Saturday, December 4

History in stone


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Declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 2016, the Antequera (Malaga) archaeological complex not only produces curiosity and amazement due to its grandeur, but also contains a series of enigmas that to this day remain unanswered.

In the first place, because it is impossible to explain how its builders were able to carry stone blocks of up to 180 tons to lift these dolmens, dated between the years that go from 3,000 BC to 3,600 BC. Secondly, because its orientation is absolutely different from that of all the Mediterranean megaliths of the time, since two of them do not have as a reference the stars but the local geography. And, thirdly, because there is still speculation about

their own nature, whether they were funerary monuments or had some other purpose.

The oldest of the three constructions is the Menga dolmen, a long corridor made up of large horizontal and vertical stone blocks that fit together perfectly. The corridor ends in a chamber in which there was a very deep well. It is oriented from south to east in the direction of the Peña de los Enamorados. There are no paintings, but there are anthropomorphic engravings. The dolmen was covered by a mound of earth that made it visible from a great distance. Archaeologists believe that the chamber was the burial site of a notable person, but some question that conclusion. Its interior is the largest of all the megaliths that are preserved in Europe.

Less than a hundred meters away is the Viera dolmen, which is believed to have been built 500 years later than Menga. In any case, they are contemporary constructions of the Stonehenge chromlech or the Gizeh pyramid. There is also a 21-meter corridor that leads to a possible burial chamber. Traces of reddish paint have been found here. Unlike the other constructions, Viera has an astronomical orientation because the monument is illuminated by light at the spring and autumn equinoxes when the sun’s rays enter the back of the enclosure.

About two kilometers away, is the so-called tholos of El Romeral, composed of a lintelled corridor that leads to two circular and vaulted rooms, one larger than the other. The second of these, which housed a stone altar, was probably intended for ritual offerings. It is oriented towards the Sierra de El Torcal, according to Michael Hoskin, an archaeologist who is a reference in the study of Neolithic culture. It is also covered by a tumulus that enhances its dimensions.

Two archeology professors from the University of Seville have denounced the mistakes made in the restoration of these monuments, especially the expansion of the burial mounds, which was carried out without scientific criteria. They also criticized the incorporation of paths and other elements that did not exist, such as a concrete slab. But, with these exceptions, the set is a valuable and unique testimony of the Neolithic culture, which was a huge technological leap in Humanity.

Leaving aside the controversy about their restoration, we may never know with certainty the purpose for which the local inhabitants built these megaliths, which reveal advanced knowledge of architecture. There is no unanimity among the experts, but it is possible that the Antequera complex was at the same time a site dedicated to religious worship, a work to exalt the forces of nature and a monument for posterity.

The inhabitants of the Mediterranean basin of more than 5,000 years ago had ceased to be transhumants, they lived on agriculture and identified the Sun, the earth, the stars and the water with deities on which human existence depended. All this can be found in the Antequera dolmens, which can also be interpreted as a reflection of the cosmic order and the position of man in the world. It is worth traveling to the historic and beautiful Andalusian city to enjoy this unusual place.

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