Galicia region

In the far-western Galicia region of Spain is a mystical land which long predates the Christian era. The countryside of Galicia features impressive megalithic dolmens, menhirs, and cromlechs — dating from the era of Britain's Stonehenge and France's Carnac. The original settlement of Santiago de Compostela fascinated pagans, similarly to the way the city later attracted medieval Christians, who made countless pilgrimages there to honor the remains of Saint James the Apostle. .Another term for "compostela" refers to energy line paths, the same paths that became the Way of Saint James. Perhaps the earliest prehistoric settlers recognized the ley lines of Galicia and followed them to Santiago, only to be transformed into well-trodden roads by the Christians of a later era. The large amount of megaliths and rock engravings near Santiago indicates that it was a sacred place throughout ancient times. It is believed that the earliest pilgrims would have been able to find this farthest point on the continent by taking bearings from the Milky Way galaxy.

Near the holy city of Santiago is a lone mountain peak known as Pico Sagro, another venerated site from pagan times. The Santiago cathedral was supposedly laid out in accordance to the angle of the sunlight as it shines across the lone mountain peak. In the age of flat earth believers, Galicia was literally considered Land's End, and the actual edge of the world was supposedly visible from nearby Cabo Fisterra, or Cape Finisterre. Interestingly, Galicia is also renowned for its numerous UFO sightings.

The Galicia region was a sacred land to Neolithic dolmen builders, Bronze Age petro-glyph carvers, and the Celtic people, who were eventually conquered by the Romans. Abundant remains of all these cultures can be found in Galicia.

Easily the oldest and least understood monuments in Galicia belong to the Neolithic Era. Some researchers consider the dolmens to be strictly burial tombs, while others describe them as solar temples. The dolmens were likely both, becoming funeral monuments after they had been abandoned as temples. Indeed, most of the entrances are orientated to view the sunset to the west or situated to observe prominent stars, while also found containing burials. Literally thousands of megalithic monuments were once scattered across the Galicia region, but now only about 100 remain.

All locals know of the mamoas, those mounds of earth that usually hide a dolmen-like structure related to curious legends. The builders were described as mythical beings of the past, associated with alchemy, magic, giants, or treasures. In most cases, the mounds were dismantled, the smaller stones removed, the burials looted, only to leave the skeletal core of the megalithic dolmen. From this same period are menhirs, orpedrafitas, which usually had some astral significance in agriculture, fertility, or were possibly used as markers to predict the seasons. The dolmens and menhirs are usually clustered together like a ritual site, or perhaps they were positioned to create a relationship of visibility and proximity. One of the most important megalithic concentrations in Galicia can be found in the interior of the Sierra do Barbanza, consisting of no less than 35 barrows. Many of these preserve the original mound and the undisturbed dolmen and passageway.

The Neolithic people eventually settled in different areas of Galicia and adopted different customs. Along with farming, Bronze Age people took to raising livestock and melting tin and copper together to make stronger weapons and tools. During this period, a different and ambiguous type of monument appeared: the petroglyph. These engravings depict animals, weapons, hunting scenes, and geometric motifs. The most common geometric motif is the deer, sometimes being hunted by a human. The abstract motifs are circular combinations of concentric circles, circles with lines, or circles with bowls. Incidentally, some of the abstract petroglyph designs are remarkably similar to modern crop circle designs!

The only ancient people with a historical record in Galicia are the Celts. They fought many battles against the history-minded Romans. The best account of Celtic military might is recorded by Julius Caesar, who wrote in his Commentaries, Book III, that the Celtic ships were able to travel on the open ocean and were strong enough to withstand storms and high seas. "They were like swans, high-prowed and graceful with tall masts and billowing sails." Celtic sailors were skilled at harnessing the power of the wind. Caesar was amazed that they could even tact into the

▲ The dolmens of the Galicia region are some of the best preserved, and least visited, in all of Europe.

wind. The Celts were certainly a warlike people and their settlements reflect their priorities. They constructed castros, or round houses of stone, with thatched roofs, clustered together in hill fort settlements. The hill forts were placed in strategic locations, such as at the summit of a natural rise or at the end of a peninsula. Concentric circle ramparts, with high fences, originally protected the settlements.

The Iberian Celts mastered the craft of smelting iron, making intricate baskets, and producing other fine textiles. Their farms and livestock were located outside the hill forts, but never too far away in case war broke out. Eventually, the Celts of Iberia, France, Belgium, and Britain were subdued by the Romans, but some think the "lost" Celts immigrated to North America before subjugation. It is interesting to note that many Mississippian mound sites closely resemble the design of Celtic hill forts. Around 300 ce, the Celts all but disappeared from the Galicia region. The Romans replaced Celtic culture with orderly roads, fortified cities, and much larger monuments. In Galicia, over 5,000 castros have been excavated.

Getting to Galicia region monuments

Only a few dolmen and petroglyph sites are marked with signs off the main roads. The rest are rather difficult to find without a guide. A good starting point is the Centro Argueoloxico du Barbanza near the city of Boiro. This museum is built next to a Celtic hill fort and offers detailed maps, guided trips, and an excellent interpretive center. From the road, the Dolmen de Axeitos and the petroglyph Pedra das Cabras are well-marked near Ribeira. A Guarda, at the southernmost tip of Galicia, contains a hill fort ruin, as does Porto do Son in the Barbanza region. Both of these are well-marked from the road. Having a car is essential to discovering the remains of prehistoric Galicia.

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