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Naveta des Tudons, the oldest building in Europe

It is said that the Naveta des Tudons [‘The Vessel of Woodpigeons’] is the oldest edification built by humans in Europe. Located in the Ciutadella municipality, this example of Minorcan architecture is in excellent condition and one of the most important and beautiful monuments on the island. Other must-see landmarks include Torrellafuda, Torretrencada and Son Catlar.

Minorca’s traditional navetas are funerary monuments built around 1200 BC, using only carefully arranged stones and no cement. They belong to the island’s Talayotic Culture and were used well into 750 BC. The most unique of all is the Naveta des Tudons, whose exterior shape resembles an upturned boat, which explains the origin of its name. The elongated base has a somewhat pointed apse and the flat façade is slightly concave, with remnants of a potential slab platform in front of the portal, which has two overlapping levels.

The oldest building in Europe

It is almost certain that this construction was originally used for funerary purposes since the human remains of at least 100 people of all ages and genders were found during the excavations. Personal objects were also recovered alongside the bodies (bronze bracelets, bone buttons, knives, spearheads, and clay pots in which offerings were placed during funeral rites, etc.), so it is known that communal burial rites took place inside.

For many years, locals lived alongside the Naveta des Tudons without paying much attention to the monument, to the point that it was used as a place where livestock could rest. It was surrounded by brambles and shrubs that grew freely along the edges, giving it an unkempt and deserted appearance. This was the case until the mid-twentieth century, when someone took note of the site and decided to excavate and restore it. It now stands lovely and delicate, and this unique tourist attraction has become one of the most visited monuments in Minorca.

The Naveta des Tudons, whose interior is currently closed to the public for safety reasons, measures 14.5 metres long and 6.5 metres wide.

The legend of the Naveta des Tudons

Many legends are linked to Minorca’s prehistoric monuments. It is said that the Naveta des Tudons was built by a giant who competed with his brother for the love of a girl, so one decided to build her a naveta and the other a well. However, as they were finishing, the giant who was building the naveta threw a stone at his rival, destroying his work. Upon discovering that he had killed his brother in the process, the giant committed suicide. The woman, overcome with grief, later died of sorrow. This is why, according to legend, the Naveta des Tudons is supposedly missing a stone above the entrance.

Since there are many monuments throughout the island, the Naveta des Tudons is just one of the sites that comprise Minorca’s astounding open-air archaeological museum. There are Phoenician (Sa Nitja, near Cavalleria), Roman (Santa Águeda road) and Moorish (Pont des General, in Maó) edifications; Paleochristian basilicas (Son Bou, Fornells); Medieval temples (Ciutadella cathedral); and Renaissance fortified towers (Fornells, Santandria), etc.

However, it is the island’s prehistoric remnants that have made Minorca famous. In addition to the Naveta des Tudons, there are other extraordinary landmarks, such as the Talatí de Dalt, a large Talayotic village with archaeological ruins that include an impressive taula, talayot, hypostyle rooms and a colossal wall. Other monuments include Trepucó, Son Catlar (perhaps the largest Talayotic site in Minorca) and Son Gaumés.

The Naveta des Tudons strives to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site

The Naveta des Tudons is one of the 32 prehistoric landmarks that comprise the Talayotic Culture of Minorca (link interno) and are being submitted jointly to be classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Although Minorca has more than 1,500 sites across only 700 square kilometres of land—the equivalent of two landmarks per square kilometre—the ones that best represent the island’s prehistoric period have been selected.

In March 2018, the Naveta des Tudons was vandalised with graffiti that affected 81 of its stones. When news got out, locals responded immediately and insisted on political responsibility since one of Minorca’s most important tourist sites had been attacked. Fortunately, a restoration team was able to remove the graffiti and return the building to its original appearance in a month’s time.

Information of interest

  • How to arrive:
    • By car. It is located at the 40 km marker on the road Me-1, between Ciutadella and Ferrerías. The turnoff is clearly indicated with signs and there is free parking nearby. It is a short five-minute walk from the car park along a path that is suitable for children and seniors. Turnoffs leading to the Torretrencada (7 km from Ciutadella, at the 39 km marker) and Torrellafuda (at the 37.2 km marker) sites are also located along this road. The latter is surrounded by a peaceful olive grove.
    • By bus. The naveta cannot be reached by public transportation.
  • Ticket prices: Admission is free for children 8 and under, as well as between October and Easter break, and every Monday throughout the year. Please inquire about adult ticket prices.

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