Having visited some very interesting prehistoric sites in Kazakhstan and Tajikistan last summer, which we are currently doing a lot of research on for our new guide book, we were thrilled to learn about the prehistoric Talaiot culture on Menorca (and to a lesser extent on Majorca) during our recent hiking trip. Several of the sites have been excavated and are accessible to visitors.
So on our rest day we took the opportunity and walked the 7 km from the main town of Maó to the prehistoric site of Talati de Dalt.
The site is fenced off and behind the open wooden gate it looks very disappointing at first: Green grass and some stones, which may or may not have been housing structures long ago. But as we follow the recommended itinerary (yes, there was an information panel at the entrance!) we get to a menhir-ish stone formation in a stone circle. The standing stone in the middle is topped by another flat stone; these so-called taula are typical features of the Talaiot culture.
The people who built and used them didn't leave any written sources, and archaeologists today presume that these places are ritual sites. We sit quiet for a while, making an effort to perceive the power of this spot and hopefully to gain strength for the second part of our multi-day-hike.
The Talaiot people presumably reached the islands around 1400 BC by sea and stayed until the arrival of the Romans in 123 BC, after which they gradually assimilated with the new settlers. They must have had contact with the Phoenicians and other maritime people, and besides navigation skills they were capable of building large structures using huge stone blocks. Behind the taula, an emblematic stone tower (talaiot), which gave the whole culture its name, sits on a small promotion, about 10 in diameter and several meters high. The talaiot were presumably defensive and guarding towers, and quite often they formed part of the city walls. Behind these public spaces we find housing structures, partly built into caves, partly made from stone slabs. Actually they look quite spacious and somehow comfortable, considering that people lived there 3000 years ago.
There are several other Talaiot sites on Menorca that can be visited, such as Torralba and Torre d'en Galmés, and we definitely would love to come back in the future and visit more of them.