Study considers the visual relationship between the Menga Dolmen in Antequera and the Matacabras Cave Paintings Shelter “unique” in Europe

Study considers the visual relationship between the Menga Dolmen in Antequera and the Matacabras Cave Paintings Shelter “unique” in Europe


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Although with many pending subjects and the perpetual demand for an increase in investment, it is necessary to recognize that the Andalusian historical heritage it goes through a streak of achievements that proves the undeniable potential of its sites and monuments.

In 2016, without going any further, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco for its acronym in English) declared the archaeological site of the Antequera dolmens as a World Heritage Site (Málaga), made up of the megalithic constructions of Menga, Viera and El Romeral, and in 2018 the ruins of the ancient palatial city of Medina Azahara received the same seal, built in the 10th century by the Umayyad dynasty as the seat of the Caliphate of Córdoba.

At the end of last October, in addition, Spain included the ruins of the Roman city of Italica, located in Santiponce (Seville) and cradle of emperor trajan, in its list of new spaces and monuments to be elevated to Unesco for its declaration as a World Heritage Site.

Obviously, the worldwide recognition obtained by Antequera dolmens and the archaeological site of Medina Azahara It has been a real shock to both spaces in terms of projection and visits, also implying the obligation assumed by the administrations regarding an excellent treatment and management of these heritage assets.

In this sense, scientific research plays an essential role when it comes to deepening the knowledge of these enclaves and the dissemination of their exceptional values.

The megalithic landscape of Antequera

Proof of this is the work entitled 'Reference point of the past in the megalithic landscape of Antequera: A multidisciplinary approach to the rock art of the Matacabras shelter', Which addresses the "relationship" between Megalithic monument of Menga, –The best known of the Antequera dolmens on account of its colossal orthostats and blankets–, and the Peña de los Enamorados, located about six kilometers from this megalith and towards which its axis is oriented.

The study, signed by nine specialists in various fields of institutions such as the universities of Alcalá de Henares (Madrid), Granada, Lisbon (Portugal), Seville or Southampton (United Kingdom), he recalls that among the exceptional values ​​recognized by UNESCO for the dolmens of Antequera is “their association with natural formations ”in your area.

Specifically, it is the spectacular karst system of the Torcal de Antequera, which extends some eleven kilometers south of the archaeological site, and the mentioned Peña de los Enamorados, which rises six kilometers from the Menga and Viera dolmens and just two kilometers from the El Romeral tholos.

In this regard, the authors of this document recall that already in 2001, archaeoastronomer Michael Hoskin had pointed out the "highly unusual nature" of the Menga dolmen, since its alignment does not correspond to the place of sunrise as it is “common” in megalithic constructions in the south of the Iberian Peninsula, but with the aforementioned Peña de los Enamorados.

This mountain, as the authors of this study emphasize, rises up to 880 meters above sea level "Visually dominating the plain of Antequera" and presenting from the east and west a characteristic "anthropomorphic silhouette" similar to a "gigantic sleeping woman".

Such particularities not only translate into the “topographic importance”Of this“ massive ”rock formation, –specify these researchers–, but also in a“ reflection ”in“ local folklore ”. Precisely at this point, the study rescue the medieval legend according to which when the kingdoms of Seville and Granada disputed control of the area, a Christian and a Muslim they committed suicide by throwing themselves from one of the cliffs of this mountain when their love was impossible.

The Matacabra paintings

And also recalling the indications that indicate a human “occupation and frequentation” of the Peña de los Enamorados during the Neolithic and the Copper and Bronze ages, the authors of this research focus on the cave paintings discovered in the Matacabras shelter, nestled at the foot of a cliff almost one hundred meters high on the north face of the mountain.

Starting from the premise that “no comprehensive study” of these paintings had been undertaken, this work encompasses a multidisciplinary investigation of this enclave, through a photogrammetric reconstruction of the coat, an analysis of its graphic motifs by digital image processing and colorimetry, the dating of the crusts adhering to the paintings or archeometric evidence of ceramic fragments discovered in this refuge and the site of Piedras Blancas I, located about one hundred meters below the Matacabras refuge and corresponding to the late Neolithic.

As a result of this enormous research work, the authors of this work state that the paintings of the Matacabra Shelter they would have been made "probably by applying red paint with the tips of the fingers" before 3,800 BC., since the Menga dolmen would have been erected on a time span that oscillates between the years 3,800 and 3,600 BC.

However, the researchers advocate taking the dating with caution, because "neither the chronology of Matacabras nor that of Menga have been established with accuracy due to the significant problems posed by the empirical records" available regarding each of these enclaves.

For this reason, and due to different variables, this study is committed to “considering the possibility” that the Matacabras shelter was already “in use when the Menga dolmen was built”, although the authors of the same specify that “the chronological relationship between both sites may not necessarily correspond to a simple diachrony ”according to which "First" was the refuge and then the megalithic monument.

"On the contrary, this connection could be synchronous or the shelter could even be subsequent to the construction of Menga", explain the scientists, without ruling out the hypothesis that the aforementioned refuge had different "phases" of use over time. .

The "unusual relevance" of the refuge

In any case, This study insists that the Menga dolmen was built with an axis of symmetry "almost exactly" oriented towards the Matacabras Shelter., which gives the latter "an unusual relevance in terms of the design and biography of the great megalithic monument."

Moreover, for these researchers, the "visual" connection between the Menga dolmen and the Matacabras shelter is "unique" in the Iberian Peninsula "and also most likely in Europe." Precisely for this reason, the authors of this study predict that future archaeological excavations in said refuge and the "key" space of White Stones I , “Intrinsically associated” with Matacabras, will shed “more light on these complex conceptual, visual and graphic relationships”.

Europa Press journalist, collaborator of "Sevillanos de Guardia" in Onda Cero Radio and collaborator writer in MRN Aljarafe.


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