The earliest traces of human occupation date from 2100 B.C. Since that time up to the arrival of the Romans in 123 B.C., the island’s Prehistory unfolded in various stages. One of Menorca’s most emblematic buildings, found only on the island, are the “navetas”, collective burial monuments containing up to a hundred individuals together with their grave goods, like the Es Tudons naveta near Ciutadella, with remains dating back mainly to the 9th century B.C. The “talayots”, conical dry stone towers, were built between 1000 and 700 B.C. Their main purpose was to keep watch over the surrounding area, as well as to provide a focal point for the communities living around them. During this time, known as the Talayotic period, burial caves were dug out of the cliffs in coves and ravines like the Calascoves necropolis near Alaior. The oldest are small, rounded or oval-shaped and are located in elevated areas that are difficult to reach. The post-Talayotic period started in 650 B.C. This was the time when the “taula” sanctuaries, Menorca’s most unique and distinctive constructions, were built. The enclosures are built on a horseshoe-shaped base with a concave front. They were used for human and soil fertility rituals, involving the sacrifice of domestic animals, wine libations and the symbolic breakage of amphorae.
Evidence shows that fire played a ritual and symbolic role in all these monuments. The circular houses built in the settlements were about 75-79 square metres in size. The largest known dwelling of this kind is the “Círculo Cartailhac” in the Torre d’en Galmés settlement in Alaior and dates from the 2nd century B.C. The occupants cooked, did their weaving, made cheese and milled cereal all under the same roof. The houses consisted of a central patio area, rooms with dividing doorways, a fireplace and a larder. They were built from large blocks of stone and the roof was made of wooden beams, earth and small stones. The building attached to one side of the houses is known as the hypostyle room because of the huge interlinked stone slabs forming the roof and held up by pillars. It was used as a store.
The islanders made their own handcrafted pottery using rudimentary ovens and they also produced bronze tools and utensils. They did not use coins for trading and they left no markings or rock paintings. They had no use for gold or silver as their most valuable items were made of bronze and iron. In their earliest period they built strong trading bonds with Central Europe and later with commercial cities along the Mediterranean coast.