered complete with foundations, charcoal and flakes of ash, pottery,  millstones and stones for making axes.

The nearby Dolmen de Azután was extensively excavated in 2001. This established that it was built around 4200 BC and was used by the Bell Beaker Culture into the Copper Age. It appears that the central chamber had two side chambers. Concentric circles were also found, together with shards, bone instruments, sharpened axes and beads. On the support stones in the chamber etchings  could be discerned with wavy and zigzag patterns as well as anthropomorphic figures.

Foto 2012: Pleonr – Creative Commons License

The dating of Azután may help to date other hunebeds with concentric circles. Taking into account the chamber, the long entrance passage (12 metres), the concentric circles and the position of the monument by the River Tagus, it may be assumed that the builders were related to the builders of the Dolmen de Guadalperal and those around Montehermoso. This suggests they were all built by the same culture which spread along the Tagus. That would mean that the other monuments are much older than previously thought. Even around 3000 BC recycling might have been popular!

Foto: Hendrik Gommer

This site was described in Issue 19 of the Mythische Stenen (Mythical Stones) series. On YouTube are a great number of short films about dolmens in Southern Spain and the rest of Europe. See (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8uWg2WCvIeMyDTwXywDVQA)

Foto: Hendrik Gommer

Text                 Hendrik Gommer

Translation     Alun Harvey

Vorig artikelKegelzandsteen
Volgend artikelNiet klimmen op het hunebed is al heel lang een wens
Harrie Wolters is algemeen directeur van het Hunebedcentrum.

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