Many people visit the Canary Island of Menorca every year to enjoy the mild climate and beautiful beaches. What many don’t realise is that there’s a wealth of interesting prehistoric monuments dotted around the island, telling the story of a past civilisation.
Dotted around the island, you’ll find archaeological remains of late Bronze-age civilisations in fields full of sheep and cows. Little is known about the use of these sites in prehistoric times, but the monuments provide a fascinating glimpse back in time to an age before records began.
A collection of megalithic burial chambers, known as Navetas, were discovered near the Menorcan village of Es Tudons. Shaped like an upside-down boat, the tombs were used to store the bones of the dead after they had decomposed. Radiocarbon dating of the bones found in the tomb at Es Tudons puts the remains at somewhere in the region of 1300 BC though the structures are thought to be older still – some say even dating back to 1640 BC.
The Navetas have a strong place in Menorcan folklore and even in the recent past, islanders were less than keen to approach the sites. A folk tale about the Naveta at Es Tudons tells that two giants, competing for love of the same girl, agreed that one would build a naveta and the other dig a well with the first to finish winning the girl. As the giant building the tomb was about to lay his last stone the other struck water and, mad with jealousy, the builder-giant threw his stone at his opponent, killing him. Then, feeling remorse, the builder-giant killed himself and the girl, who lived and died a spinster, was later buried in the tomb.
Whatever you may believe about the folklore behind the site, seeing a structure from nearly 4,000 years ago is quite a moving sight.
These round structures, of which there are nearly 300 across the islands of Menorca and Majorca, give the name to the Talaiotic period from which these and the Navetas date.
The most well-known of these sites in Menorca is Torre d’en Galmes, near Son Bou. At the site, there are three circular stone towers thought to have been used as watchtowers over the surrounding countryside and a number of stone houses built in the characteristic circular style of the time.
It’s believed that the settlement started in the early 1400s BC and has a sophisticated water conservation and drainage system through the site.
Torre d’en Galmes was occupied by Muslims fleeing the Reconquista and remained occupied until the end of Muslim occupation of Menorca.
These monuments, whose name is taken from the Catalan word for table, are huge monoliths. Some of the monuments are as tall as 3.7 metres high and consist of two vertical stones with a horizontal stone balancing across the top.
The purpose of the monuments is not known, but it’s hard not to marvel at the strength and ingenuity that would have been needed to manoeuvre these enormous stones into their current positions.
The most magnificent of these monoliths can be seen at Talati de Dalt, about 4 kilometres outside Mao.
On your visit to Menorca, there’s an opportunity to see the evidence of civilisations of our ancient forebears. The sites offer a testimony to the strength, intelligence and organisation of the Talaiotic people in that long-forgotten time. Why not stay at My Menorca Villa whilst enjoying all that Menorca has to offer?