Set in Stone

Arrangements of rocks and stones can be found all over Lanzarote, but before you start building that cairn or writing “I Love You” with pebbles for a selfie, think twice about what you’re doing.

Stones are the foundation of Lanzarote’s wildlife

Recently, the association Juntos Somos Biosfera launched a beach-cleaning operation at Las Coloradas in Playa Blanca, collecting plastic waste and other rubbish, but also breaking up the shapes and words that visitors have created out of stones on the beach.

The association explained its action, saying “The existence of plant life in zones of high salinity is strongly linked to the presence of rocks and stones. This in turn attracts insects and small reptiles that use the rocks as shelter. While it may seem harmless to alter these natural habitats, it causes more damage than most of us realise.”

If you find a rock on top of another rock on Lanzarote, you never know whether it was put there yesterday or hundreds of years ago. Arrangements of stone date to prehistory. The mojón, a small cairn of stones, is a landmark that is still used in rural areas to mark out property boundaries, and is one of the most ancient visible forms of human interaction with nature. It is believed that the ancient Maho natives of the island also built stone walls to mark burial places, and remains of their ancient stone huts can still be seen at Zonzamas.

Read more...
 

More recent messages and shapes created in stone can also be found all over Lanzarote. Several can be seen at the foot of Montaña Corona/Tinaguache outside Costa Teguise, and the crater of Volcán del Cuervo was also a popular place for mystical stone arrangements until its recent renovation.

However, none of these activities are regarded with approval by local authorities, and stones are more protected than many think. Creating patterns out of existing stones is theoretically prosecutable as an offence against the island’s heritage, although this would require the police discovering a culprit red-handed.

The environmental damage created is not just to wildlife. There is also the possibility that moving stones could damage archeological sites, and it is not just residents on the island who are annoyed by finding stone messages saying “X loves Y” written in places where they expected to see a wild landscape.

Stones are also frequently confiscated at the airport, where notices clearly warn visitors that taking them home as souvenirs is not permitted. This, however, is only a crime if the rocks can be shown to have been extracted from a National Park, something that is usually impossible to establish.