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Spanish Stonehenge, Will it Soon Be Lost Forever? Dolmen of… (History with Kayleigh) (Holland)
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Probably one of the oldest dolmens in the world (5 to 7 thousand years old) is under risk of being lost forever if action is not taken. It now sits submerged inside a reservoir. It completely got out of the waters in 2019 and the news of its reappearace became viral all over the world, making it one of the best known dolmens in the world, probably second only to the English Stonehenge.

Authorities are making research as deterioration advances irreversibly. How many years till it all crumbles to pieces? geologists suggest just a few decades. A heroic local association, Raíces de Peralêda, is the only voice fighting for its preservation. You can support them by signing here.

This video will be a bit different than usual,  
because there’s not much known about this  ancient monument and because the focus  
isn’t necessarily on the unknown history  but the unknown future of this monument.
I’ve mentioned the importance of  preservation of ancient sites in the past,  
and I will keep mentioning  this regularly in the future. 
If we lose a piece of our ancient human history,  we will lose a piece of our identity as a species.
Unfortunately the Dolmen of Guadalperal,  otherwise known as the Spanish Stonehenge  
is at risk of completely disappearing from the  face of the earth if changes are not made in time.
This monument spends most of its time being  submerged under water and the stones have been  
eroding at a fast rate, so today it’s time  to look into the importance of preservation.
My name is Kayleigh, forgive me  for my long intro but here we go.
The treasure of Guadalperal, the Spanish  Stonehenge, the Dolmen of Guadalperal, many names  
for a unique monument in the province of Cáceres  in the autonomous community of Extremadura.
This ancient monument was  discovered in 1926 during a  
research and excavation campaign led by  German Archaeologist Hugo Obermaier. A
After his death the German couple Georg and  Vera Leisner took charge in compiling all  
the documentation that was scattered  between the University of Freiburg  
and the Alba estate; they eventually made a  scientific publication from these documents.
This ancient monument looked vastly different  in prehistoric times than what we see today,  
the difference between what once was  and what we now see is staggering.
I explained in my Dutch Dolmen video I made  about a year ago that most Dolmen found in  
Europe are the skeletal remains of  the burial mounds they once were,  
and this particular monument  is a great example to that.
If I ask some of my long-time  viewers who they would guess  
as the builders of this ancient monument  
I feel like some of them would guess; people  of the beaker culture, and they would be right.
Of course once again we  speak of the Beaker Culture  
as we have done so incredibly  often in the past already.
Sometimes it gets referred to as the Bell  Beaker Phenomenon due to these ancient people  
being widespread all over Europe with  similar pottery styles in their early days  
and similar Megalithic architectural cultures.
Almost all burial mounds, henges  and dolmen I’ve covered in the  
past were constructed by people from  a beaker culture, whether they were of  
the Bell beaker culture like we’ve seen in  England, Scotland and Ireland or the Funnel  
beaker culture as we saw in the  Netherlands with the Dutch Dolmen.
Eventually these beaker cultures would all show  regionalization over time, creating different  
styles of pottery showing the distinct differences  between the cultures hundreds of years later.
Let’s get into the characteristics  of the ancient structure.
Between 3000 and 2000 BCE the ancient people  from the Bell Beaker Culture in the area  
placed between 140 and 150 granite  orthostats in a vertical arrangement,  
within this arrangement was an oval shaped chamber  which was approximately 5 meters in diameter.
An eastern entrance leads to a passage  measuring 21 meters long and between 1.3  
and 1.4 meters wide led into this chamber, in  this entrance archaeologists found a Pillar  
stone of 2 meters in height with a  carved serpent and several bowls.
It is believed that these carvings  were made as protection or as to  
signify the importance of this sacred monument.
The serpent carving could  signify the Tagus river as well,  
as this monument stood near the original flow  of the river long ago, several studies have  
noticed the similarities between the meanders  of the river and the pattern on the Pillar,  
the latest research points to this being the case  instead of the previously believed snake pattern.
