The Dolmen de Guadalperal

2,000 years older than Stonehenge.

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.

Enjoy my random musings? Then you’ll love my book!


Underground Cities

It seems they’ve just found a 5 million square foot ancient city under the Nevşehir province of Turkey. That’s amazing news, but it doesn’t surprise me at all, because I’ve been to Nevşehir. After learning about the Cappadocian Kingdom, founded by the Hittites, then taken over by the Assyrians, the Mendes, the Persians, the Ariarthes and the Romans, I just had to see it. I love history.

I also love caves. As an introvert, I’m naturally drawn to cozy places, hidden places, secret places. Any kind of hidey-hole will do. That’s probably why I enjoy getting lost in the stacks of my public library, and on bad days I like to pull the sheets up over my head and block out the world.

But if you’re into both history and hidey-holes, Nevşehir province is your place. The whole area is built on top of volcanic ash, and therefore the rock is so soft you can carve dwellings into it. And that’s exactly what the locals did to escape persecution from the various empires, whether it be the Persians, the Islamic Caliphate, or the Byzantines.

If you saw the bad guys coming, you simply went underground, rolled a large stone across the entrance, and thanks to a system of smokestacks, wells, and sewage disposal systems, as well as a dry, stable temperature that was perfect for food storage, you could stay there for months on end. They even had holes in the entrance stones through which they could shoot arrows at the more stubborn invaders.

The landscape of this region is haunting. It’s full of what’s called hoodoos, or fairy chimneys, which are phallic rock formations which were created when a harder rock landed on top of the soft ash, and over the centuries the ash was washed away, except beneath that rock. They’re really cool. And can you imagine what gets written on the postcards home? None of my personal photos did these things justice, so here’s one from online:


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Some people still carve dwellings out of these fairy chimneys to this day. And the whole region is full of underground cities, even churches carved out of the stone. Here’s one I came upon during my wanderings around Nevşehir and Göreme.

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I can’t even imagine how gorgeous this place must have been before the paint faded.

I spent several days climbing through underground cities and coming across views like this.

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So the fact that construction workers stumbled across a 5 million square foot underground city that had somehow been lost in the fog of time surprises me not a bit. I bet there are even more undiscovered treasures out there. And I’m thrilled that this will give the friendly and welcoming people of the area even more opportunities to rake in some much needed tourist dollars. I hope I get the chance to check this new old city out some day.

Violence: Have We Evolved at All?

I’m reading a book that is set in the 1850’s and in it there’s about to be a public execution. People have been camping out since the night before to see it as if they were trying to buy tickets for a Justin Bieber concert or something. (Perish the thought.)  It’s all rather grizzly, and almost as bad as the Ancient Romans who flocked to the Colosseum in the 2nd century to see slaughter on an almost daily basis.

My gut reaction is to say that we’ve come a long way since then, but in retrospect, uh, no. Maybe not. A certain portion of humanity still likes to view carnage. That’s why we still have dog fights and cock fights and bullfights and boxing matches. That’s why we pay football players a fortune in spite of the fact that the risk of brain and bodily injury is very high.

It’s hard to conceive of a rugby match or a hockey game without a certain amount of bloodshed. And many NASCAR enthusiasts will admit they look forward to the car crashes. And then there are those who watch wrestling although it’s most certainly staged. Scarier still, even as you read this, somewhere on the planet there’s sure to be a circle of children in a schoolyard chanting, “Fight! Fight!“

The fact is, these are still violent times. I’ve never met a woman who hasn’t experienced physical, sexual or emotional abuse at least once in her life. Violent crime hasn’t exactly disappeared, either. And the fact that in 2013 we can still have a sexual assault scandal in the US Military is deplorable.

Next time you think we’re on a higher plane than other animals, think again. At least when other animals draw blood, they are doing it for survival.