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Lost secrets found in Menorca

3 June 2005

Seeing is believing

El Toro is Menorca's sacred mountain and can be seen lurking or dominating the horizon from almost every point on the island of Menorca. It is the highest mountain on the island, measuring 358ms above sea level. Certainly we could see it from just about every talaiot tower we visited. It had to be visited. Everyone traveller to Menorca should see it, and probably does.

Bristling with ugly communications towers, it is now inhabited by nuns who run a convent up there with café and tat-shop because somebody once had a vision of the Holy Virgin up there. Frankly, I'm not surprised. Imagine climbing that after no breakfast and little water in the midday heat. Reckon I'd start seeing things, too! Thankfully visitors can now drive to the summit in air conditioned vehicles to enjoy the astonishing views of a beautiful and largely sparsely populated island.

My children tittered with glee as I read out the inscription beneath an 18th century statue of a local monk who was 'interred beneath the altar in the church'. "In holy shit, perhaps?" Cleo mused. (Interred/in turd… geddit?)

Lost and found

Moth dropped me and the sprogs back at the beach for an afternoon of snorkelling while he went off stomping. There were a few sites he wanted to suss. Among them were Ses Roques Lisses, a Neolithic burial chamber, and Na Comerma, another taula sanctuary very close to Torre d'en Gaumes. Seeing Na Comerma would mean we had seen every complete taula on the island.

Despite helpful directions from the friendly young woman ticket collector whose name begins with 'A' at Gaumes, and much sweaty stomping around, Moth failed to find them. The young woman ticket collector, impressed at his enthusiasm, volunteered to take him and me there later in the evening after she finished work.

We returned and she took us straight there. Moth had been only metres away during his earlier stomp, but the density of the vegetation and the height of the field walls had conspired against him.

Ses Roques Lisses, which means 'the smooth flat rocks', is an open chamber formed by huge flat slabs of limestone, making roughly a double square 2ms x4ms. In common with the navetas and other Mediterranean sites, the entry stone has a doorway hole cut into it, just big enough for someone to squeeze through.

The slabs sit on their own platform of rubble kept in by a wall. It was once covered entirely with stones, like a cairn, I suppose.

It seemed like a very familiar sight and we loved it.

Lying almost lost and crumbling badly just 50ms away is the remarkable Na Comerma taula sanctuary. It should NOT be confused with what Julian calls Sa Comerma de sa Garitaon page 315 of TME. What Julian is referring to is part of the complex at Gaumes, whereas Na Comerma is a site away from Gaumes, independent in its own right.

It felt as if I'd been let in on local secret. I guess it is hardly ever visited. It would have been impossible to find without local knowledge and/or an extraordinarily detailed map. Though sizeable, so hidden by trees is it, that we didn't see it until we were vitually upon it.

From a terrible higgledy-piggledy mess of masonry rises a tiny taula which by some miracle (perhaps the Holy Virgin resident at El Toro?) still has its topstone.

Its upstone is half buried in rubble. You could make out part of a wall which once enclosed the sanctuary, perhaps once as thick as the one at Torre Llisa Vell (see previous weblog.)

In addition, there were beautiful ruins of what I read to be houses, with flat dressed cross-beams still mounted on top of their supports.

Absolute magic.

And the day was made complete when we spotted a tortoise. We'd seen a few small ones playing 'chicken' on the roads, but this one was safe from becoming roadkill.

They are a protected species now, their numbers having been cruelly depleted for the pet trade up until the late 20th century.

So a huge thank you to the delightful young woman ticket collector at Gaumes whose name begins with 'A' for showing us these two ancient secrets.

Jane Posted by Jane
10th June 2005ce
Edited 24th November 2005ce

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