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Historic monuments resurface as severe drought shrinks Spanish reservoirs | Spain

Historic monuments resurface as severe drought shrinks Spanish reservoirs | Spain

A huge megalithic complex and a century-old church are among the underwater monuments that have resurfaced in Spain as a severe drought causes water levels to plunge.

After a prolonged drought, Spain’s reservoirs – which supply towns and farms – are at just under 36% of their capacity, according to Environment Ministry figures for August.

In the western region of Extremadura in Spain, receding waters from the Valdecañas reservoir have revealed a prehistoric stone circle on an islet that is normally underwater.

Dubbed the “Spanish Stonehenge”, the circle of dozens of megalithic stones was discovered by archaeologists in 1926, but the area was flooded in 1963 during the construction of the reservoir.

The stones also attract tourists, who reach the islet on boats operated by several private companies. Officially known as the Dolmen of Guadalperal, the site is believed to date back to 5000 BC.

“People leave delighted,” said Ruben Argenta, owner of a company offering guided tours of the stones.

Manuel Mantilla, 60, from the southern city of Cordoba, visited his wife after hearing about the site from the media. “We saw this as a unique opportunity,” he said.

People stand in front of the ruins of the Church of Sant Roma de Sau.  Normally, the bell tower is the only part of the church visible above water level.
People stand in front of the ruins of the Church of Sant Roma de Sau. Normally, the bell tower is the only part of the church visible above water level. Photograph: Josep Lago/AFP/Getty Images

In the northeast region of Catalonia, receding waters have exposed the ruins of an 11th century church in the mostly submerged village of Sant Roma de Sau, which was inundated in the 1960s when a dam was built nearby.

Lured by TV reports and social media images, crowds of tourists fill restaurants in the nearby village of Vilanova de Sau.

“It has been years since [water levels] are as low as they are now,” Nuria Ferrerons, 45, said during a recent visit to the site.

“We saw it on social media and we were like, ‘Well, let’s see how it is,'” she added.

Two canoe tourists paddled through an arch of the church, which is fenced off to prevent people from getting too close due to the risk of the ruins collapsing.

“Normally you only see the bell tower”, explained Sergi Riera, who came to see “something that has not been visible for years”.

The climate crisis has left parts of Spain the driest in more than 1,000 years and winter rains are expected to decrease further, according to a study published in July by the journal Nature Geoscience.

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