Head of the Rock – Menir da Cabeça do Rochedo

Everyone knows Lagos as a historic city – fortress, slave market, city walls – but, if you’re looking for something much older, there is a Neolithic site on the doorstep.   

WORDS Michael Upton

On a lonely hillside above the village of Portelas is the standing stone Menir da Cabeça do Rochedo (Head of the Rock). The site is virtually unknown, even by local residents; it is unmarked by signs and you won’t find an information board there.

It probably dates from the Middle Bronze Age, making it about 4,000 years old, give or take a few hundred. It bears no visible carvings, but it has shattered at some point: a large chunk of stone has sheared off near the top, maybe from a lightning strike.

It is, of course, difficult to project one’s mind back to the time when this lichen-covered menhir was erected. If it’s correct that it dates from about 2,000 BC, this was a time when the smelting of bronze was becoming more widespread. This meant that the population was adopting a settled, non-nomadic life (bronze-smelting gear is not particularly mobile). We can only imagine what kind of dwellings were constructed and what language was spoken. This era was before the Phoenicians and Romans arrived – the people may have spoken a tongue not even related to the Semitic or Indo-European groups.

We can only speculate as to what function this menhir performed. Isolated, it cannot have fulfilled any astronomical purpose. Its position is also unfathomable – it stands on ground that’s more or less level but not at the highest point of this gently sloping landscape. One hundred metres eastward lies the crest of a slope which commands a better view than the menhir enjoys – and you can see the ocean from there.

So, if you’d like to see this mysterious and possibly unique piece of Lagos history, park your car on the farm track. The stone stands 150 metres away across a field of thistles, brambles, fennel plants and horse dung.

Don’t wear flip-flops!





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