The famous dolmens of Menga, Viera and El Romeral are no longer alone. Another prehistoric structure has been discovered, and is currently being excavated at the foot of the Peña de los Enamorados or Lovers' Rock just outside the town of Antequera.
The project is being carried out by archaeologists from Seville and Southampton universities and coordinated by Leonardo García Sanjuan, who is a professor of Prehistory at the University of Seville.
Radiocarbon and luminescence tests have indicated that this site is possibly older than the Menga dolmen, which is thought to have been built around 6,000 years ago. And it may have been bigger and used for more purposes, as well as a burial ground, including a possible settlement. The site was discovered in 2005 and soundings were carried out in 2009 and 2013, but excavation has only just begun.
García Sanjuan said Lovers' Rock is a hugely important archaeological complex, which will need a great deal of investigation in years to come. He believes it will reveal important information and that there are many remains beneath the ground in the area around the rock. The present excavations have revealed two human skulls so far and stones which had been cut by hand, on the north side of the rock.
"We have found flint tools and a betyl, which is a kind of sacred stone, at the entrance to the burial chamber and some ceramic elements from the end of the Neolithic period," said García Sanjuan.
These discoveries suggest that this dolmen is similar in age or possibly even older than that of Menga, and that could be why the later structure was built facing the Peña de los Enamorados.
As the Menga dolmen is so magnificent, said García Sanjuán, experts have always wondered where those who built it obtained "the knowledge, the technique and the engineering" to make something so spectacular. "It could be that the megalithic tradition actually began here, at Lovers' Rock, and culminated in the construction of the Menga dolmen," he explained.
The age of the site currently being excavated will not be confirmed until carbon dating tests are complete, which could take two or three years.
The rock itself (which resembles the head of a resting man) is listed as part of the Dolmens of Antequera complex which was classified as a World Heritage Site in 2016.