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  • Writer's picturemysteriesofmercia

Three Dolmens with a Difference

Here's something really special. Three dolmens - but all standing inside their original mounds, as if cut away to show how a Neolithic burial mound works.

They all lie within a few miles of each other near Esposende on the coast of northern Portugal and are known technically as Mamoas 1 to 3, but each has its own local name and unique character.

Dolmen da Portelagem, its name means doorway or portal and it lies in a cool forest of oak and eucalyptus. These conditions have encouraged thick layers of moss over the capstone and some carved symbols can still be seen at the back of the single chamber. Folklore tells of a supernatural creature called "Anta" that howled a mournful tune and could pass in and out of the dolmen at will. Hearing its song, or even seeing it, would grant the person good fortune for the rest of their life.

Dolmen do Rapido, meaning the dolmen of speed, is simply stunning. A compact single chambered dolmen standing inside its mound, you have to climb down into it to look closely.

The entry tunnel, two small capstones then a modest main chamber built as a ring of large upright stones. Rather than being built to house intact corpses, these three places held urns of cremated remains and it appears the carved symbols may have identified each urn. This dolmen looks like a cutaway illustration from an encyclopedia.

Dolmen da Cruzinha, or dolmen of the cross, is named for the cross symbol carved in the same part of it's chamber as the other two. It lies hidden in a quiet landscape of purple and yellow heather, oak and the ubiquitous eucalyptus. My Portuguese partner remarked how it reminded her of Stanton Moor in the Derbyshire Peak District - apart from the hordes of lizards that watched our every move! This site is incredible, again it's a cutaway mound with its stone structure exposed deep inside but a second dolmen actually lies next to it in the same mound!

Three simply incredible ancient sites and unlike anything I've ever seen before, I think their isolated, semi-hidden locations have protected them from vandalism, damage from clumsy visitors and general deterioration. They look like excavations in progress, but apparently if they were filled over again their structures would probably collapse in the process.

I'll be back in England soon enough so "normal" service will be resumed then, but I was so excited about finding these places I just had to share the experience.

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