Copper Age: Antequera.
The classification of Chalcolithic –from the Greek chalco “copper” and lithic “stone”– sums up the overlapping activities of both materials during this period. Metallurgy --in the form of copper smelting– was making its appearance, but stone was still fundamental. Copper smelting demanded a certain social organisation marked by settlements whose location was often determined by the discovery of metal deposits. With metal and its related activity, mining, come industrial skills, but stone tools –axes, chisels– still formed the basis for daily tasks.
The best known Spanish mining settlement of this period (and extending into the Bronze Age) is that of Los Millares, just north of the coastal town of Almería in the eastern Andalusia.
Important as the development of metals was to be, it is the stone survivors of this age –the magnificent burial chambers– that have become its most characteristic and impressive feature. These megalithic chambers or dolmens are made up of large upright stones supporting one or several horizontal slabs or caps which form a roof for the chamber. There are numerous burial chambers of this type in many parts of Europe; in Spain the highest concentrations are in Alava (in the north) and in Andalusia.
Perhaps the most notable examples are the three sites, Menga, Viera, and Romeral, in Andalusia, just outside the town of Antequera.
The dolmens are an extraordinary feat of construction. How the builders quarried, transported and lifted these enormous stones (one roof slab is calculated to weigh 180 tons) is still a mystery, but it was an awesome achievement that leaves visitors both humbled and moved.
A curious phenomenon of this period that was widespread throughout much of Europe is a type of pottery called bell beaker, so-called because of the inverted bell-shaped pots. Who the Bell Beaker people were is a controversial topic.
Anderson, James Spain: 1001 Sights: An Archaeological and Historical Guide Calgary, London 1992
Collins, Roger Spain: An Oxford Archaeological Guide Oxford, New York 1998
Jacobs, Michael A Guide to Andalusia London 1990
“European origins laid bare by DNA” on the BBC website, October 10, 2013: http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-24475342
For a spirited and wide-ranging discussion on the topic, see Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Beaker_culture
Image of Los Millares: "Alm04LosMillares3" by Ziegler175 - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Alm04LosMillares3.jpg#/media/File:Alm04LosMillares3.jpg
Image of La Menga (exterior): "Dolmen de Menga Antequera20". Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dolmen_de_Menga_Antequera20.jpg#/media/File:Dolmen_de_Menga_Antequera20.jpg
Image of La Viera: "Dolmen de Viera" by Grez - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dolmen_de_Viera.JPG#/media/File:Dolmen_de_Viera.JPG
Image of Romeral by El Pantera: El Pantera http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Antequera-p1010865.jpg
Image of bell beakers: "Beakerculture". Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Beakerculture.jpg#/media/File:Beakerculture.jpg