Prehistoric La Roca

The landscapes of La Roca have traces of millennia of human occupation evidenced through the numerous documented archaeological sites. Highlights include those that are grouped under the name “La Roca Prehistoric Trail”, located within the boundaries of the Parc de la Serralada Litoral (Coastal Range Park), between the municipalities of La Roca del Vallès and Òrrius. Following the ancient path that connected Vallès Oriental to Maresme, which passes by the Hermitage of Sant Bartomeu de Cabanyes and due to the proximity of the Iberian settlement of Céllecs, there are several sites: the Dolmen of Can Gol I, the Dolmen of Can Gol II, la Pedra Foradada (the Hole Stone, an artificial cave), la Pedra de les Orenetes (the Stone of Swallows, a shelter with cave paintings), la Pedra de les Creus (the Stone of Crosses, a rock with stone carvings), el Plat del Molí (the Mill Plate), the Dolmen of Céllecs. On this first trail, we have to add a second section that is located in the north-eastern part of the municipality, around the farm of Can Planes, in particular, the Dolmen of Can Planes, la Pedra de l’Escorpí (the Scorpion Stone) and la Pedra Foradada de Can Planes (the Hole Stone of Can Planes, artificial cave).

The period of the great funerary monuments

The period of the great funerary monuments.
Megalithism (from Greek “megas” -big- and “Líthos” -stone-) is defined as a funerary constructive phenomenon characterised by tombs built with large slabs.

This phenomenon is present in Catalonia, mainly in the north and central zones, with fewer examples heading south. Chronologically, the tumulus cists come first, from the middle of the 5th millennium BC in the Empordà area. These cists would evolve into passage tombs, appearing in the first half of the 4th millennium BC. The Catalan galleries are derived from the latter, which at the end of the 4th millennium and the beginning of the 3rd millennium BC, extended from Roussillon to the coastal corridor.

Therefore, it is precisely from this time that most of the different monuments that make up both the Prehistoric Trail of La Roca and those located within its surroundings and that occupy the territory of the Serralada Prelitoral (Pre-Coastal Range) and the Vallès Oriental region must be included. To these, we must add the construction of simple dolmens and megalithic cists from the course of the 3rd millennium BC.

The Funeral Ritual and the Ideological World in Prehistoric Times

During prehistoric times, when a person died, their entire group was involved in the preparation and performance of all the rituals necessary for their burial. The community lost one of its members and that member had to be buried with the ancestors in order to be able to continue together in the afterlife.

This group sentiment is what led the different individuals to be buried in the same funerary monument or set of funerary monuments, whether it be caves, dolmens or hypogaea. In this sense, the Prehistoric Trail of La Roca is a clear example of what could be a funerary complex.

The belief in life beyond the grave resulted in the dead being accompanied by objects that should be useful in the afterlife. It is for this reason that we often find pendants, necklaces, tools and food of all kinds by their side. These were deposited as burial goods by the members of their community. We also cannot discount the fact that following the burial, ceremonies were held in memory of the ancestors, either at the funeral monuments themselves or in other places dedicated to the ideological worship of the group. Could we include la Pedra de les Orenetes (the Stone of Swallows) here? The archaeological research will have to be clarified.

How were they made?

Extraction of the Stones

The construction of a dolmen required the collective work of a group of well-organised people. Firstly, the stones had to be extracted and cut into the desired sizes and shapes. Normally, existing cracks in the rocky outcrops were taken advantage of in order to obtain the stone. Once identified, there were two general methods to cut them. Wooden wedges coated in grease were inserted at one side and burned. Cold water was then poured onto them to quench the fire. This alternation between heat and cold caused a thermal shock that caused the cracks to grow and, finally, with the help of wedges and weights, led to the final extraction of the slabs.

Transporting the Stones

Once the blocks were free, they had to be moved to the place where the dolmen was going to be built. These blocks can weigh many tonnes, so there must have been some mechanism to help the group move the large stones. In order to move these large stones, the men and women of the group must surely have placed logs on the ground and rolled them. The stones must have been bound with ropes to create a harness, to be pulled along either by human or animal force.

