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?