‘Spanish Stonehenge’ emerges from a drought-hit dam

'Spanish Stonehenge' emerges from a drought-hit dam
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CACERES, Spain, August 18 (Reuters) – A brutal summer has wreaked havoc for many in rural Spain, but an unexpected side effect of the country’s worst drought in decades has excited archaeologists – the emergence of a prehistoric stone circle in a dam whose waterline is declined.

Officially known as the Dolmen of Guadalperal but referred to as the Spanish Stonehenge, the circle of dozens of megalithic stones is believed to date back to 5000 BC. BC.

It currently sits fully uncovered in a corner of the Valdecanas reservoir in the central province of Caceres, where water levels have dropped to 28% of capacity, according to authorities.

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“It’s a surprise, it’s a rare opportunity to be able to access it,” said archaeologist Enrique Cedillo of Madrid’s Complutense University, one of the experts who plan to study the circle before it is submerged again.

It was discovered by German archaeologist Hugo Obermaier in 1926, but the area was flooded in 1963 as part of a rural development project under Francisco Franco’s dictatorship.

Since then it has only become fully visible four times.

Dolmens are vertically arranged stones, usually supporting a flat boulder. Although many are scattered across Western Europe, little is known about who built them. Human remains found in or near many have led to an often-cited theory that they are graves.

Local history and tourism associations have advocated moving the Guadalperal stones to a museum or other location on the mainland.

Their presence is also good news for Ruben Argentas, who owns a small boat tour company. “The dolmen is emerging and dolmen tourism is starting,” he told Reuters after a busy day of taking tourists to and from the site.

But there is no silver lining for local farmers.

“It hasn’t rained enough since the spring… There is no water for the cattle and we have to transport them inside,” said José Manuel Comendador. Another, Rufino Guinea, said his pepper crop had been devastated.

Climate change has left the Iberian Peninsula to its driest state in 1,200 years, and winter rains are expected to continue to decrease, a study published in the journal Nature Geoscience showed.

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Additional reporting by Susana Vera, writing by Anna Valderrama and Andrei Khalip; Adaptation by John Stonestreet

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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