The chamber and passage were covered  by a mound of earth and gravel,  
in a similar fashion as the burial mounds  in Ireland that we have covered in the past.
This particular monument was surrounded by another  circular ring that most likely served to uphold  
the upper mound, possibly due to the sloping  of the terrain where this monument is located.
When this monument was first discovered and  documented the archaeologists figured out that  
it would have most likely been a burial mound with  a possible second purpose of being a solar temple.
I personally think this is highly possible as we  
have seen with Newgrange that a  monument can have a dual purpose.
Or as we’ve seen with the cairns at Carrowkeel, a  triple purpose with the alignments to the rising  
and setting of the moon as well as the rising and  setting of the sun and containing burials inside.
When the Romans settled in the area in the third  century BCE they started to remove earth and  
gravel from the mound, looting the monument  and leaving the skeletal structure intact.
They found this out by the left coins,  
ceramic pottery and a grinding stone that  were discovered by the archaeologists.
And they discovered the Roman city of Augustobriga  on the banks of the river Tagus as well;  
this city grew to approximately 2000  inhabitants before it was abandoned.
We don’t know when it was abandoned and we have no  clear indication on when the city was established,  
this is due to the lack of  archaeological research.
The archaeologists believed that  by the time the Romans left the  
area the mound would have entirely disappeared  leaving only the orthostats and capstones.
Near the monument they discovered a dump  of artefacts, in this they found 11 axes,  
pottery fragments, flint knives and a copper awl.
They discovered a settlement approximately  dating from the same time as the construction  
of the monument nearby as well, it is  believed the mound builders would have  
lived in this settlement during and most  likely after construction took place.
In this settlement they found hearths, charcoal  and ash stains and a lot of pottery fragments,  
mills and stones to sharpen  axes and other objects.
I’ve spent many hours trying to figure out where  this settlement was located, but due to a lack of  
research in the area, no mention of it in any of  the sources I could find and no clear indication  
of them on Google maps, I had to give up on  trying to identify this settlement’s location.
To think that for thousands of years this monument  stood in its place, slowly being damaged as the  
Romans took away the mound leaving the stones to  bear the elements, but this wasn’t the worst that  
happened to this structure, as these stones  can survive millennia of weather erosion.
No, unfortunately this monument  had to endure a worse fate..
In 1963 construction of the Valdecañas  dam on the Tagus river started,  
which filled the Valdecañas reservoir  with water and flooded the monument.
The nearby Roman town Augustóbriga on  the opposite bank was flooded as well.
Nowadays the monument is hidden under water 90%  
of the time and only visible in times  of drought when the water level is low.
Because the monument is submerged most  of the time it has rapidly deteriorated,  
the stones are heavily eroded  and the engravings are damaged.
In 2019 a drought spell was severe enough for  the water to retreat completely making the  
monument entirely visible for the first time  since it submerged more than 56 years prior.
A Nasa photograph showed the stones on dry  soil revealing its more than 140 stones.
This allowed for the observation of the  damage and deterioration of the monument  
and actions have since been launched for the  conservation of the monument and a declaration as  
an Asset of Cultural Interest in order to receive  Protection of the Spanish Historical Heritage.
Spain is the leading country when it comes to  its number of dams and reservoirs in Europe,  
unfortunately all these dams and reservoirs meant  that many hectares of land would be flooded,  
including occupied settlements  and cultural heritage.
The Valdecañas reservoir didn’t just submerge  the neolithic dolmen de Guadalperal, but it also  
submerged the Roman city Augustobriga which wasn’t  even fully excavated when the dam was constructed.
Thankfully the Pórtico de Curia de Talavera la  Vieja was preserved and relocated on a hill 6.5  
kilometers away from its original location next  to the road overlooking the Valdecañas reservoir.
4 front columns and 2 side columns form  the main facade with the architrave  
and above it is the small rounded arch.
