The Dolmens of Antequera as an archaeological site
The ensemble comprising the monuments at Menga, Viera and El Romeral is one of the best and most widely known examples of European megalithism. Megalithic monuments feature a wide range of architectural solutions and techniques. However, in general they can be characterised by the use of large blocks of stone to create chambers and spaces covered by lintels or false domes and by the fact that they were used for ritual and funerary purposes. Megaliths were the earliest form of monumental architecture in prehistoric Europe and according to currently available data they first emerged at the beginning of the 5th millennium BC (the Neolithic age), that is some 6,500 years ago.
For the first communities of livestock and agricultural farmers in western Europe, megalithic monumental architecture helped to establish society's presence and roots on the land as a belief and value system. As funeral chambers, some megaliths are veritable repositories of cultural and genealogical identity; as religious buildings and ritual spaces, they were also used to perform propitiatory ceremonies, often related to fertility rites and ancestor worship.
The people who built the megalithic monuments were the first agrarian communities to inhabit the fertile lands of the Guadalhorce Valley. Several settlements from the Neolithic and Chalcolithic Ages (the height of Megalithism, between approximately 5,000 and 2,200 years BC) have been identified in the necropolis area. In the karst formation of El Torcal mountains (south of Antequera) and the Mollina mountain range (to the north-west) are cave settlements from the Neolithic period, such as the caves at El Toro, La Pulsera, and La Higuera. The archaeological research conducted at some of these caves has shed light on aspects about the habitat, technology and economy of these groups.
The closest settlement to the megalithic necropolis, however, is the Cerro de Marimacho, a small hill located just 200 metres east of Menga and Viera. A small open-air hamlet with semi-subterranean housing existed here at the end of the Chalcolithic Age (c. 2600-2200 BC). In general terms, it is fairly unlikely that any of these Neolithic or Chalcolithic communities (comprising no more than a few dozen inhabitants) would have been able to embark on the mammoth undertaking of building the enormous megalithic monuments on their own. This task must have required close co-operation between various communities with common religious practices and a shared sense of belonging to a tribe or clan.
The dolmen of Menga was designated a National Monument in Royal Order of 1 June 1886, and shortly after that (1923) the dolmen de Viera was included.
Meanwhile, the tholos of El Romeral became a National Architectural Artistic Treasure in 1926 and in 1931 was declared a Historical and Artistic Monument.
The archaeological area of the Dolmens of Antequera was inscribed in the General Catalogue of Andalusian Historical Heritage through Decree 25/2009, of 27 January, published in the Official Gazette of Andalusia (BOJA no. 33 of 18 February 2009), which created a protected environment. Click here to download the declaration in pdf format, 1784 KB, new window.
The Dolmens of Antequera as an institution:
The Government of Andalusia took charge of the ensemble in 1984, when responsibilities for cultural affairs were devolved to it. It manages and develops these through the provincial offices.
The institution of the Archaeological Ensemble of the Dolmens of Antequera was created as an administrative unit by the Governing Council of the Andalusian Government in Decree 395/1986, of 17 December, which approved the list of job posts, and was successively amended in 1994 and 2005.
In 2010 the Governing Council approved the creation of the Archaeological Ensemble of the Dolmens of Antequera as an independently managed administrative service in Decree 280/2010 of 27 April. Click here to view the decree creating it, new window.