The Spanish Stonehenge re-emerges to reclaim its protection

5,000 years of history have once again emerged from the depths of the Valdecañas reservoir, in the north of the province of Cáceres, in front of a controversial luxury housing development that the courts have ordered to be partially demolished.

The Dolmen of Guadalperal, which many donominan as the ‘Spanish Stonehenge’, has emerged completely, as happened in the summer of 2019, so for two weeks the Ministry of Culture and the Junta de Extremadura strive to carry out an exhaustive monitoring work, study and analysis of the megalithic complex coordinated by the Institute of Cultural Heritage of Spain (IPCE), under the scientific direction of the Universities of Alcalá de Henares and Complutense de Madrid, with the collaboration of the National Museum of Underwater Archaeology, and the Hydrographic Confederation of the Tagus, among other entities.

For two years, due to the appearance of the dolmen, a team of archaeologists has investigated the entire basin of the reservoir, where other archaeological remains have been found, explained the Extremadura Minister of Culture, Nuria Flores. In fact, the reservoir built by Franco’s regime in 1963 occupied, in addition to the megalithic monument, the village of Talaverilla and the Roman town of Augustobriga.

Other more ancient remains

Last autumn the first underwater prospecting campaign was carried out and, now that the dolmen is accessible, soundings are being carried out to detect the places where there could still be remains of the oldest occupations, according to Primitiva Bueno, professor of Prehistory at the University of Alcalá de Henares. This objective is part of a project to recover an ancient territory that could have coexisted in time with the dolmen.

In this sense, the archaeologist and professor of Prehistory at the Complutense University, Enrique Cerrillo, has described that the objective, from the archaeological point of view, is “to understand how this landscape worked, how the dolmen was built and how it was used.ow people lived in this area six thousand years ago, how they related to each other and what kind of raw materials they brought from other parts of the peninsula”.

To do this, sources and old maps have been analysed to find out what the landscape was like before the Valdecañas reservoir flooded everything.

As for the conservation of the Guadalperal Dolmen, the deputy director general of the Spanish Cultural Heritage Institute, Ana Cabrera, explained that tastings have been carried out to see how the stone behaves when it is submerged and how long it takes for it to be covered by the different microorganisms in the water of the reservoir.

The water will engulf it again

For now, until the investigations are concluded, the transfer of the whole to another place is ruled out, said the director general of Fine Arts of the Ministry of Culture, María Dolores Jiménez. In this sense, Cabrera insisted that the current archaeological work is focused on getting to know the monument, the landscape and how to conserve the dolmen.

The archaeological campaign will conclude in early autumn and then a new work plan will be announced. By then it is most likely that the waters will have engulfed the megalithic complex again, so the archaeologists have also been busy stabilising it.

The Guadalperal Dolmen is a large burial site of which 140 standing stones are currently preserved. The chamber has an oval shape and has a diameter of 5 meters and the corridor is 1,40 meters wide. Its existence was known since 1926 when the German Hugo Obermaier, chaplain of the house of Alba and great fan of archaeology, was spending a few days in the estate of Guadalperal, in the municipality of El Gordo (Cáceres) when he saw the stones and began the excavation.

For several decades it was visible to everyone, until the Valdecañas reservoir flooded it in 1963. Since then it has come to light to a greater or lesser extent as a result of the agreements between Spain and Portugal for the regulation of the flow of the Tagus and due to the periods of time when the reservoir was flooded. of drought. But in 2019 it fully emerged, as it has this summer.

The Government has initiated the dossier for the declaration of Cultural Interest Property (BIC), in the category of archaeological area, of this dolmen.

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