The Antequera Dolmens
were the fourth prehistoric European WHS that I visited in the past 4 weeks. After the Ice Age Art Caves, Neolithic Orkney and Gorham’s Cave I was not terribly keen on checking out another one. But well, this was an orphan site that I had left ‘to tick off’ not far from Malaga Airport from where I would be flying home after the WH Travellers Meeting. So on a Sunday morning I drove out there from La Linea, in a little less than two hours. The WHS consists of 5 different features, all located in or around the mid-size Andalusian city of Antequera.
View from Menga Dolmen
Antequera comes with a few pleasant surprises. The first is that it rightly is part of our Free Entrance
connection: none of the locations charge an entry fee. The sites are far from unkept though. The locations of Menga/Viera dolmen, El Torcal and El Romeral are all at least manned by security and in the case of the first two they also have a small visitor center with staff, parking lots and toilets.
Another positive is that one can only admire the state of conservation (or reconstruction) and the size of these megalithic structures. According to ICOMOS, the “number, size, weight and volume of stone blocks transported and assembled in the basin of Antequera, …, makes the Antequera Dolmens one of the most important engineering and architectural works of European Prehistory”. It did impress me a lot more than Neolithic Orkney for example.
Interior of Tholos de El Romeral
The Tholos of El Romeral I found the most interesting among the inscribed locations. It is the largest and most complex of the three (burial) mounds. In modern times it has ended up in an industrial estate, but Antequera's archaeological service has tried to give it some atmosphere by planting a series of cypress trees next to it and adding benches. However it attracts fewer visitors than Menga and Viera, and I had the site to myself.
El Romeral is different from the others as it was a dry stone construction. It looks like a number of bricks have been put neatly on top of each other, resulting in a dome shaped chamber. The nomination file calls this “the architecture of false cupola ceilings”, or corbel domes - it results in a similar effect to an arch, the construction of which was yet unknown in prehistoric times.
I know that I'm a slower traveler than most who are active on this website, but I even surprised myself how long I stayed in Antequera: it took me 3.5 hours to visit all 5 inscribed locations! That included lunch at the local McDonalds and an hour’s walk through the rocky landscape of the El Torcal nature reserve half an hour's drive away. One can even spend more time at El Torcal and do one of the longer hikes, but it's a bit of a tourist trap with lots of visiting Spanish families (whose members are not the quiet nature lover-type).
Perhaps we did get through it a little quick, but we didn't include time up at el Torcal, as we stayed up near there the previous night and weren't sure that lugging a buggy around would add much to what we had seen of the landscape already.
I guess we spent about 30/35 minutes at Menga and Viera and about 10/15 at El Romeral (which I agree was the most impressive interior).
So probably an hour once you factor in the time to get between them, and an half hour working out how to get the attention of some one to let you pay at the McDonalds :)