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 Location: 5km from Evora, (N114), Alentejo, Portugal.  Grid Reference: 38° 33′ 28″ N, 08° 3′ 41″ W

 

      Cromeleque Dos Almendres: (Twin-Stone Circle and Menhir).

Set in the beautiful and sacred Alentejo landscape, this double stone circle is now considered one of the oldest in Europe.

The orientation and association with other nearby megaliths (i.e. Zambujeiro), combined with the astronomical significance of the location itself demonstrate the importance of astronomy to the builders.

A part of the Evora complex in Portugal. This region is becoming known as 'The Iberian 'Mesopotamia'.

(Map of the area-how to get there)

 

 

   Cromeleque dos Almendres:

('Alto das Pedras Talhos', 'Almendres stone circle').

The site consists of two stone circles, the product of sequential building phases. The result is an oval of 92 stones, which measures 30m x 60m.  and includes various markings such as cup marks, spirals and circles which can still just be seen on some of the stones (there are apparently ten inscribed stones - but only 4-5 are now visible).

(Plan of the circle)

The Almendres Cromlech is believed to be one mankind’s first public monuments. It's the largest existing group of structured menhirs in the Iberian Peninsula, and one of the largest in Europe. This megalithic monument consisted originally of more than an hundred monoliths, some of which over the ages were taken away for other uses. A recent digging showed that there were several building phases during the Neolithic period (5,000 - 4,000 BC.).

The 'circle' has been constructed on the top of a hill from large, almost anthropomorphic quartzite stone. Access is free and excellent, with overnight stays possible in the car-park (Please leave the site as you find it). The site is located a within a short walk of the contemporary Menhir dos Almendres.

The 92-stone Circle is actually two circles.. That were built oriented to different equinoxial directions.

(The 92 menhirs are considered by some to mark the number of days in a quarter year)

 

Most of the stones have 'flattened' faces, all of which seemingly face towards the sun.

 

The cup-marked stone (No.8) at the top of the circle (above left), has its face at almost 90° from the orientation of the circle, facing ENE. Another cup-marked stone from lower down (above right), faces roughly the same direction.

 

The photo on the left was taken in 2006, while the one on the right was taken in 2007. (The circles were kindly 'coloured-in' for us that year...hmmm).

 

  

The stone on the right has what appears to be a part of a spiral - or possibly three concentric circles on the top.

 

In the following photo, the stone in front (with markings on its upper flattened-face), was casting a shadow which fell across both the stone (right), and another stone simultaneously (see below).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although they are hard to distinguish, the face of the stone casting the shadow has several interesting features on it, better seen in the photo on the right.

 

 

 

 

Chronology.

The site has been dated from 'various phases throughout the Neolithic period (4th to 5th millennium), by when it had acquired the look it has today'  (Ref: Notice-board at site).

This is the oldest known stone-circle in Europe.

 

Archaeo-astronomy:

The latitude of the site may explain both the presence of such a grand stone circle, and of the high concentration of megaliths on the vicinity. (Now referred to as: The Iberian Mesopotamia).

It is a curious fact that the two latitudes over which the Moon passes on its maximum settings over it's 18.6 year cycle, are the same latitudes at which both Stonehenge and Almendres were located.

(38˚ 33' N - Almendres) and (51° 10' N - Stonehenge).

The declination of the Moon over its 18.6 year cycle ranges between these two latitudes in terms of the moon being on the zenith of the viewer (passing directly overhead). This means that at both Stonehenge and Almendres, the moon at its maximum declinations would pass overhead.

The Almendres Circles are also the terminal point for an alignment which runs across Portugal for over 50km, connecting at least three of the most significant sites in the country together. If one stands at Almendres on the spring full moon, it will rise on the horizon at approximately 110° and travel directly towards you, passing first over the (now relocated) Xarez 'quadrangle', then over the largest passage mound in Iberia (Zambujeiro), which is orientated along the same azimuth with its opening facing the rising moon.

On the map above, the same azimuth appears to continue past Almendres to 'Sideral'.

This very important fact is one of the strongest pieces of evidence that the Neolithic builders of this monument were aware of the natural rhythms of the sun and moon. However, there is a secondary lunar association through the fact that the Almendres circle is one end of a proposed 50km alignment which follows the azimuth of the spring full-moon (110°). The alignment continues eastward passing the  Zambujeiro passage-mound, ending at the Cromeleque da Xarez, near Monsaraz making it the longest confirmed prehistoric alignment in Iberia.

(More about the Almendres-Xarez alignment)

 

So while it is clearly possible to demonstrated a lunar significance at Almendres, it is interesting to note also that the circle is orientated towards - and has stones that face both the sunrise and sunset of the equinoxes, possibly due to the fact that Almendres is actually two circles. In addition, the Menhir do Almendres (see below) was erected just over a kilometre east, and is in line with the top of the circle at winter solstice so that when viewed from the cromlech, the menhir points to the sunrise in winter solstice, and vice-versa regarding the sunset (Although the distance and topography between the two sites make it unlikely that the two sites were ever inter-visible).

 

Having mentioned that the Almendres circle is associated with Stonehenge through both their latitudes sharing a common lunar significance, it is pertinent that both sites also demonstrate orientations towards significant events of both the lunar and solar cycles.

 

(Similarities Between European Megalithic Complexes)

(More about Megaliths and Archaeo-astronomy)

(The Evora Complex of Megaliths)

 

 

 

   Menhir Dos Almendres:

This Standing stone is approximately 1 km East from its neighbouring Circle the Cromeleque Dos Almendres. It is described as 2.5m high, but actually stands at least 3m. It is reputed to have fallen twice in living memory; once during a cyclone in 1941 and again in 1964.

     Menhir dos Almendres, Portugal. (Ancient-wisdom.co.uk)

The Solstice line between the Cromeleque and Menhir at Almendres could have been used as a reasonable measure to mark the winter-solstice.

(Ref: Cromeleque dos Almendres: Crookscape.org)

 

(List of Prehistoric Portuguese sites)

(Portugal Homepage)

(Archaeoastronomy)

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The 'Rough Guide' to ancient sites from around the world.

 

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