Drought brings Spanish Stonehenge to light

by Lorraine Williamson
drought brings Spanish Stonehenge

Droughts plague the whole of Spain. They cause many problems but sometimes have extraordinary side effects. As water resources dwindle, treasures that once lay beneath the waters of reservoirs are rediscovered. Read on to discover more about this Spanish Stonehenge.

Sometimes these are villages that have been underwater for decades, sometimes ancient monuments. The latter is the case of Dolmen de Guadalperal, the impressive megalithic complex in Extramedura, which has come to be known as the ‘Spanish Stonehenge’.

Lack of rain

Due to the lack of rain in recent years, the Dolmen of Guadalperal briefly ‘escaped from the prison of water’ of one of Spain’s largest reservoirs. It is a grave monument as special as it is unknown. At least, it was unknown until the drought brought it to light, Its images spread like wildfire through social networks.

Spanish Stonehenge

Soon the monument was compared to Stonehenge. Not only because of its age, but also because of its shape and archaeological importance. Yet the differences between the two monuments are remarkable. Stonehenge’s function is still mysterious, but in the case of this wonder in Extramedura, it seems clear that it served as a necropolis. Yet the visible remains only give us an idea of what it looked like thousands of years ago.

What we can see when the reservoir water drops are a number of granite slabs standing upright. They once supported a burial chamber and a corridor. On top of the slabs, other horizontal slabs served as a roof and, at the entrance to the chamber, a two-metre-high menhir. This structure was hidden and covered by a mound of earth and smaller stones that protected it from the passage of time and human activity for centuries.

Last century monument discovered

It cannot be said with certainty how old the monument is but it could be between five and seven thousand years old. Much of it has remained hidden from humans. First, by the earth that somehow made it blend into its surroundings. Then by the dammed-up waters of the Tagus River.

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In 1920, German archaeologist Hugo Obermaier discovered the monument by chance.

At the time, these were the lands of the House of Alba and Obermaier was chaplain there. During a stay at the Guadalperal estate, Obermaier’s eye fell on a group of stones protruding from the ground. His curiosity and knowledge did the rest. After several years of excavations, the dolmen was uncovered.

However, the tomb did not remain visible for long. Barely forty years later, in 1963, one of the country’s largest reservoirs, Valdecañas, was built. No one seemed to notice the megalithic complex then. Neither its millennial history nor its enormous importance were enough to prevent it from being submerged and forgotten again.

The rediscovery of the Guadalperal Dolmen

Since the 1960s and at certain times of drought, the dolmen has partially emerged and its structure has become visible. The extreme lack of rain has now ushered in a renaissance of sorts for the megalithic complex. Good news for archaeology lovers, but less good news for the monument itself. Both tourists and climate change increase the risk of damage. . Meanwhile, the monument has been declared an Asset of Cultural Interest.

 Also read: Huge Stonehenge discovered in Spain

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