The Dolmens of Antequera – UNESCO World Heritage Site

September 22, 2016


Menga, Viera and Romeral, three megalithic monuments that have stood for thousands of years and will leave your marvelling at the motivation and expert techniques of the people that were able to move and build with stones, weighing as much as 180 tonnes.

Three views that have entranced our ancestors over the millennia. El Torcal, the unmistakable shape of the limestone outcrop that is the Peña de los Enamorados and as with all Megalithic monuments, a precise alignment with the sun and the stars, marking solstices and equinoxes.

Three mysteries waiting to be explored. Why were they built? Who built them? What secrets still wait to be discovered beneath their ancient, grassy mounds?


“Menga Dolmen – Antequera 2016” Image Courtesy of Marbella Escapes.

The Dolmens of Antequera are close to our hearts at Marbella Escapes, the link back to our ancestors, our shared history and culture they provide, the stunning natural setting and their location just outside the wonderful city of Antequera and the simply breathtaking El Torcal perfectly encapsulate our passion for this corner of Andalucia.

To great celebration after years of hard work by the people of the city, the dolmens of Antequera are now inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, alongside the surreal landscape that is El Torcal Natural Park.

Our tour starts with the oldest and most imposing (one of the largest in Europe), the famous Menga Dolmen or Cueva de Menga.

Supposedly named after a leper woman that inhabited the Cueva, Menga is estimated to have been built between 3800 and 3400 BC by copper age farmers occupying the “Vega” of the fertile Guadalhorce valley, with over 32 megaliths, carried from a nearby quarry, the heaviest of which weighs an astonishing 180 tonnes.

Menga is exceptional amongst European megalithic dolmens in that it is orientated towards a terrestrial landmark – the nearby Peña de los Enamorados. This unusual positioning leaves it facing northeast (azimuth 45°), to the north of the summer solstice sunrise, in stark contrast to most megalithic monuments.

Other mysteries held by the “Cueva de Menga” include a 19.5m deep well shaft, aligned with the central columns and who’s purpose and indeed origin is entirely unknown and anthropomorphic engravings, crosses and star on the entrance slabs.


“Cueva de Menga – Antequera 2016” Image Courtesy of Marbella Escapes.

The second Dolmen, named Viera after the brothers, Antonio and Viera who discovered it between 1903 and 1905 and who also discovered El Romeral, our third and final dolmen.

Viera’s construction date is unknown, however it was likely during constructed during the late Neolithic period, over 4,000 years ago in the third millennium and after Menga.

The Viera Dolmen originally consisted of 16 upright stones of which 14 on the left and 15 on the right remain. Of the roof slabs 5 are still in place and fragments remain of two others. The initial entrance corridor section would also have been covered by 4 more capstones. The dolmens construction is topped off by a covered by a mound 50 metres in diameter and that has stood the test of the elements for millennia.

Viera’s orientation is much more consistent with other megalithic dolmens in that it is oriented slightly south of east (96°), precisely so that at the summer solstices the sunrise illuminates the burial chamber in a feat of ancient wisdom echoed throughout megalithic monuments all over Europe.


“Viera Dolmen – Antequera 2016” Image Courtesy of Marbella Escapes.

Our third and our favourite Dolmen on the tour, is the Tholos of El Romeral. It’s located 4km away from Menga and Viera, unassumingly sat in the middle of an industrial estate an issue to be addressed as part of UNESCO acceptance. Clearly different from Menga and Viera, it’s forgotten spot gives it a more authentic feel, a stronger connection to the landscape it forms a part of.

It’s style of construction would date El Romeral to around 3200 – 2200 BC, although as full scale archaeological excavations have never taken place, precise dating has never been established. It was originally believed that all three dolmens were constructed during a similar era however research supports a much later date than Menga and Viera and El Romeral is often attributed to the Los Milares culture, based some 200km away in Almería.

Tholos de El Romeral is a chambered tomb covered by a mound. It consists of a long corridor with drystone walls made of thousands of small stones and ceilings made of megalithic slabs that form a beautiful and remarkable false cupola. The corridor leads to two chambers, with the second, smaller chambe echoing the first, although it contains a large limestone slab, whose purpose, like so many aspects of these wonderful monuments, remains uncertain.

El Romeral, is again exceptional in its orientation; it faces Northwest, towards the heighest point of the nearby El Torcal park, the “Camorro de las Siete Mesas”.


“Tholos de El Romeral – Antequera 2016” Image Courtesy of Marbella Escapes.

The Dolmens of Antequera,three unique and special monuments that form part of a unforgettable day trip, are of course best discovered up close.

To experience the Dolmens of Antequera for yourself, as well the ancient city of Antequrea and the surreal El Torcal Natural Park. contact Marbella Escapes today!

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