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Did you know that in Menorca there are over 11,000 kilometers of dry stone walls?

It's hard to fathom just how much 11,000 kilometers is. To get an idea: we could build a wall from Spain to Japan in a straight line. Isn't that impressive? First off, for those who might not know what a dry stone wall is, let's explain: it's the name given to walls built using a specific, labor-intensive and precise dry technique. "Dry" because no cement is used; it's constructed stone upon stone. The result is a perfectly interlocked stable wall. Those who build this wall are called "margeners" from "margen" (margin) or "paredadors" from "pared" (wall), and when you see these walls up close, you'll notice how complex their structure is.


This dry construction technique is not a Menorcan invention. This mortarless wall makes up the ethnological heritage of the British, French, Greeks, Swiss, Slovenes, and Spaniards. What's curious in Menorca is the amount of dry stone present and its relationship with the island's first settlers. The fact that there are so many kilometers of dry wall is no coincidence, and its use surviving through the centuries to this day is also no fluke. "Dry" because it's a construction technique that doesn't use cement. It's built stone upon stone. The technique is very specific; even though the wall looks straight, the stones are irregular. Initially, these aren't deliberately cut stones like the "marés" blocks, which were extracted from the island's quarries to build houses, "llocs" (farms), and churches, among other things. The stones used to construct the dry stone walls are surface layer detachments, making each one different in size and shape. Although it's true that sometimes they are polished to fit more precisely. Those already familiar with Menorca will know that the dry stone wall is one of the main cultural elements that make up the island's landscape. Wherever you look, you can always see this wall.


As we mentioned at the beginning, the peculiarity of this technique in Menorca is its origin and use, which explains the number of kilometers of wall. Tracing back to the arrival of Menorca's first inhabitants around 2400 BCE, they found an island of stones and wind. Faced with such an abundance of stones, they took advantage of this natural resource to build their watchtowers, houses, cemeteries, and temples. As for its use, these constructions' purpose has evolved to the present day. The heirs of the island's lands separated their properties with these walls. The "pageses," who work the Menorcan fields, used the piles of stones accumulated on the edges of the property when clearing the fields, to raise the walls. Over time, the siblings who inherited these lands again separated their property with dry stone walls, leaving the original land divided by the wall once more.

This partly explains the 11,000 kilometers of dry stone wall in Menorca, but there's more. Additionally, Menorca does not have shepherds. Livestock is controlled by dividing the plots into subplots or "tanques," enclosed with wild olive barriers. When the fodder in one tanca runs out, the livestock is moved to the next, thus controlling the pasture without the supervision of a shepherd. The dry construction is not a Menorcan invention. The peculiarity in Menorca lies in its origin and use, in addition to the number of kilometers of this wall on the island. To appreciate the importance of this traditional technique in Menorca, last October, the island hosted the XVI International Congress on Dry Stone, organized by the Martí i Bella Historical Archaeological Society of Ciutadella and The International Scientific Society for the Multidisciplinary Study of Dry Stone. This world-class congress is attended by professionals from different fields, wall builders from all over the world, historians, archaeologists, anthropologists, and even architects. Without a doubt, the dry stone wall is a fundamental element in understanding Menorca's heritage. Interested? Discover much more about Menorca's culture by coming on an excursion with us. Return to the main page, choose your preferred day, and come on an excursion with Menorca Discovery.


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