Friday 3 November 2023

Earth Mysteries - Torre d'en Galmés - Menorca - Celia Rees


At the beginning of October, I went to Menorca on a Yoga Retreat. Weather perfect, lovely place and I love the Balearics. I've spent time on Ibiza, but I’d never been to Menorca. It is smaller than Ibiza or Majorca, less busy and less well known. 

Apart from the yoga and the prospect of a little sun before winter sets in and the storms start rolling in from the Atlantic, I wanted to see the megalithic sites that are unique to this island. I'd read about them years ago in a book about Earth Mysteries and they were on my list of places I'd like visit. We have plenty of megalithic sites in Britain and I've visited a lot of them, but so many have been worn away, degraded, ironed out by ploughing, their stones robbed for later building by people who had no respect or reverence for those who had occupied the land before them. 

Menorca is a small island and for much of its history sparsely populated, so much survives here. It was also isolated, at the far eastern end of the Balearic archipelago and distant from Continental Europe. The first settlers apparently arrived in the Early Bronze Age and by the end of the 2nd millennium, it had begun to develop its own distinctive culture with large settlements, roads, dwelling places and open spaces surrounding tower shaped monumental structures called talayots. 

Torre D'en Galmés is one such settlement. It occupies an extensive site and is the highest point on the island. It is on the southern coast, looking out to sea. All along this coast are similar sites. Apart from the tower-like talayots, there are stone enclosures, containing monumental structures, Taula (table in Catalan), huge slabs of stone topped by massive stone lintels, eerily reminiscent of Stonehenge and the even more mysterious  Göbekli Tepe in Turkey. What was their purpose? Table? Platform? Altar? Who constructed them? How? And most of all, why? The same mysteries surround these sites as swirl about so many other remnants of ancient cultures that have disappeared from our memory. They suggest many questions but answer very few.  


Very little is known about the purpose of these impressive stone enclosures and the significance of the monumental Taula that they enclose. Some kind of sanctuary where the community could gather to perform celebrations, ceremonies and rituals, but of what nature and to what purpose? There are so many enigmas - the massive size of the monolithic slabs which form the Taula, made of local stone but how did they get the stones there, how did they form them, how did they erect them? As with all these enigmatic remnants of the past, we don't know and will probably never know.

The mystery here might be to do with the positioning of the site. It faces due south and at night, particularly at a time with no light pollution, it would have had an unparalleled view of the southern night sky, Maybe it had something to do with the position of the stars, alignments with a constellation or constellations that the people here regarded as significant.

Eventually, of course, this distinctive culture disappeared. Maybe the stars they saw as so important, lost that vital alignment and the site was abandoned. Or maybe the process was more gradual; as the island became subsumed into the ever expanding Roman Empire, its distinctive difference was erased. The indigenous culture would have survived for a time but gradually the traditions and beliefs would have been lost and the purpose and function of these monumental structures would have receded, like so much else, into the enigma of the past. 


Celia Rees

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