Ancient site — with a mysterious purpose — emerges from dry lake in Europe’s drought

·2 min read
Manu Fernandez/AP

Under a historic heatwave and drought, lakes and rivers across Europe have begun drying up — revealing a mysterious millennium-old site in Spain.

The “megalithic monument” emerged from the parched lake bed of the Valdecañas reservoir in western Spain, photos from Associated Press photographer Manu Fernández showed on Aug. 13.

“Spanish Stonehenge” is formally known as the Dolmen of Guadalperal, Reuters reported.

When first constructed about 7,000 years ago, the circular monument was likely enclosed — a large domed boulder supported by hundreds of vertically-placed rocks, known as menhir, historian Primitiva Bueno Ramirez told Atlas Obscura. The rock structure created a narrow entry corridor leading to a central chamber. Carvings and decorations might have lined the walls, illuminated by visitors passing by with torches, Ramirez said.

The monument might have been a tomb, a ritual site, or even a trading post; archaeologists remain uncertain, BBC reported.

One thing is certain: The 1963 construction of a nearby dam flooded the region, creating the Valdecañas reservoir and submerging the site in its watery depths, Reuters reported.

The site initially resurfaced in 2019, during another drought, before disappearing under water again, El Español reported at the time.

Today, the reservoir has dropped to 28% capacity, Reuters reported.

The monument is visible once again — a collection of about 100 brown, dusty-looking rocks arranged in concentric circles on the drought-stricken ground, Fernández photos show. Only a few engravings — a person and a wiggly snake-like shape — remain, Ramirez told Atlas Obscura.

Other historic sites — like the Elbe River’s “Hunger Stones” — have reemerged in shrinking waterways across Europe as the region suffers under a drought and heatwave amplified by human-induced climate change.

The Iberian peninsula, a region including Spain and Portugal, is the driest it has been in 1,200 years, Reuters reported, citing researchers.

Similarly, Europe’s drought is on track to be the worst one in 500 years, scientists at the European Drought Observatory told Sky News. About 64% of Europe is under a drought alert or drought warning, data from the observatory shows.

Italy, Germany, Hungary, Romania, Ukraine, and France are all struggling under the drought, but conditions show no signs of improving any time soon, the European Drought Observatory said. Rather, “we have estimated a worsening of the situation in most of Europe,” scientists told Sky News earlier this month.

The Valdecañas reservoir is about 115 miles southwest of Madrid.

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