A huge megalithic complex of more than 500 standing stones has been discovered in southern Spain which could be one of the largest in Europe, archaeologists have said.
The stones were discovered on land in Huelva, a province flanking the southernmost part of Spain’s border with Portugal, near the Guadiana River.
Covering approximately 600 hectares (1,500 acres), the land had been set aside for a plantation of avocado trees. Before granting the permit, the regional authorities requested an investigation in light of the possible archaeological significance of the site. The investigation revealed the presence of the stones.
“This is the largest and most diverse collection of standing stones on the Iberian Peninsula,” said José Antonio Linares, a researcher at the University of Huelva and one of the project’s three directors. 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.”
At the site, they found a large number of different types of megaliths, including standing stones, dolmens, mounds, coffin-like stone boxes called cists, and enclosures.
“Standing stones were the most common find, with 526 of them still standing or lying on the ground,” the researchers said in an article published in Trabajos de Prehistoria, a journal of prehistoric archaeology. The height of the stones was between one and three meters.
At the megalithic site of Carnac in northwestern France, there are around 3,000 menhirs.
One of the most striking things was finding such diverse megalithic elements clustered in one place and discovering how well-preserved they were, said Primitiva Bueno, co-director of the project and professor of prehistory at the University of ‘Alcalá, near Madrid.
“Finding alignments and dolmens on a site is not very common. Here, we find everything together – alignments, cromlechs and dolmens – and it is very striking”, she said, welcoming the “excellent conservation” of the site.
An alignment is a linear arrangement of standing stones along a common axis, while a cromlech is a circle of stones and a dolmen is a type of megalithic tomb usually consisting of two or more standing stones with a large flat stone on the top.
Most of the standing stones have been grouped into 26 alignments and two cromlechs, both located on top of hills with a clear view to the east to observe the sunrise during the summer and winter solstices and the spring equinoxes and fall, the researchers said.
Many stones are buried deep in the earth. They should be carefully searched. The works are planned until 2026, but “between this year’s campaign and the beginning of next year there will be part of the site that can be visited,” Bueno said.