Huge megalithic complex of more than 500 menhirs discovered in Spain | archeology

A huge megalithic complex of more than 500 standing stones has been discovered in southern Spain that may be one of the largest in Europe, archaeologists said.

The stones were discovered on a property in Huelva, a province flanking the southernmost part of Spain’s border with Portugal near the Guadiana River.

The approximately 600 hectare land was earmarked for an avocado plantation. Before granting the permit, the regional authorities requested an investigation into the possible archaeological significance of the site. Examination revealed the presence of the stones.

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“This is the largest and most diverse collection of standing stones in the Iberian Peninsula,” said José Antonio Linares, a researcher at the University of Huelva and one of the three directors of the project. It is likely that the oldest standing stones at the La Torre-La Janera site date from the second half of the sixth or fifth millennium BC. were erected, he said. “It is one of the most important megalithic sites in Europe.”

At the site they found a large number of different types of megaliths, including standing stones, dolmens, mounds, coffin-like stone boxes called boxes, and enclosures.

“Standing stones were the most common find, of which 526 are still standing or lying on the ground,” the researchers said in an article published in Trabajos de Prehistoria, a journal of prehistoric archaeology. The height of the stones ranged from one to three meters.

There are around 3,000 menhirs at the megalithic site of Carnac in northwestern France.

Alignments of the menhirs of Menecin Carnac, western France.Arrangements of the Menec standing stones in Carnac, western France. Photo: Andia/Alamy

One of the most striking things was finding such diverse megalithic elements grouped together in one place and discovering how well preserved they were, said Primitiva Bueno, co-director of the project and professor of prehistory at Alcalá University near Madrid.

“It is not very common to find alignments and dolmens in one place. You’ve got it all together here – alignments, cromlechs and dolmens – and that’s very noticeable,” she said, praising the site’s “excellent preservation”.

An alignment is a linear array of upstanding stones along a common axis, while a cromlech is a stone circle and a dolmen is a type of megalithic tomb, usually composed of two or more standing stones with a large flat capstone on top.

Most of the standing stones were grouped in 26 rows and two cromlechs, both of which were on hilltops with clear views east to see the sunrise during the summer and winter solstices and the vernal and autumnal equinoxes, the researchers said.

Many of the stones are buried deep in the ground. They must be dug up carefully. Work is scheduled to last until 2026, but “between this year’s campaign and the start of next year there will be a portion of the site that can be toured,” Bueno said.