Anta Pintada de Antelas

ALSO KNOWN AS: Dólmen de Antelas, or in English: the painted dolmen of Antelas

On a small dirt road, in the deep interior of central Portugal, rises a small hill. Go around to the back and you find that this is no normal hill: it is an artificial mound. A tumulus, or (in Portuguese) a mamoa. Enter the modern doorway and crawl through the low corridor and you are transported back six thousand years. In the lamplight, striking red and black curves and zigzags cover the stone walls, surrounding other designs that are less abstract: a comb, a sun and moon, an idol, a person. These images of the world outside were painted here millennia ago to accompany the dead that were entombed in this place.

This dolmen (or anta, the more common Portuguese term) was constructed 6,000 years ago to enshrine the dead. Covered in a huge earthen and stone mound (tumulus, or in Portuguese mamoa), it was used as a tomb for some time, and the interior stones were painted later (or at least added to). Then it was closed and the atrium buried and the tomb remained undisturbed for thousands of years. In the early 1900s it was excavated by archaeologists and the paintings were again seen by human beings. In the 1950s it was reburied to prevent environmental damage to the paintings. In the 1980s and 1990s a new excavation reopened the tomb and a more protective covering was added to replace the original. Now it is managed by the municipality and visitors can once more see the paintings from the distant past.

The stones were primed with white kaolin, and black (clay) and red (hematite) designs painted over it. Geometric designs, curving “serpentiformes”, and painted in “hills” all feature prominently. Less abstract designs include idols, a sun and moon, a person, a comb, and more.

The dolmen itself, of medium size (central chamber 2.6m by 2.4m, corridor 3.4m long) and standard design, is not at all extraordinary. Other similar dolmens abound in the region and the country. The paintings turn this site into something extraordinary. It is not unique: there are other dolmens with paintings or engravings, many identified in the area and others no doubt exist without being documented. However, the extent and quality of the paintings in the Antelas dolmen are far above any other. The description of the site as “the neolithic equivalent of the Sistine Chapel” may seem overblown to modern eyes, but when the paucity of other painted sacred sites from that prehistoric era is considered, the dolmen of Antelas truly is a marvel.


This dolmen is located in the Viseu region (or Viseu Dão Lafões) in the municipality of Oliveira de Frades. It’s about 4km north of the A25 motorway, towards the town of Oliveira de Frades. It’s just outside the village of Antelas (hence the name).


The site is easily reachable by car, but you can only see inside the dolmen by prior arrangement. You can arrange this through the museum in Oliveira de Frades, by email ( or or telephone (+351 232 763 789 or +351 961 796 064). There are also contacts on the museum’s website and Facebook page. Felipe Soares, from the museum, was our guide and delivered a detailed and captivating explanation in both English and Portuguese.


From the main motorway between Aveiro and Viseu (the A25 to the south of the dolmen), there are exit signs at Reigoso. (Coming from the north, there are also signs along the N16 pointing the way.) From there, there are regular signs pointing the way to the dolmen.


  • Entry (in English) from the Megalithic Portal
  • Article (in Portuguese) from Wikipedia
  • Article (in Portuguese) from National Geographic
  • Video (in English) from EON Creative Industries
  • Video (in Portuguese) from the city of Oliveira de Frades
  • Description (in Portuguese) from the website for MEG – Megalithic Route of the sub-region of Viseu Dão Lafões
  • Documentary (in Portuguese) “MEG – Megalithic Temples to Eternity” by CIM Viseu Dão Lafões
  • Description (in Portuguese) from Archaeologists’ Portal of the Directorate-General of Cultural Heritage
  • Designation (in Portuguese) as a national monument by the Director-General of Cultural Heritage


There are loads of megalithic sites in the area. As you leave the Antelas site, there is a sign directing you to the engraved Dolmen 2 of Chão Redondo, only 9.5km away. This is part of the “MEG” megalithic route of the region of Viseu Dão Lafões and Sever de Vouga, which incorporates around 30 sites. There are also many undocumented sites, including the Bronze Age site immediately adjacent to the Antelas dolmen.

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  1. Pingback:Necrópole Megalítica de Chão Redondo - Prehistoric Portugal

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