The city of Antequera is known as “the heart of Andalucía” (el corazón de Andalucía) due to its central location between the major cities of Seville, Córdoba, Granada and, of course, Málaga, which lies only 45 kms to the south.
Because of the sedimentary basin forming extensive plains that begin where the mountains of Málaga dramatically end, Antequera is a bustling, agricultural centre where farmers from the surrounding fertile land in the Guadalhorce Valley, go to stock up on everything from seeds to tractor tyres.
The city owes its main origins to the Romans, who named it Antikaria, meaning “the Ancient City”, because they recognised several pre-historic sites located in the town, which indicated that the area had been previously inhabited.
On the northern outskirts of the city there are two Bronze Age burial mounds (barrows or dolmens), the Dólmen de Menga and the Dólmen de Viera, dating from the 3rd millennium BC. They are the largest such structures in Europe. The larger one, Dólmen de Menga, is twenty-five meters in diameter and four meters high, and was built with thirty-two megaliths (huge stones), the largest weighing about 180 tons. After completion of the chamber (which probably served as a grave for the ruling families) and the path leading into the center, the stone structure was covered with earth and built up into the hill that can be seen today (Wikipedia: Antequera).
When we arrived at the visitor centre last Thursday, there were two coach loads of Spanish school children outside, waiting to see the 10 minute animated film showing how the dolmens were probably constructed. We nipped in ahead of them to watch the film being shown in French, which was easy to follow, but it can also shown in English on request.
We then followed the newly-laid path from the Visitor Centre to the Dólmen de Menga.
The entrance to the grandest of these megalithic monuments, the Dólmen de Menga, faces the prominent rock formation known as Peña de los Enamorados, (“The Lovers’ Rock”), which you might remember I wrote about last year.
It is clearly no accident that if you stand just inside the entrance to the Menga dolmen you can see the head of the Sleeping Giant perfectly framed in the portal, suggesting that the rock may have had some cultural, ritual or religious significance.
Indeed, during the summer solstice, as the sun rises behind the mountain, it penetrates right into the mouth of the burial chamber.
The Dólmen de Viera is a corridor tomb with better-cut stones, consisting of a long narrow passage, barely two metres in height, leading to a smaller burial chamber. The Viera dolmen is not as impressive as the Menga dolmen, but still well-worth a look.
We had to jump back into the car and drive a further three kilometres to the third megalithic sepulchre, the Tholos of El Romeral, built five hundred years later than the other two dolmens. In many ways, this was my favourite tomb and bears a striking resemblance to the tholos tombs built by the Minoans in Crete, also during the Bronze Age.
A large number of smaller stones were used in the construction of El Romeral dolmen which, unusually for this type of monument, faces west.
As with many Spanish monuments, the directional signage to the Dolmens sometimes leaves a little to be desired, but if you’re persistent you’ll find them once you’ve turned off the A45 from Málaga.
Entrance is free, with opening times being Tuesday-Saturday 9am – 6pm and Sunday 9.30am – 2.30pm. Closed Monday.
This post is my contribution to the One Trip EVERY Month Challenge.
If you’d like to join me, here’s how:
- Each month, visit somewhere and then write about your trip or describe it using photographs – whichever suits you best.
- Don´t forget to title and tag your entry ’One Trip EVERY Month Challenge’, and link back to this page.
- Display the Challenge logo on your post or in your sidebar.
- HAVE FUN!
Are you ready to join me by taking ONE TRIP EVERY MONTH? What are you waiting for?
Pingback: 49 COOL reasons to visit the Axarquía (Málaga) this winter | East of Málaga
Fascinating how many of these structures and similar there are around and about, Marianne. I haven’t visited any of the Portuguese ones yet, but I’m aware. 🙂
Yes it is – it’s too much of a coincidence that the tholos tombs were so similar in Crete and Spain.
Maybe there were some Greek expats living in Spain?! 😉
Bound to be! I know how you guys get about 🙂
What a lovely setting for this city, Marianne, and so much rich history too. Thanks for showing me what I missed when I was in Spain. 🙂
Yes, it’s such a stunning backdrop to Antequera, Sylvia.
Maybe you’ll have to come back! 🙂
So pleased to read this – I did try to find them once but clearly didn’t try hard enough. Now I’m convinced to try again!
There are some signs as you come off the A45, but then they seem to run out.
Definitely give it another try, Tanya – there’s plenty of parking and a lovely visitor centre, too.
I’m reliably informed that they are also up for World Heritage status soon 🙂
What a beautiful city!
It has a fantastic backdrop, too 🙂
Wonderful photography. I always enjoy visitng Antequera and have visited several times taking my friends and family to see it and El Torcal.
It’s always a good trip to take visitors on, isn’t it, Jeremy 🙂
Thanks for the kind comment – much appreciated.
