Dolmens of Antequera win UNESCO World Heritage status

Map of Dolmens de Antequera (C)Instuto de Estadiscica y Cartografia de Andalucia
Map of Dolmens de Antequera, shown as  small red dots (C)Instituto de Estadistica y Cartografia de Andalucia
As expected, Andalucia's latest UNESCO World Heritage site was confirmed recently: the Dolmens of Antequera were inscribed on the list earlier this month at the committee meeting in Istanbul. We've mentioned this topic a few times on this blog, from when the idea was first proposed, until more recently when it was almost definite. The complex consists of five elements: Antequera's three prehistoric dolmens, plus two mountains towards which the dolmens were built. Together, this combination of millennia-old manmade and natural features presents to visitors an offering of unique archaeological and cultural value.
UNESCO says the dolmens are: "Outstanding examples of megalithic architecture and are amongst the most recognized and quoted in the world."
The three monuments and two natural rock formations included in the World Heritage site are: Menga dolmen Viera dolmen El Romeral tholos La Peña de los Enamorados rock El Torcal mountains   This is from the UNESCO website: "The properties nominated to be included on the World Heritage List as a series of cultural properties are the Antequera Dolmen sites, an ensemble of megalithic monuments made up of the Menga and Viera dolmens and the tholos of El Romeral. They are outstanding examples of megalithic architecture and are amongst the most recognized and quoted in the world. They are also connected to two first-class landmarks:  la Peña de los Enamorados (Lovers’ Leap) and the mountains of El Torcal, Antequera. They are two mountain formations of outstanding geomorphological make-up which were the focal point for positioning the megalithic monuments; Menga is positioned towards the Peña de los Enamorados, whilst the Tholos de El Romeral is positioned towards El Torcal. Indeed, these natural landmarks themselves hold priceless archaeological sites. Menga and Viera dolmens are very near to each other, whilst El Romeral is around 1.700 m away from them. La Peñade los Enamorados (Lovers’ Leap) focused from the Menga dolmen, it is 7 km away.  The tholos of El Romeral is the same distance away from El Torcal, which it is positioned towards."

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

"The Antequera Dolmens have been nominated for their inclusion on the World Heritage Indicative List due to the monumental character of the megalithic constructions, the beauty of the natural formations surrounding them, and the importance of the relationships established during the Neolithic period between the elements of cultural heritage and their natural setting. It is a culture in which the natural landmarks acquire the value of monuments whilst constructed monuments appear to be part of the natural landscape. This close liaison between culture and nature is especially apparent in the precise positioning of the megaliths in the architectural site. Also, the relationship between mountains with a sacred or cultural significance and megalithic architecture is outstanding." Modifications still to be made A inspector from International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) visited the site in September last year and produced a list of outstanding points, most of which will take some years to rectify. The site was awarded WH status despite these conditions not being met, as stated at the meeting in May to ratify the nominations. It was felt that granting status would give impetus for the improvements to be funded.

 The improvements requested were:
  • direct access between the dolmens
  • improvement of industrial access to El Romeral
  • reducing the height of the concrete building designed by the Junta as a museum (never opened due to lack of funds), as it blocks the line of site to the Peña - the first floor will be removed
  • a 10km-via verde to be converted from the railway line - but this section will remain in use until the new AVE linking Antequera and Granada is finally completed and active.
This is from the UNESCO statement (which seems to contradict the reason for earlier requests): "The nomination proposes a wide area which includes the nominated property, the three dolmen sites forming part of the Archaeological Ensemble of the Antequera Dolmens, and a buffer zone made up of visual cones [see map above] which connect them to the aforementioned natural landmarks.  This area is under the authority of Antequera, a very dynamic city due to its historic role, and at present, it is in a central position for communication in Andalusia.  However, due to this reason, some buildings and infrastructures have recently been built in the visual protection zone, however, they are not tall buildings and they do not hinder the vision of said natural features. This condition, of keeping the vision unhindered, should be maintained in the management of the nominated area. The buffer zone corresponds to the field of vision from the “Dolmens” to the two natural landmarks [see map above]." Under the "Integrity" Section "However, some threats do exist to the landscape of the dolmens today, (connected with the plans for new infrastructures in the surrounding area). Nowadays there are improving plans to correct this situation." For more information, see the UNESCO World Heritage List entry on the dolmens here.
Blog published on 30 July 2016