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DOLMENS

Representatives from the Antequera megaliths' World Heritage bid campaign have hosted archaeologist Margaret Gowen, here to assess the Menga and Romeral sites
25.09.15 - 13:26 -
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Antequera shows off its dolmens to UNESCO inspector, who stays for the autumn equinox
Sunlight enters the Viera Dolmen, one of the three megaliths in the world heritage site bid. :: SUR
Margaret Gowen, a representative from the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), arrived on Monday to begin her assessment of the Antequera dolmens in their bid to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The dolmens’ fate is now in the hands of this Irish archeologist and member of ICOMOS. Her report will inform a panel of experts who will decide on the site’s entry on the list of World Heritage Sites.
Gowen stayed in Antequera until Thursday and now has the job of preparing her report for the panel meeting, whose date is yet to be announced, although it is rumoured it will take place in November.
When the meeting does happen, it will be made up of three UNESCO members, a representative from the dolmens and Margaret Gowen herself.
If the experts vote in favour of the monuments’ inclusion, the next UNESCOcommittee, which is due to take place in Istanbul in June 2016, will be merely a formality, according to Bartolomé Ruiz, who is leading the campaign. He added that being the only Spanish candidate goes in Antequera’s favour.
“Margaret has asked a lot of questions,” Ruiz said, adding that she showed a particular interest in two of the three dolmens: Menga and Romeral. These are of particular scientific and historical interest, as they are the only two megalithic structures in Europe that do not directly face the sun.
This gives them unique characteristics and also works in their favour, adding exceptional global value, another vital factor for monuments bidding to enter the exclusive list. The list currently stands at 1,031 sites and monuments and is increasingly difficult to join.
The anomaly of the two Antequera dolmens was established by Professor Michael Hoskin from the University of Cambridge, whose research led him to discover the that “99.9 per cent of European megaliths are positioned so that they are in line with sunrise”. The Menga and Romeral structures are the exception.
According to Ruiz, Gowen was particularly interested in the Menga dolmen, which faces the Peña de los Enamorados.
At the end of Monday’s visit, Ruiz declined to comment on the first day of the assessment although he signaled that he was happy with how the day had gone.
Tuesday’s programme started at the Viera dolmen, the only one of the three to face the direction of sunrise, where, with the accuracy of millennia, the sun rose and shone directly through the megalithic funeral chamber at 8.30am, marking this year’s autumn equinox and the start of the new season.
The archaeologist was accompanied by Juan Antonio Belmonte, from the Canary Islands Astrophysics Institute, who explained that this phenomenon only occurs at the spring and autumn equinoxes. Belmonte is joint author along with Professor Michael Hoskin, of the study into the Antequera dolmens’ orientation.
Margaret Gowen, who is an Irish archaeologist and prehistorian, asked for privacy during her visit to the dolmens and did not hold a press conference, in order to have more time to concentrate on her evaluation.

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