Wednesday, August 4

The Spanish Stonehenge re-emerges to claim its protection

5,000 years of history have once again emerged from the depths of the Valdecañas reservoir, in the north of the province of Cáceres, in front of a controversial luxury development that the Justice has ordered partially demolished.

The Guadalperal Dolmen, which many call the ‘Spanish Stonehenge’, has completely emerged, as it happened in the summer of 2019, so for two weeks the Ministry of Culture and the Junta de Extremadura have been striving to carry out an exhaustive work of monitoring, study and analysis of the megalithic complex coordinated by the Institute of Cultural Heritage of Spain (IPCE), under the scientific direction of the Universities of Alcalá de Henares and Complutense of Madrid, with the collaboration of the National Museum of Underwater Archeology , and the Tagus Hydrographic Confederation, among other entities.

For two years, due to the appearance of the dolmen, a team of archaeologists has investigated the entire basin of the reservoir, where other archaeological remains have been found, explained the Extremaduran Minister of Culture, Nuria Flores. In fact, the reservoir that the Franco regime built in 1963 occupied, in addition to the megalithic monument, the town of Talaverilla and the Roman municipality of Augustobriga.

Other older remains

Last autumn the first underwater survey campaign was carried out and, now that the dolmen is accessible, surveys are being carried out to detect the places where remains of the oldest occupations could still remain, has indicated the professor of Prehistory at the Alcalá University of Henares Primitiva Good. This objective is part of a project to recover an ancient territory that could have coexisted in time with the dolmen.

In this sense, the archaeologist and professor of Prehistory at the Complutense University, Enrique Cerrillo, has described that the objective, from the archaeological point of view, is “to understand how that landscape worked, how people lived in this area six thousand years ago. How they related to each other and what kind of raw materials did they bring from other parts of the peninsula “.

For this, sources and ancient cartography have been analyzed to know what the landscape was like before the Valdecañas reservoir flooded everything.

Regarding the conservation of the Guadalperal Dolmen, the deputy director general of the Institute of Cultural Heritage of Spain, Ana Cabrera, explained that tastings have been carried out to see how the stone behaves when submerged and how long it takes for it to be covered by the different microorganisms in the reservoir water.

The water will swallow it up again

For now, until the investigations are concluded, the transfer of the complex to another place is ruled out, said the general director of Fine Arts of the Ministry of Culture, María Dolores Jiménez. In this sense, Cabrera has insisted that current archaeological work focuses on knowing the monument, the landscape and how to preserve the dolmen.

The archaeological campaign will conclude in early autumn and a new work plan will then be released. By then, the waters will most likely have engulfed the megalithic complex again, so archaeologists have also taken care to stabilize it.

The Dolmen de Guadalperal is a large burial place of which, at present, 140 standing stones are preserved. The chamber is oval in shape and has a diameter of 5 meters and the corridor is 1.40 meters wide. Its existence had been known since 1926 when the German Hugo Obermaier, chaplain of Alba’s house and a great fan of archeology, was spending a few days on the Guadalperal farm, in the municipality of El Gordo (Cáceres) when he saw the stones and excavation began.

For several decades it was visible to all, until the Valdecañas reservoir flooded it in 1963. Since then it has come to light to a greater or lesser extent as a result of the agreements between Spain and Portugal to regulate the flow of the Tagus and for periods of drought. But in 2019 it fully emerged, as it has this summer.

The Government has initiated the file for the declaration of Asset of Cultural Interest (BIC), in the category of archaeological zone, of this dolmen.

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