5 Prehistoric Lessons Learned in Serra de S. Mamede

A Journey through the Megalithic Heritage of Northern Alentejo

Northern Alentejo stands as one of Portugal’s most remote regions, a land of extremes ranging from scorching 40ºC in the shade to negative temperatures within 24 hours. This less-traveled area, inhabited by wise locals, knows that time, like nature, cannot be controlled or measured in numbers. Those who linger here learn that time, measured in seconds, minutes, hours, or days, doesn’t truly exist. Everything is eternal, or rather, timeless.

Not by chance, it’s in Northern Alentejo, specifically in the Natural Park of Serra de São Mamede, that one can find one of Europe’s richest megalithic heritages. A generous collection of constructions erected between the V and II millennia B.C. by distant ancestors.

On a scorching summer afternoon, we set out in search of these ancient stones, guardians of the secret of longevity, hoping to discover what made them so. We didn’t return immortal, but each stone taught us something that, if desired, could well be eternal.

1. Sobral Dolmen: Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Surrounded by a herd of cows, we approach, as if asking for permission. Never losing sight of us, the cows move away slowly. In this silent peace treaty, we reach the circle of stones supporting a slab that serves as a roof. Inside, it’s cool. We take a moment to enjoy the convenient break from the heat. The cows and their slowness join the calmness of the dolmen to teach us that haste can be our worst enemy. It diverts our attention from what can be truly threatening and consumes the precious energy needed to function under extreme temperatures like today.

2. Melriça Dolmen: Stillness Isn’t Laziness

Leaning against one side, we imagine what it has witnessed: practically all of human history. While we rush through life—inventing, desiring, doing, buying, traveling, discovering, consuming, and living in the unbridled hurry to reach a goal that only exists in our minds—we slowly disappear in the frenzy of human existence. In contrast, Melriça, aware of the secret in its place of stillness, where time doesn’t matter, will survive all of this. It will outlive us if we insist on not learning from it. “Be still!” it advises us in silence.

3. Lancheiras Cairn: If You Can’t Beat Them, Join Them

There’s little consistency among experts about the real function of these constructions. Graves, shepherd shelters, small houses, or pens—what’s certain is that it’s rare to find a cairn without its door facing east. There’s little to explore in this one. The brambles took advantage of complete acceptance of their presence and invaded it. They grow determinedly around it, preventing the approach of the curious. What we learned: surrendering to what we can’t control isn’t necessarily bad. It can even serve to keep unwanted intruders at bay.

4. Currais das Galhordas Dolmen: United We Stand

Certainly, the two oak trees flanking this dolmen are young compared to it, in their modest hundreds of years. Apprentices and master maintain the same attitude. Quiet, seemingly indifferent to their surroundings, they absorb everything that happens: they face the sun, welcome raindrops, endure a community of bees that establishes its hive there, and offer shade to a hurried rabbit escaping the persistent gaze of a bird of prey flying high above. Here, we take two lessons: Don’t live alone; join others, and you’ll be stronger. And don’t forget to listen to the old ones. They know more than you do. Not because they studied more, but because they’ve lived longer.

5. Meada Menhir: Size Does Matter After All

It’s assumed that menhirs were built by our ancestors to ensure the fertility of not only tribes but also nature, guaranteeing them food. The Meada menhir proudly stands as the largest in the Iberian Peninsula. Between its four meters in height and 15 tons in weight, it undoubtedly fulfills its purpose. Confirming the efficiency with which it carries out its function, a herd of wild deer approaches with a mix of fear and curiosity. The click of the camera makes them disappear quickly. But the menhir, it remains in its haughty position without any sign of fear or threat. Yes, size matters, even when it’s just a matter of attitude.

We return guided by the light of the stars appearing in the sky. The day’s heat begins to leave our bodies in the same hurry with which all this reality exists. We continue with the feeling that eternity doesn’t exist in our lives. Each one’s perpetuation lies in the ability to honor their passion. Ours is to leave home and discover the world. The memories of journeys and adventures we collect are our best source of eternity.

For more information about this and other tours in Northern Alentejo, please contact us here.