Hundreds of years before the first pyramids were built in Egypt, and anywhere in the world, mysterious people decided to organize and place megalithic stones in an intricate manner. The site, located in modern-day Spain, which remained covered by the sea has now been revealed due to severe droughts.
The sunken temple in Spain is believed to date back around 5,000 years (although some scholars argue the stones date back more than 7,000 years), and it has been dubbed the Spanish Stonehenge, due to its resemblance to its more popular counterpart in England; Stonehenge.
The Spanish Stonehenge was built with 144 massive standing stones which are thought to have been used in ancient times as a ritual temple.
Although the site has been amply compared to the English Stonehenge, the Dolmens of Guadalperal could be 2,000 years older than Stonehenge and were most likely at one point an entirely enclosed space. When the site was built, people would most likely have entered it through a narrow hallway which was likely decorated with various engravings. The tunnel would lead into a bigger room of around 16 feet in diameter where religious practices were performed.
Constructing such a site more than 5,000 years ago, using massive stones would have required a great knowledge in engineering and construction skills.
The temple is home to massive stones some of which were two meters high. The stones feature intricate carvings of serpents on their surface.
The massive stones were arranged in circles just like Stonehenge, although no one known which cultures placed them there, nor for what reason.
The ancient site was submerged beneath the water in 1963 after the construction of a dam created a reservoir in the area. The intricately arranged stones are believed to have first been spotted by the ancient Romans, who most likely looted the site.
The standing stones weren’t rediscovered in modern times until a priest called Hugo Obermaier visited the site in the 1920s. It is believed that Obermaier cataloged the site and excavated artifacts which were then taken to Germany. The site is referred to as the Dolmens of Guadalperal.
However, recent droughts have resurfaced the ancient henge. According to experts, extremely hot temperatures and increased water extraction have caused the ancient stones to reemerge from the depths of the reservoir.
Speaking about the intricately arranged stones, Angel Castaño, a member of Raíces de Peralêda—a group dedicated to the preservation of the site told Spain’s “The Local” newspaper: “We grew up hearing about the legend of the treasure hidden beneath the lake and now we finally get to view them. There certainly may have been treasures buried beneath the stones once upon a time. But for us now, the treasures are the stones themselves.”
The temple won’t stay above the surface forever, and experts are now working to preserve the temple before the site submerges again.
Although not much is known about the intricately arranged stones, nor the people that created the site, experts argue the archeological site dates back at least to the third millennium BC. Scholars have proposed that the Spanish Stonehenge was used as a kind of sun temple on the banks of the Tagus River.
The last time locals saw the temple above the surface was around six decades ago, forming part of local folklore and legends.
“The site would have been created over thousands of years, using granite transported from kilometers away Like Stonehenge, they formed a sun temple and burial ground. They seemed to have a religious but also economic purpose, being at one of the few points of the river where it was possible to cross. So it was a sort of trading hub,” Castaño revealed.
To prevent the stones from falling or being lost forever, locals have proposed taking and transporting the stones to dry land. Otherwise, once the water levels rise, the site may remain beneath the water for decades.
“We have had no rain this summer, so the drought but also a policy of extracting the water to send to Portugal have combined to lower the water table and reveal the stones,” Angel explained.
“But that can all changed very quickly. If we miss this chance it could be years before they are revealed again. And the stones, which are granite and therefore porous, are already showing signs of erosion and cracking, so if we don’t act now it could be too late.”
However, transporting the stones to another site essentially means destroying part of the original complex. Although technically in the realm of possibility, if the stones were to be transported to somewhere else, it would mean that experts would need to do precisely document the position, depth, and angle of every single stone of the site.
The site where the dolmens are located is clearly visible to be above water in these satellite images of NASA’s Landsat Program.
Lost “Spanish Stonehenge” revealed by drought: The Dolmen de Guadalperal has resurfaced after five decades underwater… via @NASAEarth #Landsat @USGSLandsat https://t.co/CWoYaWRbpR pic.twitter.com/jczOQG8dms
— NASA Landsat Program (@NASA_Landsat) September 19, 2019
The fact that the stones have remained submerged from a long time has damaged them in irreparable ways. The water has eroded the stone and damaged some of the engravings that date back between 4,000 to 5,000 years.
Luckily, when studies were carried out by Hugo Obermaier, the representations depicted on the stones were recorded, and reproductions of the engravings were published in 1960 by German archaeologists Georg and Vera Leisner.