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Antequera’s three megalithic dolmens are amongst the most complete and largest in Europe, well worth a visit to Antequera for these alone.
Antequera is an inland city in Malaga province, slightly more populous than Ronda, and by all indications occupied for nearly as long, though the archeological history of Antequra is different, with it’s two most striking asset being the three neolithic dolmen structures, two of which sit side by side, and the third about four km out of town.
Built by farming communities whose presence has been established from 6,500 years ago, each of the three dolmens is different varying is size and features. The fertile soils of the Guadalhorce were attractive to early farmers, so of course they needed places to worship their gods.
Using huge stones carved from nearby quarries, pits and holes were excavated, the stones rolled into place on logs, and then dropped vertically into position. To build the roofs of their structures the pit was filled with sand, the large roof stoned rolled onto the structure, and then the sand dug back out again, before the entire structure was then buried using sand, stones, and soil to form a mound.
It’s incredible to think people so long ago had the skill and thought to build the megalithic structures we see now. The three dolmens are the twinned Menga and Viera, and the separate El Romeral.
Menga is considered the largest in Europe, and is believed to have been built around 2,500 BC. It is 25 metres deep, 5 metres wide, and 4 metres high. Historians have speculated the dolmen was used for burial of ruling families, but at the time of its excavation several hundred skeletons were found inside, explained by the perhaps 2,000 years of use.
70 metres away from Menga is the Viera dolmen, discovered in 1903 by the Viera brothers, and dated to around 2,500 to 2,000 BC. The structure was built using the orthstatic technique employed for Menga, but contains only a single chamber tomb, however some visitors believe Viera to be more impresive owing to the long 27 stone entrance.
El Romeral, also discovered by the Viera brothers dates from 1,800 to 1,900 BC, though unlike Menga and Viera is built using stacked stones for the walls rather than free standing megaliths. An altar is clearly visible in El Romeral, where offerings to the dead would have been made.
Each of the three dolmens has clear views of Antequera’s Peña de las Enamorados, a rocky mountain with the face of a sleeping woman on it. It’s possible the location of the dolmens was chosen not just due to their alignment with the summer solstice, but also due to proximity of the mountain.