An aerial view of the aqueduct.

An Enigma Wrapped in a Mystery: The Living, Growing Aqueduct of Alicún de las Torres, Granada


Not far from the Moorish splendors of the Alhambra in Granada, Spain, and close to the troglodyte cave-dwellings of the residents of Guadix, is the spectacular, living, El Toril Aqueduct. It is located across the road from the popular rural Hotel Balneario (Spa) de Alicún de las Torres, which utilizes the same warm medicinal waters carried by the aqueduct for its healing baths, treatments, and outdoor pools.

View over the gorge of Río Alhama.

View over the gorge of Río Alhama. (Tango7174/CC BY-SA 4.0)

This living, growing aqueduct is a unique water conduit, approximately 15 meters (49 feet) tall at its highest point, over three meters (10 feet) thick at its widest, and nearly a kilometer-and-a-half (0.85 mile) long. Its imposing walls are covered in exuberant vegetation—grasses and ferns, roots and vines—that make the aqueduct look like a veritable hanging garden.

How could such an amazing formation come to be? Juan Sáez, a specialist in geomancy and earth mysteries, has researched the site extensively. He explains that the design and layout of the aqueduct are human, but the construction itself depends on nature. A simple sinuous furrow, scratched into the earth with a tool, or perhaps with a hand or foot, was the starting point for the creation of the aqueduct. This unpretentious furrow formed the channel through which mineral water from the nearby thermal springs began to flow. The wavy shape provided stability, resiliency, and helped to slow the rush of water.

The Spring Waters Sustain Life

The spring water comes out of the ground at 34.5°C (94°F) and is laden with calcium sulphate and magnesium bicarbonate. Over the years, the generations, the centuries—the millennia—the precipitation and sedimentation of mineral salts gradually caused the curving channel to solidify around the edges and very, very slowly to rise in height. Seeping and overflowing water helped it to expand in width. This created El Toril Aqueduct: an immense travertine wall that continues to grow.

Perhaps 20-25 percent of the water that enters the aqueduct filters through the mineral walls and makes the vertical garden possible. An assortment of specially adapted vegetation thrives on the damp, drippy sides, and when they die, they “calcify” and thicken the accretions on the walls. The endemic plant Limonium Alicunense is only found on the aqueduct; it has mutated over untold hundreds of years and requires the salinity of the mineral water to survive.

Photo of a related Limonium plant which thrives in saline conditions, Limonium perezii at the San Francisco Botanical Garden.

Photo of a related Limonium plant which thrives in saline conditions, Limonium perezii at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. (Stan Shebs/CC BY-SA 3.0)

The channel carrying water along the top of El Toril is 40 cm (16 inches) wide and approximately 15 cms (six inches) in depth. Balneario employees have the ongoing task of clearing the channel of mineral deposits and vegetation so that the water continues to flow along the aqueduct. The channel is broken about 0.5 km (1/3 mile) from the end, and at that point the water cascades down the side, creating a beautiful waterfall.

Beautiful waterfall at the channel carrying water along the top of El Toril (Photo © Balneario of Alicún de las Torres)

Beautiful waterfall at the channel carrying water along the top of El Toril (Photo © Balneario of Alicún de las Torres)

Humans and Nature, The Living and the Dead, Working Together Harmoniously

The still-living, still-growing El Toril Aqueduct is unique, but it is not the only aqueduct in the area. The lifeless remains of four other human-assisted/nature-grown aqueducts are found in the immediate vicinity of the Balneario Spa. These four ceased to function long ago and are crumbling back into the earth from which they came. Perhaps an immense deluge of water broke through the channels, or they were destroyed through negligence or lack of maintenance. Whatever the reason, given ancient technological constraints, it would have been easier to start another aqueduct by digging a track in the soil than to repair a broken one.

READ MORE… 

This FREE PREVIEW is just a taste of the great benefits you can find at Ancient Origins Premium. 

Join us there with easy, instant access ) and reap the rewards:  NO MORE ADS, NO POPUPS, GET FREE eBOOKS, JOIN WEBINARS, EXPEDITIONS, WIN GIFT GIVEAWAYS & more!

Elyn Aviva, Ph.D., M.Div., is an independent researcher specializing in sacred sites, powerful places, comparative religion, and pilgrimage. She is author of numerous articles and over a dozen books, including Following the Milky Waynow in its second edition, which explores the meaning of pilgrimage in detail, and delves deeply into the esoteric symbols and pre-Christian shrines that lie hidden within the Way. | See more at PilgrimsProcess.com and PowerfulPlaces.com

Top Image: An aerial view of the aqueduct. (Photo © Balneario of Alicún de las Torres)

By Elyn Aviva

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Myths & Legends

A vase-scene from about 410 BC. Nimrod/Herakles, wearing his fearsome lion skin headdress, spins Noah/Nereus around and looks him straight in the eye. Noah gets the message and grimaces, grasping his scepter, a symbol of his rule - soon to be displaced in the post-Flood world by Nimrod/Herakles, whose visage reveals a stern smirk.
The Book of Genesis describes human history. Ancient Greek religious art depicts human history. While their viewpoints are opposite, the recounted events and characters match each other in convincing detail. This brief article focuses on how Greek religious art portrayed Noah, and how it portrayed Nimrod in his successful rebellion against Noah’s authority.

Human Origins

Cro-Magnon man communicating with each other and producing cave drawings
How human language began has been a question pestering researchers for centuries. One of the biggest issues with this topic is that empirical evidence is still lacking despite our great advances in...

Ancient Technology

The School of Athens
Much of modern science was known in ancient times. Robots and computers were a reality long before the 1940´s. The early Bronze Age inhabitants of the Levant used computers in stone, the Greeks in the 2nd century BC invented an analogue computer known as the Antikythera mechanism. An ancient Hindu book gives detailed instructions for the construction of an aircraft –ages before the Wright brothers. Where did such knowledge come from?

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article