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ARCHAEOLOGY

Spain’s Stonehenge: Huge complex of 500 standing stones discovered

A giant megalithic complex of more than 500 standing stones has been discovered in southern Spain, which archaeologists believe could be one of the largest in Europe.

Spain's Stonehenge: Huge complex of 500 standing stones discovered
"This is the biggest and most diverse collection of standing stones grouped together in the Iberian peninsula," said Jose Antonio Linares, a researcher at Huelva University and one of the project's three directors. (Photo by Robert ATANASOVSKI / AFP)

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

Spanning some 600 hectares (1,500 acres), the land had been earmarked for an avocado planation.

But before granting the permit, the regional authorities requested a survey in light of the site’s possible archaeological significance – and revealed the presence of the stones.

“This is the biggest and most diverse collection of standing stones grouped together in the Iberian peninsula,” said José Antonio Linares, a researcher at Huelva University and one of the project’s three directors.

megalithic stones huelva spain

(José Antonio Linares-Catela et al., Trabajos de Prehistoria, 2022)

It is likely that the oldest standing stones at the La Torre-La Janera site were erected during the second half of the sixth or fifth millennium BCE, he said.

“It is a major megalithic site in Europe,” he said.

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

(José Antonio Linares-Catela et al., Trabajos de Prehistoria, 2022)

“Standing stones were the most common finding, with 526 of them still standing or lying on the ground,” said the researchers in an article published in Trabajos de Prehistoria, a prehistoric archaeology journal in the Iberian Peninsula.

The height of the stones was between one and three metres (3-10 feet).

(José Antonio Linares-Catela et al., Trabajos de Prehistoria, 2022)

‘Excellently preserved’

At Carnac in northwestern France, which is one of the most famous megalithic sites in the world, there are some 3,000 standing stones.

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

“Finding alignments and dolmens on one site is not very common,” she told AFP.

“Here you find everything all together: alignments, cromlechs and dolmens and that is very striking,” she said, hailing the site’s “excellent conservation”.

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

Most of the menhirs were grouped into 26 alignments and two cromlechs, both located on hilltops with a clear view to the east for viewing the sunrise during the summer and winter solstices and the spring and autumn equinoxes, the researchers said.

Many of the stones are buried deep in the earth.

They will need to be carefully excavated with the work scheduled to run until 2026 but “between this year’s campaign and the start of next year’s, there will be a part of the site that can be visited”, Bueno said.

Member comments

  1. They are not Spain’s or Spanish artefacts they are Iberian or Iberian Peninsula artefacts. Spain is a relatively new invention. Get your prehistory correct. Would you describe Roman artefacts in Spain as Spanish, no! So please don’t be lazy and describe them correctly. Are they now the responsibility of the relevant Spanish authorities, YES.

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SPANISH HISTORY

Spain relocates remains of Franco ally behind death of thousands

The remains of a Francoist general who is believed to have ordered the shooting of Spain's most famous poet were relocated on Thursday from a Seville church following a new law which bans the glorification of key figures of Spain's dictatorship.

Spain relocates remains of Franco ally behind death of thousands

A small group of family members applauded as a van containing the remains of general Gonzalo Queipo de Llano, his wife and his right-hand man emerged from Seville’s iconic Macarena basilica at 2:20 am, television images showed. Some people chanted “Viva Queipo!”.   

Queipo de Llano ran a military campaign in the south during Spain’s 1936-39 civil war and is believed to have given the green light to the shooting of thousands of people, including celebrated Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca.

As his remains were being driven away from the church, Paqui Maqueda, an activist who campaigns to restore the memory of victims of the Franco regime, recited the names of family members who were executed by the rightist dictatorship.

“Honour and glory to the victims of Francoism!” she shouted.

The Macarena brotherhood, the Roman Catholic association that looks after the basilica, said the exhumations were carried out with the consent of the family members of the three people.

They were done to comply with the Democratic Memory law that came into effect last month, it added in a statement.

The law, which tackles the legacy of Franco’s 1939-1975 dictatorship and the three-year civil war that preceded it, says leaders of the 1936 military coup that triggered the civil war may not remain buried in prominent public spaces other than a cemetery.

The brotherhood did not say to where Queipo de Llano’s remains would be moved.

He was a member of the brotherhood and was buried in the Macarena basilica when he died in 1951.

Between 1936 and 1951, repression at the hands of Franco’s forces claimed the lives of some 50,000 people in the southern region of Andalusia where Queipo de Llano operated, according to the regional government.

Spain’s leftist government welcomed the exhumations.

“This is what we have to do as a democratic and civilised country,” Deputy Prime Minister Yolanda Díaz told public television TVE.

But the leader of far-right party Vox, Santiago Abascal, accused the government of “profaning graves”.

Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has made the rehabilitation of the victims of the Franco era one of his priorities since coming to power in 2018.

In 2019 he had Franco’s remains removed from a vast mausoleum near Madrid and transferred to a discreet family plot.

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