Almendres Cromeleque

Cromeleque dos Almendres

Stand on the grassy hillside, facing west, surrounded by cork oak trees, and notice the wind blowing and the birds calling. In the far distance, you can just hear the hum of cars & possibly the noise of farmers calling out to their workers. In the far distance, you can glimpse the city of Évora. But here on this hillside, it’s peaceful. Calm. Quiet. Still.

So are the stones. They are still. Quiet. Calm. They’ve been here for thousands of years. The people who placed them here are long gone, their specific reasons for building this huge structure of a hundred giant stones is lost in time.

The cromeleque was built in stages, over thousands of years. The first stage (Early Neolithic) was built around 8,000 years ago. This was a roughly circular cromeleque, with two or three concentric circles of stones, oriented East-West. The second stage (Middle Neolithic, roughly a thousand years later) built a much larger oval-shaped structure attached (to the west) to the original. The third stage (Late Neolithic), around another thousand years later, modified both enclosures into roughly the shape of what is known now. There are currently around 95 stones in the complex, mostly round almond-shapes but also various other shapes. (The round shapes gave the site its original name, of Pedras Talhas: stone wine-jars.)

Rediscovered in 1966 by archaeologist Henrique Leonor Pina, who was led to the location by local farm workers. The site wasn’t excavated and restored (lifting stones into their original positions) until the 1980s by Mário Varela Gomes, and it was only declared a National Monument in 2015. Situated on private land, it was only leased to the local government in 2019.

The cromeleque is the largest complex on the Iberian Peninsula, and one of the largest in Europe. It is one of the oldest complexes as well. It’s been called “the Stonehenge of Portugal.” The area in which it is located has also been referred to as a megalithic universe as there are hundreds of megalithic structures in the region.

Several of the stones have faint (heavily weathered) carvings. Some seem anthropomorphic, with possible faces carved. (Possibly true stelae, or marker menhirs?) Several (including the flat-topped stone pictured below) have cups carved in them.

The cromeleque is oriented to the east, with the Menir dos Almendres (about 1.4km away) lining up with the rising of the winter solstice sun.

Location

The cromeleque is just outside the town of Guadalupe, to the west of Évora. It is a short distance south of the main Lisboa-Évora road.

Access

The last 4 kilometers of road towards the cromeleque is a dirt road, with heavy corrugations and water damage. It is passable by a normal passenger car, but care must be taken. There is a parking area at the end of the road, and the cromeleque is a short walk from there.

NOTE: in late 2023, the cromeleque was fenced off by the Câmara Municipal (local authority) to restore the soil and vegetation around it. As of January 2024, the fence is still in place. It is not allowed to walk around the cromeleque, only to view it from outside the circle, at the western edge of the site.

Signage

From the town of Guadalupe (and from the Lisboa – Évora road), there are good signposts directing traffic to the cromeleque and menir. (The menir is reached about 1 km before the cromeleque.)

Links

  • Article (in English) from Wikipedia
  • Article (in English) from Visit Évora tourism website
  • Entry (in English) in the Megalithic Portal
  • Article (in Portuguese) from National Geographic Portugal – with a fascinating painting imagining the site being built
  • Description (in Portuguese) from Archaeological Portal of Directorate-General of Cultural Heritage
  • Designation (in Portuguese) as a National Monument by the Director-General of Cultural Heritage
  • Video (in English) about the Cromeleque by BBC Reel

Nearby

The Menir dos Almendres is located about 1.4km away, along the same road from Guadalupe. The region is filled with many megalithic structures (antas/dolmens, menirs/menhirs, and cromeleques/cromlechs). The Cromeleques of Vale Maria de Meio and Pórtela do Mogo are two closely related and important cromeleques, but there are many others.

Information and tours can be arranged through Ebora Megalitica, which has an interpretation center at the beginning of the dirt road out of Guadalupe. There is also an interpretation center in the city of Évora, and the tourist office there can provide some maps and guides of the main megalithic sites of the area.

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  1. Pingback:Almendres Menir - Prehistoric Portugal

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