Balearic Islands Sardinia and Pantelleria

The Island of Menorca contains four megalithic sepulchres; neighboring Mallorca and Formentera each contains one.

They apparently date from early in the 2nd millennium b.c. (Hoskin and Morales 1991). All are oriented in western and southwestern directions, with azimuths from 220° to 278°. There are also somewhat later communal burial tombs of large stone blocks. The tombs are called navetas, from a resemblance to overturned boats, and may derive from the earlier tradition. Hoskin and Morales divide the navetas into three groups: oval navetas restricted to the east, and eastern and western elongated navetas. The orientations of the six western elongated navetas all fall within the limits of the orientations of the Balearic megalithic sepulchres. The orientation of the six oval navetas and the six eastern elongated navetas center on the south. Only one in each of the latter groups is within the range of the western navetas. Thus, all of these alignments are substantially different from those that are common elsewhere, but there are also markedly distinct subgroups.

Hoskin (1985,1989,1991) also discussed Menorca towers, called talayots, which were constructed between 1400 b.c. and the Roman conquest, and they may represent the last remnants of a megalithic tradition. The towers tend to dominate villages that often also contain a physically bounded area or "precinct" with a taula ("table"). These are massive monuments composed of two limestone slabs, one upright and the other horizontal forming a large tau-shaped object. Whether the towers and precincts were sacred or secular is disputed, but Hoskin has come to think that the precincts were sacred areas or sanctuaries. The precinct entrance is usually southward, and Hoskin has suggested that they were aligned to face the passage of the constellation of the Centaur, Chiron (an attested name for this constellation). One of the taula-precincts contained a statue of the Egyptian architect, Imhotep, later deified and associated with medicine. He was equated by the Greeks with their god Asklepios (or Aesculapius). Asklepios was said to be a pupil of Chiron, who was renowned for his healing powers. One of the taula precincts had an alignment coinciding with the heliacal rising of Sirius. Hoskin (1991) points out that there was a ritual on Mount Pelion at the time of the heliacal rising of Sirius. Mount Pelion was said to be disputed territory between Centaurs and Lapiths, whose royal lines had a common origin (Graves 1955-1957 I, pp. 360-362). The mother of Asklepios was said to be a Lapith princess. Aristaeus, a grandson of the Lapith king Hypsaeus, learned Mysteries in Chiron's cave and was taught healing by the Muses. He is credited with ending a plague sent to the island of Cos by the Dog Star, Sirius (Graves 1955-1957, I, pp. 277-278). These details offer some support for Hoskin's views. Hypsaeus was the son of one Naiad and the husband of another (Graves 1955-1957, I, pp. 276-277). Naiads were daughters of Phorcys (Boar). The Latin equivalent of Phorcys was Orcus (Graves 1955-1957, p. 129, II, p. 107), whose name is probably incorporated in the names Menorca and Mallorca.

The towers of Sardinia (Hoskin et al. 1993) resemble the talayots of Menorca, which are simpler, and the so-called "Tombs of the Giants" resemble the Menorcan navetas. They seem to be approximately contemporary. Many scholars have supposed a close cultural relationship between them. Hoskin et al. (1993, p. S24) thinks that the similarites

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Figure 6.38. The tumulus and menhirs of Mzorah, North Africa. Drawing by Sharon Hanna.

are more likely to be due to limitations imposed by the building materials and techniques. In any case, alignments in the two areas are decidely distinct. The Sardinian monuments share the generalized southeast orientation that is so widespread in megalithic monuments.

On Pantelleria, there is a group of communal tombs, called sesi, dating from ~1800 to 1600 b.c. The largest is a mound with 11 entrances and 12 passageways leading to separate chambers inside the mound. There is no discernible clustering of orientations in or among the 42 monuments examined (Tusa, Serio, and Hoskin 1992).

mapping led him to conclude that there were originally 175 present. Mavor suggested that the ellipse appeared to have been laid out on the basis of a 37-35-12 Pythagorean triangle, a type of structure that Thom claimed as the second most common pattern found in the British Isles. Mavor gives a full list of the distances and azimuths of all the menhirs, as measured from the center. Three tall stones (Nos. 130,131,132) mark the west point. The south point is marked approximately by a single stone (no. 90). Mavor notes a substantial number of other possibly intentional alignments, including all solar solsticial and equinoctial alignments and lunar major and minor standstill rising alignments and at least one setting alignment. He assumed that the ellipse had been used for observing for a substantial length of time before the tumulus was built, arguing that somewhat similar tumuli were being built in Morocco in the first millennium b.c. and that the menhir circle had affinities with British megalithic monuments dated by Thom in the early 2nd millennium b.c. on the basis of stellar alignments, which the Mzorah monument shares. However, Thom's stellar alignments are not generally accepted because archeological evidence makes it unlikely that the British monuments are as late as Thom thought, and, with 175 possible targets, and a center point defined only by assumed geometry of the ellipse, it is difficult to ascertain which of the alignments was indeed intended. The coincidence of the eastward thrust of the major axis with the direction of rise of the Moon at minor standstill (between stones 35 and 36) is suggestive, however. This direction is also toward the summit of the mountain Jbel Si Habib.

Mavor makes the point that the ellipse must have been there before the tumulus because it would have been impossible to lay out if the tumulus had been in place. It seems likely to be in the same megalithic tradition as the stone circles of northern Europe, and Mavor cites anthropological and archeological evidence to connect the cultures of neolithic and early Bronze age Europe to those of Morocco.

The monument is unusual because it is mentioned in the writings of Pindar [518-438 b.c.], a poet from Akragas (Agrigento) in present day Sicily, as the burial place of the giant Antaeus, King of Libya (a former generic name for Northern Africa), said to have been a son of Poseidon and Mother Earth, and killed by Heracles. The name Libya is taken from the name of the daughter or granddaughter of Io (who was transformed into a white cow by Zeus) and of a woodpecker (or Zeus in the form of a woodpecker), apparently regarded in the story as the king of birds (Graves 1955-1957).

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