The View from a Drawbridge

The random musings of a bridgetender with entirely too much time on her hands.

If, like me, you have always been fascinated by Stonehenge, you’ll be quite thrilled to hear about the one silver lining to global climate change. According to this article, the Dolmen de Guadalperal rose above the waterline for the first time since Francisco Franco had a dam built which flooded that area of Extremadura, Spain in 1963. Due to extreme drought, this archeological site was suddenly high and dry.

As you can see from this beautiful short video, what remains of these dolmen are about 100 standing stones. Not nearly as tall as the ones at Stonehenge. The tallest stones here are about 6 feet. But I’m grateful to whoever took that video, because to get to that site requires a hike of several hours. The idea of hiking that long in a place known for its heat, and not being sure at the end if the dolmen will be completely covered in water, is rather unappealing to me.

But this site is very significant. It’s believed to be about 7,000 years old, which is 2,000 years older than Stonehenge. Unlike Stonehenge, archeologists believe that this was once a completely enclosed building. The Romans may have damaged it. It was a mystery to them, too.

While Franco’s dam brought electricity and water to underdeveloped western Spain, it flooded this site as well as a Roman city that was called Augustóbriga. That city included a temple, which was dismantled and moved to higher ground when the dam was being built. The city also had an aqueduct and thermal baths and paved roads. What a loss.

The Dolmen of Guadalperal, when intact, would have consisted of a long, dark hallway that opened into a central room where the dead would be interred. During the summer solstice, the hallway would be lit up, and the sun would shine on the ancestors for a few moments. It must have been spectacular.

The people who lived in this area also left evidence that they were some of the first in the world known to make flour, and that was 1,000 years before the dolmen were erected. They were also using honey, and eventually brewing their own beer.

The dolmen, which are made of porous granite, are suffering from being constantly submerged in water. They are toppling and cracking. And now the damage is accelerating as they go from cold, wet conditions to hot, dry ones. There was talk of moving the stones to higher ground, but it would have had to have been done extremely carefully. Only the government can decide their ultimate fate, and governments tend to move slowly.

Alas, per this article, the government chose to do nothing, and the dolmen are already covered by water again. This makes me sad.

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