Bronze Age Dolmens Uncovered in Spain

The Teba necropolis at La Lentejuela ancient burial site has brought to light thirteen stone structures and over a hundred tombs, unveiling a treasure trove of artifacts, such as pottery, jewelry, and tools. These findings have provided valuable insight into the burial customs and daily lives of the people who once inhabited the area.

The ancient burial site, located near Malaga in southern Spain, has been a source of fascination for historians and archaeologists since its discovery in 2005. It dates back to 4,000 BC and was later once again used during the Bronze Age between 2200 BC and 800 BC.

Recent work on dolmens

Recently, a team of researchers from the University of Cadiz (UCA) has been working to delve further into two megalithic Bronze Age dolmens found here. These burial portals, constructed over six thousand years ago, were reconstructed during the Bronze Age and used to entomb the bodies of elite members of society.

One of the dolmens was discovered and investigated during the second campaign of archaeological excavations as part of the research project “Monumentality, time, and society: The megalithic phenomenon in the necropolis of La Lentejuela.” The team employed various modern technologies, including drone aerial photography, photogrammetry, 3D digital scanning, and precise topography, to meticulously document each structure at the necropolis.

How did dolmens come about?

A dolmen is a type of megalithic tomb or burial monument built during the Neolithic and Bronze Ages. These structures, found in different parts of the world, including Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, are among the earliest architectural feats of human societies. Typically, dolmens consist of large upright stones arranged in vertical alignment, supporting a horizontal capstone and resembling a table. They are often referred to as portals.

In ancient times, dolmens were used to store and enshrine the remains of the deceased, along with grave goods such as pottery, tools, and ornaments. Over thousands of years, many dolmens have sustained weathering and now appear as grassy mounds due to environmental exposure and human activities such as ploughing.

The recently explored dolmen, known as Funeral Structure 1, features an angled corridor leading to an antechamber, distinguished by two vertical upright stones and a burial chamber separated by two steep stelae. Preliminary dating indicates that this structure was originally built around the end of the 4th millennium BC. However, it was later resurrected during the Bronze Age around the 3rd millennium BC and used for the interment of social elites.

Serafin Becerra, a researcher at UCA, said:

The peoples of the Bronze Age put their dead in this tomb and even create[d] small spaces within the dolmen to bury them individually, or two by two. Researchers have employed cutting-edge technology to photograph and map the dolmens on the site using drones, 3D scans, photogrammetry, precision topography through differential GPS, and infrared/laser topography. We’ve taken samples to be able to better date the site and recreate its timeline, as well as to better understand prehistorical funeral rites.

Megalithic structures

The distribution of Spanish dolmens varies with notable concentrations in regions such as Andalusia, Extremadura, and Galicia. In Andalusia alone, there are over 1,300 known dolmens. The Antequera Dolmens Site in the Andalusian province of Malaga, consisting of three large dolmens (Menga, Viera, and El Romeral), represents one of the most iconic examples of a Bronze Age dolmen site in Spain.

The study of Bronze Age burial dolmens continues to bring to life the complexities of ancient societies that once inhabited Europe thousands of years ago. These enduring monuments provide valuable insight into the cultural richness and profound after-death rituals practiced by our distant ancestors.


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