Enchanted stones of the Alentejo

by Central Magazine

The Alentejo is home to several Neolithic and bronze megalithic monuments, making it a golden archaeological site.

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Even if you haven't always been fascinated by prehistory, you can't miss a tour of Portugal's megalithic monuments. The district that will certainly meet your expectations is Évora. In this district there are several menhirs, dolmens and megalithic settlements waiting for your visit.

Visiting the megalithic monuments is synonyms with seeing large stones that refer to monumental architecture built by our ancestors between about 6,000 and 4,000 years ago. It can be a lovely experience to imagine how these people lived before and began to settle into our civilisation as we know it today. The first villages in Portugal were created 7,500 years ago.

After that, the population grew rapidly and fishing and hunting were no longer enough to feed all the people, so they started farming. The need for food production was the reason for the creation of new settlements near the rivers. In addition to the flat and fertile land, the Alentejo offered Tejo, Sado and Guadiana’s waters - which makes it perfect for agriculture.

Almendres Cromlech

Starting with the largest megalithic monument in the Iberian Peninsula, this is a must-see for anyone visiting this route of enchanted stones. Built 7,000 years ago, it is one of the oldest in the world – even 2,000 years older than Stonehenge in the UK.

Very close to Évora, nowadays it is possible to visit the approximately 100 monoliths that are present in the Almendres Cromlech. The place is very well maintained, despite its age, thanks to some renovations and additions to the original blueprint.

The place, surrounded by forest, is perfect to stay for a while and enjoy the peace you can feel out there. Also, when comparing with other places of the same kind, this one is not difficult to find. You just need to follow the road from the village of Nossa Senhora de Guadalupe.

Almendres Menhir

This is one of several menhirs in the area and is located near the last gem we listed (only about two kilometres away), which suggests that they might be connected. This Menhir was discovered in 1964 by an investigator. This is a unique stone site of Neolithic origin and is about six thousand years old. It was made of granite and is about three meters high and weighs ten tonnes.

The upper part is decorated with some engravings of unknown meaning. Nobody really knows what it symbolised for the tribe at the time. It can be the delimitation of the region or be used for mystical purposes. Additionally, local legends say that the Menhir of Almendres was the tomb of a Moorish princess.

Anta Grande do Zambujeiro 

These stones had a very peculiar use. They formed an ancient “cemetery” made from a dolmen between 4,000 and 3,500 BC, which was used during the Neolithic period as a place of entry for the dead and for worship.

Next to Valverde, this single-chamber monument was one of the largest in the Iberian Peninsula. Nowadays, it is considered a heritage of national interest and a large amount of archaeological finds found during excavations can be visited in the Évora Museum.

In Portugal, this Neolithic monument is one of the most striking manifestations of the funerary practices of our oldest peasant societies. The dead were placed inside the chamber accompanied by simple offerings: polished stone tools and axes.

According to site signage, this megalithic monument was probably built in the late Neolithic. It is a large monument with a burial chamber and a corridor, both almost entirely made up of a solid tomb structure. It's amazing how (thousands of years ago) our ancestors managed to move these huge stones.

Despite the lack of information about these places, the experience is worth it, as is the opportunity to let your imagination soar with the engravings you can find along the way!

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