Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Alentejan megalithic landscapes

Barrocal, Monsaraz

Close to the menhir of Barrocal (the biggest laying menhir of Iberia), we found a huge granitic outcrop with the stigmates of having been the source (quarry) of the menhir.
This fact is, of course, a splendid example to think about the relationship between megaliths and natural rock outcrops in the way Chris Scarre has suggested recently.
This outcrop, apart from a very striking anthropomorfic aspect, shows also, on the façade, a vertical natural shelter, going deep inside the rock, and another vertical gap, crossing all the formation and paralel to the façade.
Passages and entrances.


Cornelius said...

Manuel - did the geological analysis you were waiting for last spring actually prove that the megalith came from here? I guess that it should be possible to determine this quite unambiguously...

Elias Lopez-Romero said...

Interesting conceptual relationship made by Manuel Calado between this natural outcrop and "passages and entrances"... the role of natural elements in the Neolithic context of the Atlantic Façade is still far from being well understood by researches; maybe this site and the Alentejean's evidence will provide us with more evidence in this sense.
As noted by Cornelius in his comment, the geological analysis would bring unambiguos argument for the shelter's-standing stone relationship.

Manuel Calado said...

Actually, we are going, this week-end, to have the geological analysis done by geologist Dr. Icaro Fróis. As soon as we have those results, they will be available on our web-site, and discussion is welcome. For now, after having observed carefully the outcrops around the menhir of Barrocal, I am positively convinced that the stone came from this exact outcrop. What we are not prepared to enlight is if the stone has been taken off or if it was already separated from the outcrop.
Excavation in and around the outcrop (where prehistoric potery, hammerstones and flaked quartzite, have been found)is obviously a must, in the immediate future, in order to contextualize the monument and settle ideas about the relationship of megaliths and the most outstanding natural features of the landscape, such as granitic outcrops, and shelters.

We must note, also, that the menhir of Barrocal belongs to a morphologic category among the menhirs of Central Alentejo, which I have called "lâmina de punhal - dagger blade - (quoting Gabriel Pereira, an archaeologist who, in 1880, published the first menhir known in the South of Portugal.
Actually, that same shape (thich and cilindroid in the base, and becoming thin and sharp, in the top.
Others in Alentejo (mostly around Monsaraz) belong to this category as, for example, Belhoa, Vidigueiras, Monte da Ribeira or Vale de Besteiros.

If they have all been taken, like flakes, from big outcrops, it should eventually be possible to find other examples like Barrocal, observing around those menhirs.

We will keep working on this issue and will provide the main results in real time.

Manuel Calado