Construction of the Chamber

Upon arrival at the chosen site, it was necessary to raise the stones and make sure they did not fall. For this reason, a hole or “foundation pit” was usually dug where the stones were introduced with wedges and wooden levers and wedged with stones and earth. Then these holes had just been filled with more soil and smaller stones.

Construction of the Tumulus

The placement of the different stones led to the demarcation of the interior space, called the chamber. Thus, once this chamber was built, its interior was supported with logs and the tomb was built, these logs ensuring its stability. This tumulus was formed of earth and stones. The latter were placed in the form of concentric rings around the entire chamber and served as a soil retention system.

Placement of the Roof Slab

Finally, once the burial mound was built, only the roof slab of the chamber needed to be raised into place. In order to climb it, the slope of the tumulus itself was used as a ramp. Thus, once the stone was tied with ropes it was dragged and pushed by the group until they were able to place it at the top of the construction.

Dolmen of Can Gol I

This is the largest and most complex megalithic monument on the entire Prehistoric Trail. It is formed by several granite slabs that make up a long corridor of 8m by 1.35m wide, where the chamber does not differ. This is precisely the characteristic of this type of construction called “Catalan galleries”. It retains the head slab but not the roof slabs. The entrance faces south. Outside, part of the tumulus is preserved, with a circular layout and a diameter of 14 metres.

Roca Foradada (Hole Stone)

This is a hollowed spherical granite block containing an artificial cavity that measures approximately 2.40 m long by 1.60 m wide and 1.30 m high. The entrance is circular and slightly pointed at the top, suggesting that it may have been built at some point during the Gothic era.

The whole area has been subjected to shallow archaeological surveys, especially since the 1940s, during which only fragments of “coarse ceramic with the same characteristics as that found in the rest of the megalithic sepulchral features of the area” were found, as well as some fragments from the Iberian period, chronologically dating from much later than the monument.

Dolmen of Can Gol II

This is a megalithic construction of reduced dimensions. Sometimes it is classified as a cist, although the specialists, like those from the team of Mr. Josep Tarrús consider it a small Catalan gallery. It does not retain any roof slab, but the three from the sepulchral floor, measuring 1.75 m in length by 1.10 in width. Partial remains of the tumulus that covered it were observed, which would be approximately 6 m in diameter. The entrance faces south-east. It dates to the late Neolithic or Chalcolithic period (approximately between 3500 and 2250 BC).

Pedra de les Orenetes (Stone of Swallows)

This is a large block of granite 11 m long, 7 m wide and 4 m tall, with strange shapes, formed by natural erosion. One of the faces (facing east) is full of little holes and small cavities inside of which several pictographic representations are preserved, accounting for a total of 32 figures. The central motif of this set can be found in the largest of these cavities, formed by the presence of two small stylised figures of two women with long dresses to below the knee and a unique pointed or triangular-shaped hairstyle.

Pedra de les Creus (Stone of Crosses)

This is a block of granite, carved on the top with numerous crosses and other marks that are difficult to interpret, some of which can be dated back to prehistoric times, from existing parallels, such as La Roca del Sacrificis de Capmany (the Rock of Sacrifices of Capmany), in Baix Empordà. The words AÑO (YEAR) and ROCA (ROCK) were also recorded on the same block, which would correspond to recent dates.

The petroglyphs, which are deeply engraved into the rock, are preserved in good condition.

Plat del Molí (Mill Plate)

Large granite block, located at the edge of the current trail, has a “bowl” on the top. This circular cavity is approximately 0.70 m in diameter and 0.22 m high, although part of it is eroded.

The original chronology and function are unknown, although there have been numerous interpretations that have linked it to certain hunting strategies. These constructions are traditionally related to the megalithic world, appearing in areas where their presence is prominent.