Reblogged this on Kate McCarthy and commented:
Andalucia is such a stunning part of Spain, if you haven’t yet visited, I can highly recommend it. I personally can’t wait to get back there again and do some more exploring!
I realise reading this, that we haven’t begun to scratch the surface of what there is to see in Andalucia, let alone all of Spain. A return trip is in order 🙂 Fabulous post and images Marianne.
Excellent, Madhu! Make sure you let me know when you might come and I’ll suggest some places for you to visit – and hopefully show you around one or two of them. 🙂
Dolmen, megalithic… I love these words. Fascinating places and post, and it’s good to see that something is free.
Great words, aren’t they? And not ones you can easily slip into every conversation!!
Lots of monuments are free in Spain, Ella 🙂
Fascinating trip, Marianne. This is history I knew nothing of. Lover’s rock definitely is a sleeping giant. Your photography/lighting really captures the Dolmen’s well. My favorite is the first, the view of the town.It beckons one to stay for awhile.
I’ve only visited Antequera once before, Lynne, several years ago – long before I knew about the Dolmens.
Last week’s visit really interested me to return to the city to explore further 🙂
The view of the town was taken after we had visited the Dolmens and we were on our way to see a spectacular limestone mountain area called El Torcal. I’ll write about that separately 🙂
I love this theme which displays your photos so a clean, clear format. Thanks for the excellent article on the ancient dolmens in Spain. Spain is a fascinating country where you can find so much of per-history left behind. We were disappointed we couldn’t see this area when we traveled through Grenada. No time. Now I can see what I missed and not feel disappointed anymore. Thanks! 🙂
I see I made several typing errors! Too early in the morning I guess. Sorry about that.
No worries – we all do that 🙂
I love this theme for that very same reason, Rosh.
Sorry you didn’t have time to see the Dolmens – you were so close, too 😦 Yes, Spain is a fascinating country – always full of surprises.
I’ll try to tempt you to come back and see for yourself!!
Thanks for your lovely comment – much appreciated 🙂
Marianne, you brought back some happy memories with this post. As a matter of fact, we went to see these dolmans right before I met you in Malaga!! Thanks for the trip down memory lane. 🙂
I remember you telling me you had visited them Cathy. Glad to have evoked happy memories of your time in Malaga 🙂 Hope you will come back one day xx
I hope so too, Marianne!
Fascinating Marianne. I love history.
xxx Mega Hugs xxx
Me too, David 🙂
We have been to Antequera a couple of time but for the excellent music festival, which is held in July up by the castle with amazing views down onto the city. Obviously there is a lot more to see! 🙂
Well, I didn’t know about the music festival! Thanks for letting me know. Sounds like fun 🙂
Beautiful as ever Marianne Elizabeth !
Thank you, Kathryn 🙂
I love to see these ancient structures, and ponder the lives of people who knew so much about the movement of the Earth, Sun and Moon … great post Marianne!
I don’t think you will have time to see the Dolmens before you leave, will you, Christine?
Yes, I love to gently touch the stone and try to connect somehow with the ancient people who put them there, or who must have touched them since.
I know what you mean Marianne … I felt that today in the archeological museum in Cordoba … all those lives, our lives, it is so good to learn about them …
It is 🙂
The science employed to build these incredible places is staggering, to say nothing of the manpower!
I agree – they were much cleverer than they may have appeared.
Great pictures Marianne, I would agree from the pictures number three would be my favourite, it’s probably because it looks more intricate and I love round structures, the lighting is also fantastic. looks like a good trip.
The Menga dolmen was fascinating too – especially the lining up with the Sleeping Giant, but there was something much more intimate about El Romeral.
I was lucky how the photos turned out because I don’t like to use the flash.
It was a great (birthday) trip for me, and we went on to visit El Torcal, an amazing “natural park” nearby. Another blog post to follow in the future, no doubt!
It’s a little bit more glamorous than the last one I went to in this country Marianne, Hetty Peglars tump! http://www.stone-circles.org.uk/stone/hettypegler.htm still fascinating though. What a lovely Birthday trip, you are a very busy lady at the moment. 🙂
OH yes, much more glamorous than that, Roberto! 🙂 You should visit, next time you are over!
I’m a very lucky (busy) girl – that’s for sure 🙂
This looks so cool. I’ve been reading about barrows in ‘How the Irish Saved Civilisation’ and wondered what they were; now I know! Burial mounds. It’s amazing that even the ancients thought these were ancient.
Yes, we have the Romans to thank for a thing or two around these parts 🙂
Thanks for your comment, Trish x
Enjoyed my virtual trip in this fascinating historic area, thanks for posting!
Glad you have you along, Sue 🙂