Almendres Cromlech – Portugal’s Largest Archeological Site

Written By Mihaela Gutu

Almendres Cromlech is often considered one of the largest megalithic sites in Europe and one of the few archeological monuments in the world imprinted with marks carved by prehistoric peoples.

As such, if you’re visiting the country, don’t hesitate to add the Stonehenge in Portugal to your must-visit list. Are you an archeology enthusiast? Excellent! If you’re not, we’re sure you’ll be just as fascinated! Besides, the location has some breathtaking views over the surroundings, so you definitely won’t regret visiting it.

If you want to discover more about the history and purpose of this megalithic complex, keep reading! You’ll also learn how to get there and what other archeological sites Evora is home to.

Almendres Cromlech – History

Archeological discoveries in Portugal aren’t uncommon. After all, the region had human settlements as early as 400,000 years ago! This is confirmed by the oldest human fossil found in the country. It was a skull that had been deposited 400,000 years ago in the Cave of Aroeira in Santarem. Another fossil that sheds light on the human population of the Iberian Peninsula is a tooth found in Nova da Columbeira cave in Central Portugal.

Almendres Cromlech is located in the Alentejo region. During the early Neolithic era (1,000–4,500 BCE), when Almendres was built, this territory was probably inhabited by Mesolithic populations.

Like its English counterpart, Stonehenge, Almendres was built in several stages:

  1. 6th-5th millennium BCE – the construction of the triple-ringed stone circle; the largest ring had a diameter of 18.8 meters (61.7 feet), while the smallest had a diameter of 11.4 meters (34.7 feet). 
  2. 5th-4th millennium BCE – the construction of a double-ringed ellipse built on the west side of the circle that had been built a millennium earlier; the largest ellipse was 43.6 meters (143 feet) at its widest side.
  3. 4th-3rd millennium BCE – alterations made to the original constructions, such as the carving of symbols on stones.

This archeological site was discovered only in the 20th century by Enrique Leonor Pinas. He was carrying out geological fieldwork when he stumbled upon this long-standing treasure. Excavation work was carried out for over four decades. At first, they were done under the supervision of Pinas. In the 1980s, the excavation was carried out by M. V. Gomes.

The discoveries were subsequently classified into Almendres I (built during the Early Neolithic), Almendres II (built during the Middle Neolithic), and Almendres III (built during the Late Neolithic) based on the details and periods mentioned above.

Almendres Cromlech – Appearance and Purpose

The Almendres Cromlech site has approximately 95 granite monoliths built in small clusters. Some are 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) tall, others are very small. The whole archeological site covers an area of approximately 70 by 40 meters (230 by 131 feet).

Among the engravings one can notice on the stones are crosiers (some of which are considered symbols of social prestige), zigzag patterns, crescents, phalli, cupmarks, lunar crescents, and curved figures. 

If we use our imagination, we can outline various shapes these stones form. Phillip C. Lucas, for example, from Stetson University, states that the stones look like a round head on the trunk of a body if seen from the top. If seen as an ellipse, one could assume that the structures resemble a planet orbiting a central point.

The site likely served for various purposes over the years:

  • It may have been used for socio-religious rituals.
  • It may have been the place where tribes gathered together on important days.
  • It may have been used for astronomical observations. This has been suggested by the archaeo-astronomer Pedro Alvim, who noticed that the archeological site’s orientation is toward the two annual equinoxes. 
  • It is often argued that the population that had built the site formed a lunar/goddess or solar/god religious group.
  • Particular archeological details suggest a link with fertility deities.
Photo by Reino Baptista (Wiki)

Portugal’s Stonehenge – Location

Almendres, often called Portugal’s Stonehenge, is located in the Evora district on the Herdade do Almendres estate. It is approximately 12 km (7.5 miles) away from the city of Evora. More precisely, you can get there by driving on the national roadway stretching from Evora to Montemor-o-Novo.

During the latest stage of the excavations, the archeologists oversaw the construction of the pedestrian trail that is now part of the municipality’s megalithic route. The trail takes visitors to other archeological treasures besides Almendres.

Other Archeological Sites in Evora

If you’re in Evora and want to visit other archeological sites, make sure to check these out!

Anta Grande do Zambujeiro

Anta Grande do Zambujeiro, which translates as “Great Dolmen of Zambujeiro,” is located in Nossa Senhora da Tourega, Evora. It is a collective funerary monument (dolmens were once used to bury the dead), and one of the biggest sites of this kind in the Iberian peninsula.

The Anta Grande do Zambujeiro structures were likely built less than 6000 years ago. They were discovered during the excavations carried out by Pinas, who also discovered Almendres Cromlech. At the same site, specialists recovered prehistoric necklaces, crosiers, ceramics, and copper objects.

Photo by Nemracc (Wiki)

Alto de São Bento Viewpoint

The Alto de São Bento viewpoint takes us 7000 years back in time, unraveling the lives of our ancestors and the origins of the historic city of Evora. The site has several reconstructed windmills and spectacular views over the surroundings. It is, in fact, a favorite spot in Evora among both locals and tourists!

Megalithica Ebora

Megalithica Ebora is located in the Village of Guadalupe. It is a center dedicated to preserving and sharing information about the region’s archeological heritage. Megalithica Ebora organizes regular educational activities and workshops focused on prehistory and experimental archeology. 

Evora Megalithic Tour

If you’re eager to visit the region and explore its prehistory but don’t have a car, you can book this Evora Megalithic Tour that takes you to:

  • Almendres Cromlech
  • Almendres Menhir
  • Alto de São Bento viewpoint

You can also book a Megalithic Tour + Evora Guided Visit, which adds to your route:

  • St. Francisco Church
  • The Bones Chapel
  • Giraldo Square
  • Graca Convent and Church
  • Roman Baths
  • Domus Municipalis
  • Santa Isabel city gate
  • The Moorish Quarter
  • Água de Prata Aqueduct
  • The Roman Temple
  • The Cathedrals
  • Moura city gate
  • Espirito Santo Church
  • Evora University

These tours can also include transportation from Lisbon to Evora and back if you can’t get there by yourself. If you need transportation from other regions in the Alentejo, you can contact the company and ask for a quote.

The prices vary depending on how you customize your tour. For example, the Megalithic Tour + Evora Guided Visit costs 200 EUR. If you also need transportation from Lisbon to Evora, it costs 370 EUR. Click here for further price details.

The tours are private, and the local guides usually speak English, Spanish, or Portuguese.

Stay up to date
Subscribe To Portugal.com's Newsletter

Receive the latest news, travel information, stories, offers and more!

Invalid email address
Give it a try. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Join our FB group Portugal Travel & Living for all things Portugal and news updates

Related Articles

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Follow Us

416FansLike
408FollowersFollow
159FollowersFollow

Most Popular

A Swiftie Fan Hot Spot Has Opened at Colombo Shopping Mall Right Next to the Eras Tour – Lisbon

Taylor Swift's Eras Tour takes over Benfica Stadium (Estádio Luz) for two nights (May 24 and 25) starting tomorrow, but the sports stadium where...

Welcome to Portugal (Taylor Swift’s Version)

We are only 14 days DTTS (Days Til Taylor Swift) here in Portugal, and we can barely contain our excitement. Not only is this...

Time required to get Portuguese citizenship reduced by 12-18 months

Portuguese residents waiting to apply for citizenship can now breathe a huge sigh of relief! The Portuguese Parliament passed significant amendments on March 5th...

Latest Articles