Megalith monuments in MenorcaWith more than two thousand megalithic monuments Menorca, which has the largest number of sites of archaeological interest of any Mediterranean island, is like an open air museum. Erected by the early settlers of the island in the Bronze Age, the stones are found throughout the island, either standing separately or as part of larger settlements, places of worship or burial chambers.
The Navetes, (the word naveta means small boat) look like inverted vessels made of large blocks of stone and were used as burial chambers. The most well known and best preserved on the island is the Naveta des Tudons, an imposing structure which contains two chambers accessed by a small doorway which when excavated in the 1950s revealed that more than 100 people had been buried here. Today the Naveta is sealed but the chambers can be viewed through a small door.
The Talaiots are striking mounds of stone which are often situated on hills or mounds and often in an enclosure of other stones. Their exact purpose is still unclear; perhaps they were lookout or defence points, but in some of the Talaiots human remains have been found in small chambers which suggests that they might have been burial places - the largest, Trepucó, is in the south of the island.
But the most striking of the Talaiotic monuments are the standing stones known as taules (meaning table in Catalan), formed of 2 large blocks of limestone, resting on one another to form what looks like a massive altar. They can be huge, with the largest at Torralba d’en Salord weighing close to 25 tons. The two stones which form the taule are carefully jointed, indicating the high skill of their makers.
Taules are usually found in an enclosure of other smaller standing stones containing small niches which it is thought were either for small statues of deities or offerings. One of the most interesting Talaiotic monuments is the Torre d’en Gaumés settlement in the centre of the island on a hillside with wide views to the southern coast. First constructed in about 1500 BC, it has unusually circular dwelling places with an elaborate system of channels carved into the rock for water gathering.
There are three standing talaiots surrounded by a sanctuary, and immediately below a kind of chamber roofed in large pieces of limestone supported by a central pillar. Intriguingly, excavations show that the site was also used by Romans in the early part of the first millennia, and then nearly a thousand years later by Muslim refugees who took shelter in Menorca following their expulsion from Spain in the 1600s.
The Torre Trencada settlement about 8 kilometres from Ciutadella has one of the loveliest taula on the island. Standing within an enclosure it has been repaired, possibly quite soon after it was erected, with an extra buttress. The taula is surrounded by a range of other structures, from burial caves to stone hut circles and is set in a wood of holm oaks in farmland 15 kilometres from Ciutadella.
The megalithic monuments throughout the island are well signposted and a 2 euro entry fee is charged for entry at the larger sites, but most are free.
Find out more about Menorca history and geography