One of the largest megalithic complexes in Europe was discovered in Huelva, Spain. More than 500 standing stones were found during a land survey for an anticipated avocado plantation.
Located along the Spain-Portugal border, the land on which the stones sit spans roughly 1,500 acres. Before granting a permit to begin the avocado plantation, regional authorities requested a survey, which in turn revealed the stones.
There, at the La Torre-La Janera site, archaeologists found various types of megaliths, including standing stones, dolmens, mounds, coffin-like stone boxes called cists, and enclosures, ranging from three to ten feet high.
“This is the biggest and most diverse collection of standing stones grouped together in the Iberian peninsula,” José Antonio Linares, Huelva University and one of the project’s co-directors, told Agence France-Presse Thursday. Linares added that the oldest standing stones at the site were likely erected during the second half of the sixth or fifth millennium B.C.E.
“Standing stones were the most common finding, with 526 of them still standing or lying on the ground,” the researchers explained in a June article published in the Spanish prehistoric archaeology journal Trabajos de Prehistoria.
One of the most striking characteristics of the stones, however, was the diversity of their grouping in one location.
“Finding alignments [a linear arrangement of upright standing stones along a shared axis] and dolmens [a megalithic tomb comprised of two or more standing stones topped with a large, flat capstone] on one site is not very common. Here you find everything all together–alignments, cromlechs [a stone circle] and dolmens–and that is very striking,” noted Primitiva Bueno, co-director and pre-history professor at Alcalá University, according to the Guardian.
According to the researchers, many of the standing stones were grouped in 26 alignments and two cromlechs set on hilltops to view the sunrise during summer and winter solstices and spring and autumn equinoxes.
Archaeologists plan to continue excavating the site through 2026, as many of the stones are still believed to be buried. They plan to open a portion of the site to visitors sometime between now and next year.
“Excellent conservation” of the site, according to Bueno, has been key to understanding the find.