Dolmen of Céllecs or Cabana del Moro

This is a small Catalan gallery, like that of Can Gol II, although its dimensions are larger. It retains a rectangular chamber with a roof and a slab on the left side of its access corridor. The chamber faces south west. According to Mr. J. Tarrús, “the original corridor must have been about 2 m long and the tumulus could have been up to 8 m in diameter”.

Hermitage of Sant Bartomeu de Cabanyes

Romanesque chapel documented from 1191. In the 18th century, it became connected with Sant Bartomeu de Can Cunill, because it belonged to the Cunill d’Òrrius family. It is a small church with a single nave, with a semi-circular apse and a barrel vault. It has a voussoir doorway and a small belfry. It is lit on the inside by two windows, one at the apse and another next to the entrance door. It has undergone a modern restoration.

Dolmen of Can Planes

This is a small megalithic monument with similar characteristics to the Dolmen of Céllecs, and as such it would be classified as a small Catalan gallery. It retains part of the structure of the sepulchral chamber formed by five slabs and the roof slab. It measures 1.50 m x 1.06 m.

There are no remains of the corridor, nor of the structure of the tumulus that would have covered the monument. The chamber appears to be slightly inclined to one side.

Pedra Foradada de Can Planes (Hole Stone of Can Planes)

Also known as “Pedra del Marxant” (Marching Stone), this is a granite block that has been artificially hollowed out. It is unknown whether there are archaeological remains or structures related to this site. Like the Roca Foradada (Hole Stone), it is related to the megalithic period, because it appears in contexts from this era. It could be a burial chamber.

Pedra de l’Escorpí (Scorpion Stone)

Pedra de l’Escorpí is located in the area called Replana de Can Planes, near the house of the same name and the road that leads to Sant Bartomeu de Cabanyes. It is an archaeological site about which little information is known since it is not mentioned in any scientific bibliographical reference. Apparently, it would constitute a small natural cavity between granite boulders that could have been used for burial purposes during recent prehistory (late Neolithic or the early metal ages).

The Prehistoric Trails

Prehistoric Trail I
 Can Gol – Sant Bartomeu · (PR-C 36)

This itinerary, signposted in blue, passes between the Can Gol and Sant Bartomeu de Cabanes properties. From this place, where the hermitage is located, you can connect to a second itinerary, signposted in pink, which leads from Sant Bartomeu de Cabanyes to Can Planes, towards the town centre of La Roca del Vallès. However, before this, and from Sant Bartomeu, you can head towards Céllecs Hill where the Iberian settlement is located, although it is currently in a precarious condition to visit.

This itinerary enables us to visit the so-called Archaeological Zone of Céllecs, with exceptional characteristics due to the high concentration of historic-archaeological monuments. It is a series of megalithic sites basically dated to between 3500 BC and 1800 BC. – coinciding with the end of the Neolithic period and the bronze age.

The monuments found in this section are, from south to north: Can Gol I, Can Gol II, Roca Foradada (Hole Stone), Pedra de les Orenetes (Stone of Swallows), Pedra de les Creus (Stone of Crosses), Plat del Molí (Mill Plate), Dolmen of Céllecs and the Chapel of Sant Bartomeu. This first section can be concluded at the Iberian site of Céllecs.

Prehistoric Trail II
 Can Planes – Sant Bartomeu

This itinerary, signposted in pink, takes us from Can Planes to the Chapel of Sant Bartomeu de Cabanyes, although it can be started from the town centre. At this point you can connect to a second itinerary, signposted in blue that runs between Céllecs and Can Gol.

The existence of a large number of archaeological sites within the district of La Roca del Vallès reflects the importance of the region since Neolithic times. This itinerary allows you to observe the existence of megalithic constructions in areas located on the plane. They were traditionally located in mountainous areas. Three sites can be observed in this section: The Dolmen of Can Planes, Roca Foradada (Hole Stone) and Pedra de l’Escorpí (Scorpion Stone). From this point, you can continue towards Sant Bartomeu or back down to the town centre.

Much of the trail follows the Green Meridian Trail.