This portico was made from granite  and this is the only one of its  
kind that is preserved in the entire Roman Empire.
3 columns from the La Cilla temple  were preserved as well on this hill.
The city of Augustóbriga had walls surrounding the  city providing protection, the centre was where  
the Forum was located with administrative  and religious buildings surrounding it.
The city used to have an aqueduct about  1 meter high and a system of underground  
channels that distributed water from a reservoir.
Remains of thermal baths and roads  have been discovered as well.
Most of this knowledge about this  ancient city comes from documents  
from José Cornide and Ignacio  Hermosilla in the 18th century.
Unfortunately due to the flooding of this  ancient city the archaeological deposits  
in the soil have most likely disappeared forever.
There is a high number of cultural  heritage elements that are currently  
flooded and submerged in Spanish dammed waters,  
but despite this being a high number, there is no  actual complete catalogue on home many exactly.
What’s even more concerning is the fact  that scientific knowledge about the state  
of conservation and deterioration to which  it is exposed is practically non-existent..
Besides this there is a shortage  of professionals with scientific  
training to research these  underwater heritage sites.
Then there is the fact that  these reservoirs are dredged  
and emptied frequently for repairs  of drains and other necessities.
The heritage that is submerged in reservoirs  therefore is exposed to very sharp and  
frequent rises and decreases in the water  level as a result of these needed repairs.
And of course the alternating periods of rainfall  and drought, both increasingly extreme and more  
frequent result in the partial or complete  outcropping of cultural heritage elements.
The main cause of the deterioration  of the stones is the salt in the water  
that when it dries it crystallizes, this  process is intensified by wet and dry cycles.
The crystallization of salts inside the porous  materials (like the stones of the Guadalperal  
Dolmen) leads to their total disintegration  and complete loss of material over time.
It’s been known for a while in the field  of heritage science that one of the most  
important causes of degradation of  cultural heritage is the change in  
the climatic conditions in which they are located.
As we’ve seen with the Megalithic  Temple Complex of Mnajdra in Malta  
they identified the deterioration of the stones  
due to the change in the conditions with the  salty sea water, sea winds and acid rains.
They made the conscious decision of  constructing the canopies around the  
structures to preserve them and protect them  from these changes and weather elements.
Preservation can be done right, just like  in Egypt when the Aswan dam was constructed  
they relocated the Great Temple of Ramses II  and the smaller temples to Nefertari and Hathor  
so they wouldn’t become submerged under the water,  
this was done to preserve the structures  and protect them from the elements.
You can clearly see in this photo the  old locations and the new locations,  
the new locations now hold the precise  reconstructions of the original temples.
The weather is most likely going to  increase in extremes and frequency,  
if we want to preserve and  protect cultural heritage  
like the Guadalperal dolmen we need  to relocate it in a period of drought.
This way the stones won’t become submerged once  more, therefore the rapid state of deterioration  
will be slowed down, giving the people enough  time to figure out the next step in preservation,  
whether that is the construction of a  canopy against salty winds or acidic rain  
or a new method, that is something  scientists need to figure out.
As for the Augustóbriga settlement, there is most  likely the need for a dike to protect the ancient  
city from becoming submerged again in the future,  that way the archaeologists are able to start  
carrying out excavations in hopes they can find  and preserve artefacts of the ancient settlement.
Of course these solutions don’t take the extremes  of climate change in mind, but they could at the  
very least slow down the deterioration  and disintegration of these structures.
Since the Guadalperal dolmen became  completely visible in 2019 there is  
more advocacy to preserve the monument, and  actions have been launched for its conservation,  
the Raíces de Peraleda association is requesting  it’s recovery from the appreciable deterioration.
This could be positive news,  
all we can do now is hope they will take  action soon and that it won’t be too late.
But with that said, you have  reached the end of this video
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Thank you for watching and  I’ll see you in the next one
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