Portugal, although not a very large country, is rich in archaeological sites: among them, the Alentejo region is worth mentioning. It is here, in a parish in the municipality of Évora, that we can find the enigmatic Cromeleque dos Almendres.
The Almendres Cromlech is the largest circle of menhirs ever found in Portugal and the Iberian Peninsula. Consisting of 95 monoliths, or menhirs, and dating back to the 7th millennium BC, it is one of the most important and oldest megalithic monuments in all of Europe.
It is part of the Megalithic Circuit of Évora, along with other monuments: necropolises, smaller cromlechs and prehistoric settlements.
The Almendres cromlech was discovered in 1964 by researcher Henrique Leonor de Pina, when the Geological Map of Portugal was surveyed. Apparently, a worker from the area reportedly told him that he had been in a place where several “of those stones” were found. After cleaning the vegetation, not only was discovered the Cromlech of the Almendres, but also pieces of ceramics, an ax of polished stone, and also a menhir related to the cromlech, called the Menhir of the Almendres.
The chronology of the Almendres Cromlech reveals the changes that have been taking place in the three millennia in which it was built. And archaeological studies indicate that the Almendres megalithic ensemble was formed in three stages.
The first phase of formation of the Almendres cromlech took place at the end of the Neolithic period, the end of the VI millennium BC, when a set of smaller monoliths was raised in three concentric circles.
In the Middle Neolithic period, during the fifth and fourth millennium BC, a new enclosure was added west of the building, in the form of two concentric ellipses.
The third and final phase of construction of the Cromlech of Almedres will have occurred in the Final Neolithic period, in the millennium III B.C. The more or less regular dispositions of the monoliths were changed, so that the smaller enclosure became a larger atrium. It is possible that some engraved monoliths have been added at this time.
The Almendres Cromlech is about 2,000 years older than Stonehenge in England. Stonehenge, also a cromlech, dates from around 3000 B.C.
The differences start with age, since the Almendres Cromlech is thought to have been abandoned in the transition from the Final Neolithic to the Copper Age (circa 3000 B.C.), when Stonehenge began to be erected.
There is, however, evidence to show that the two are more alike than they appear. They are aligned so that their imaginary axes coincide with the axes of the cardinal points, and with the solstices and equinoxes. If, on the dawn of the June solstice, you align your eyes with the Menhir of Almendres, from the Cromeleque, you will be able to see the position where the sun rises.
There is also evidence that the Cromeleks were used as places for pagans rituals, in addition to observations of astronomy – which, as we know, at the time, was not a science so far removed from spirituality.
In short, the purpose of both Stonehenge and our Almendres Cromlech is not perfectly clear, and remains a mystery. What is known is that the Cromeleque dos Almendres, a place full of symbolism, and of, some say, mysticism, is a place that makes us enter a time machine.