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        The Evora Complex: (The 'Iberian Mesopotamia')

The concentration of megaliths around Evora have given the region the title of the 'Iberian Mesopotamia'. The area contains a diverse selection of megaliths, and boasts  cave-art (Arte Rupeste), dating back to the Palaeolithic period in the Gruta do Escoural.

As well as having one of the oldest and largest stone-circles in Europe (Almendres), and the passage-mound with the largest stones in Europe (Zambujeiro), the region around Evora includes some of the best examples of megaliths  in Portugal, if not all Iberia.

Evora has been continuously occupied for the last 20,000 years (1), with some of the sites showing signs of re-use (such as at Almendres). The significance of Evora is evident through its continued use over such a long period of time, proving it to be one of the most important megalithic locations in Iberia.

 As with many of the European megalithic complexes, the location of Evora is astronomically significant. 

In the case of Evora, it can be seen that it is located on one of only two latitudes in the world at which, in some nights of the year, you get the full moon on the zenith. The other latitude is 51° 10' N, the same as Stonehenge.

(Click here for map of the area)

 

   Featured Portuguese Locations:

 

Almendres (Stone Circle and Menhir) - The site of one of the oldest stone circles in Europe. With 92 remaining stones and several astronomical associations, it is also one of the most significant stone circles in Europe and a site of natural beauty and presence.

The Almendres stone circle has been shown to have both Equinoctial and Solstice orientations and alignments, involving the nearby Menhir dos Almendres and other sites. It is dated from the 5th to the 4th Millennium B.C.  (Ref: Site Plaque), and still has visible engravings and designs visible on some of the stones.

(More about Almendres)

 
 

The 'Anta Grande do Zambujeiro':

Link to Anta do Zambujeiro, near Evora.This amazing passage mound rivals any in Europe. Although it has been quarried heavily over the years, this has resulted in the exposure of the inside structure, giving it the unique appearance it has today.

The seven smoothed upright stones inside the Zambujeiro passage mound are the largest in all Europe. The enormous cap-stone, now lies in pieces at the top and has the appearance of either having been removed and broken, or having been broken in the process of construction. Many of the artefacts discovered here are now on view at the Museum of Evora. The stones extend over 7m above ground and the whole construction was covered by with a mound on-par with Maes-howe or the Irish passage-mounds at the Boyne Valley.

The style of the structure is unique to Portugal, being the only true passage mound, originally covering the whole of the internal stone structure.

Zambujeiro is one of Portugal's treasures and a must for all lovers of megaliths.

(More about Zumbujeiro)

 
 

Capelo de sao Brissos, Montemor de novo.Anta Capela de Sao Brissos - Constructed between the 3rd and 4th millenniums B.C. This dolmen was converted in the XVII century into a chapel to 'Nossa Senhora do Livramento' or 'Anta-Capela de Nossa Senhora do Livramento'.

The paint job adds to the eccentricity of the monument, and the Christianisation of this dolmen has incidentally led to the protection of the site.

This is part of an alignment of significant sites in the region. It was also a site of pilgrimage until recent times.

(More about the Anta de Sao Brissos)

 
 

Gruta do Escoural - Re-discovered in 1963, the earliest date of occupation in this natural cave system is at around 50,000 years ago in the middle Palaeolithic. It was used repeatedly between 35,000 - 8,000 BC, and again in the Neolithic as a funerary chamber (3).

There are over 100 engravings and paintings in the caves from the Palaeolithic period making it one of the most significant cave systems in Portugal. There are two different types of images in the caves; some of a zoomorphic nature such as bovines and horses, and the others abstract and geometric.

(More on the Gruta Do Escural Soon)

 

   Astronomy at Evora:

The latitude is significant as it is only at this particular latitude and one other (i.e. Stonehenge) at which the full moon can be seen on the zenith at certain nights of the year. The specific location of two of the largest Stone-circles in Europe at both of the latitudes where this is possible suggests an element of deliberation on the part of the builders.

Cromleque dos Almendres: Apart from being orientated to mark the Equinoxes, a line from the upper edge of the circle to the nearby Menhir dos Almendres, follows the same path as the winter solstice sun. It is also suggested that the number of stones in the original circle (91) may have been used to measure the number of days between solstices (182). (2)

Both the Almendres circle and the Zambujeiro passage-mound belong to an alignment of sites which continues eastwards to the 'Cromeleque' da Xarez, around 50km away. The alignment is suggested to have a lunar significance, corresponding to the azimuth of the spring full-moon (110°), which is close enough to the equinox to have served as a marker (5). It is probably no coincidence that the Anta Grande da Zambujeiro was orientated to face the same direction.

(More about the Almendres-Xarez alignment)

 

   The Evora Complex: Mound and Circle:

One of the most basic components of many of the European megalithic complexes is the presence of a prominent mound, often suggested as symbolising the 'mound of creation', and usually in the form of a passage mound, alongside a stone circle. These two structures appear to be a basic component in several European complexes.

While there are regional variations on this theme, the two components can be seen to appear together at several important sites, such as: Avebury/Silbury, the Orkneys complex (Maes-Howe/Stennes), Gavr'inis/Er Lannic in France and noticeably, Ggantija/Xagra, on Malta. At Evora, these requirements are met in the shape of the Zambujeiro Passage mound and the Almendres Stone circle, both the largest of their kind in Iberia. 

At Tara Hill, in Ireland, the Mound-Circle theme can be seen to share a strong similarity to the shape of the 'cup and ring' marks found carved inside the monuments themselves.

 

(European Prehistoric Complexes)

(Archaeoastronomy)

 

(List of Prehistoric Portuguese sites)

(Portugal Homepage)

 

 

References:

1). http://www2.cm-evora.pt/arqueologia/ev_introducao.htm
2). (Alvim 1997) Alvim, P et al., “On some vestiges of paleoastronomia in the Cromeleque de Almendres” in the City of Évora, nº 2 - II Series, 5 - 23, 1996-1997
3).  http://www.cm-montemornovo.pt/pt/conteudos/o%20concelho/historia/gruta%20escoural.htm
5). http://historiaaberta.com.sapo.pt/lib/loc001.htm

 

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