'Spanish Stonehenge' above Water 1st Time in 56 Years Sept 21, 2019 8:57:13 GMT -5
Post by JoannaB on Sept 21, 2019 8:57:13 GMT -5
'Spanish Stonehenge' above Water First Time in 56 Years
After more than a half-century beneath the waters of the Valdecañas Reservoir, the 7,000-year-old Dolmen of Guadalperal (aka “Spanish Stonehenge”) is once again on dry land. The reappearance of the ancient monument is due to very low water levels following record heat and drought across Europe.
In 1963, the Spanish government under Francisco Franco created the Valdecañas Reservoir in order to bring water and electricity to underdeveloped regions of western Spain. Some inhabited areas as well as several megalithic monuments were flooded. Since that time, tips of the tallest megaliths have peaked above of the lake when water levels were low. However, the hot, dry conditions of 2019 have lowered the water to a point the entire structure is on dry land for the first time since the reservoir was filled.
The large circle consists of approximately 150 standing stones – some more than 6-feet-tall – arranged around a central, open oval. Archeologists believe the monument was constructed in the 4th or 5th millennium BC and if so, it would predate England’s Stonehenge by thousands of years. The site was likely an enclosed space – a large stone house with a cap. It is speculated the dolmen could have served as a tomb, a site for religious rituals, or even a trading hub because of its proximity to a location where it is relatively easy to cross the river. One particularly large stone (a “menhir”) seems to mark the entrance. This rocky threshold is engraved with a human figure on one side and a squiggly symbol on the other that could represent a snake or the nearby Tagus River. If it is, indeed, a depiction of a waterway, this could make the stone one of the oldest maps in Europe.
The most recent recorded exploration and excavation of the site was by German archaeologist Hugo Obermaier in the 1920s. Unfortunately, by the time Obermaier’s findings were published in the 1960s, the site was submerged.
A group of local residents have petitioned the government to relocate the stones in order to preserve the ancient structure. Originally constructed of granite transported from miles away, the stones are porous and already falling over, cracking and eroding in the water. Locals believe the monument could boost tourism in the area by offering the dolmen as a window into Spain’s ancient history.
Sources: Brandon Specktor, LiveScience, September 20, 2019, and Earth Observatory, July 25, 2019.