Research sheds light on major megalithic site in Spain

The site, known as La Torre- La Janera, covers an area of c.600ha near the Guadiana River in the province of Huelva.

A vast megalithic complex discovered in southern Spain could be among the largest known in Europe. The site, known as La Torre- La Janera, covers an area of c.600ha near the Guadiana River in the province of Huelva, near Spain’s border with Portugal. The megaliths were first discovered in 2018, when an archaeological survey was carried out in advance of an application to turn the land into an avocado farm, and further archaeological work over the last few years has shed more light on the site’s significance.

La Torre-La Janera is home to a variety of megalithic structures, including over 500 standing stones. Image: Linares-Catela et al. 2022, Trabajos de Prehistoria, CC-BY 4.0

These investigations have revealed that La Torre-La Janera is home to the most diverse group of megalithic structures currently known in the Iberian Peninsula. By far the most common are menhirs, or standing stones, of which 526 have been identified so far – some still standing, while others have fallen in place – varying in shape and ranging in size from 1m to 3.5m tall. Archaeologists have also discovered funerary structures across the landscape, including dolmens, stone cists, and burial mounds, as well as other ritual spaces and monuments. Evidence of the site’s various construction phases was also found, including stone extraction areas, quartzite hammers, worked stone blocks, and abandoned building supports. Researchers from the universities of Huelva and Alcalá de Henares suggest that the earliest standing stones at La Torre-La Janera were constructed in the 5th millennium BC, and that the megalithic site remained in use for c.3,000 years.

The majority of the standing stones have been organised into linear arrangements and circular enclosures, which are often situated on hilltops with views of the horizon and the surrounding area, and may therefore have been connected to the observation of astronomical events. The megaliths’ connection to the physical landscape also seems to have been important, with their distribution seemingly influenced by the location of the Guadiana River and the nearby coastline, as well as the natural rocky outcrops from which the stones were sourced.

The recent research has been published in the journal Trabajos de Prehistoria ( Archaeological investigations will continue at La Torre-La Janera until 2026, and there are plans to open a portion of the site to visitors sometime in the next few years.