A photo taken at the exact moment that the sun lit up inside of the Dolmen de Viera. :: SALVADOR SALAS
Forget the times that mark the meridians. Forget the hands on the clocks that drive governments, and even those that are set to save energy. Nature has its own time, its own hours, and they are unique and ancient. Writer Paul Coelho tells us that every day the sun illuminates a new world, but since the fourth or fifth millennium, at the spring equinox, the sun has illuminated the Dolmen of Viera in exactly and precisely the same way, producing a spectacular show of light and energy at this Neolithic burial ground which is part of the Dolmen Complex of Antequera, unique in the world and which is currently undergoing the process to be recognised as a World Heritage Site by Unesco.
Between 07.25 and 07.45 on Wednesday, the Dolmen of Viera forgot about the roughness of its stone and was filledwith light in a unique festival which has been repeated at sunrise on each equinox (spring and autumn) since the homosapiens at the end of the Neolithic period and beginning of the Metal Ages decided to built this megalithic monument, facing the east, to express their adoration of nature and pay tribute to the deceased. As the sun rose, it passed through the axis of the construction and illuminated the corridor and the burial chamber as if somebody, suddenly, had given the order to turn on all the lights on a large stage set. We will not change our clocks until Sunday 30th, but the dolmens of Malaga have already set their time for spring.
The alignment of the sun within the megalithic construction indicated to the primitive population of the Vega de Antequera the beginning of a new cycle of renewal of life, of nature and of harvests. Now, thousands of years later, this same unique eclosion of light tells us that nature is still alive, even though the world around it has changed.
For three days this week the sunrises have been unique at this ancient monument, a corridor tomb formed by a long passageway divided into two stretches at the end of which there is a square burial chamber which is accessed by a small square doorway hewn from the stone.
Cathedral of prehistory
The Dolmens of Antequera Archaeological Complex comprises the dolmens of Menga, Viera and El Romeral and it is considered to be one of the best-known examples of megalithic constructions in Europe.
In 1886, the Menga dolmen was declared a National Monument. In 1923, it was the turn of the Viera dolmen. El Romeral has formed part of the National Archaeological and Artistic Treasury since 1926 and in 1931 it was declared a Historic-Artistic Monument. The Information Centre for this complex, which was designed and promoted by the Junta de Andalucía, has been waiting for the necessary public funds to enable it to open for more than ten years.
“The Dolmen of Viera is the smallest of those in the Dolmen Complex of Antequera; it is formed by a corridor with a burial chamber which served a dual purpose, that of burial and religion,” explains archaeologist and researcher Juan Manuel Muñoz Gambero, who discovered the Cerro de la Tortuga in 1959 and then, six years later, took part in the discovery of the Cerro del Villar.
“The stones used in its construction were brought from far away, from the Cerro Marimacho, which is four or five kilometres away, and the Cerro Laguna, which is even further. The Antequera neolithic monuments are outstanding in Europe, which is why they are called the Cathedral of Prehistory. And the roof of the Dolmen de Viera weighs 1,805 kilos,” he says.
Pedro Martín Almendro, the president of the Malaga Foundation, explains that the dolmens were built by the collective for the collective. “As cultures evolved, there was a move from collective power to a single leader and from collective burials to individual ones, and that is where the dolmens differ from the pyramids, which were built by slaves for an earthly divinity, which was the pharaoh,” he says.
Historian Ángel Fernández says that once these societies had developed agriculture and farming, they began to consider other questions, such as what happens after death. That is when they began to build the dolmens, as a way of paying tribute to their dead.