A megalith is a large stone that has been used to construct a structure or monument, either alone or together with other stones. The word megalithic describes structures made of such large stones without the use of mortar or concrete, representing periods of prehistory characterised by such constructions. For later periods, the word monolith, with an overlapping meaning, is more likely to be used.
The word megalith comes from the Ancient Greek μέγας (transliteration mégas, meaning "great") and λίθος (transliteration líthos meaning "stone"). Megalith also denotes one or more rocks hewn in definite shapes for special purposes. It has been used to describe buildings built by people from many parts of the world living in many different periods. The term was first used in reference to Stonehenge by Algernon Herbert in 1849. A variety of large stones are seen as megaliths, with the most widely known megaliths not being tombs. The construction of these structures took place mainly in the Neolithic period (though earlier Mesolithic examples are known) and continued into the Chalcolithic period and the Bronze Age.
At a number of sites in eastern Turkey, large ceremonial complexes from the 9th millennium BC have been discovered. They belong to the incipient phases of agriculture and animal husbandry. Large circular structures involving carved megalithic orthostats are a typical feature; e.g. at Nevalı Çori and Göbekli Tepe. Although these structures are the most ancient megalithic structures known so far, it is not clear that any of the European megalithic traditions (see below) are actually derived from them. At Göbekli Tepe, four stone circles have been excavated from an estimated 20. Some measure up to 30 metres across. As well as human figures, the stones carry a variety of carved reliefs depicting boars, foxes, lions, birds, snakes and scorpions.
Dolmens and standing stones have been found in large areas of the Middle East starting at the Turkish border in the north of Syria close to Aleppo, southwards down to Yemen. They can be encountered in Lebanon, Syria, Iran, Israel, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. The largest concentration can be found in southern Syria and along the Jordan Rift Valley, however they are being threatened with destruction. They date from the late Chalcolithic/Early Bronze Age. Megaliths have also been found on Kharg Island and pirazmian in Iran, at Barda Balka in Iraq.
The most concentrated occurrence of dolmens in particular is in a large area on both sides of the Jordan Rift Valley, with greater predominance on the eastern side. They occur first and foremost on the Golan Heights, the Hauran, and in Jordan, which probably has the largest concentration of dolmen in the Middle East. In Saudi Arabia, only very few dolmen have been identified so far in the Hejaz. They seem, however, to re-emerge in Yemen in small numbers, and thus could indicate a continuous tradition related to those of Somalia and Ethiopia.
The standing stone has a very ancient tradition in the Middle East, dating back from Mesopotamian times. Although not always 'megalithic' in the true sense, they occur throughout the Orient, and can reach 5 metres or more in some cases (such as Ader in Jordan). This phenomenon can also be traced through many passages from the Old Testament, such as those related to Jacob, the grandson of Abraham, who poured oil over a stone that he erected after his famous dream in which angels climbed to heaven (Genesis 28:10-22). Jacob is also described as putting up stones at other occasions, whereas Moses erected twelve pillars symbolizing the tribes of Israel. The tradition of venerating (standing) stones continued in Nabatean times and is reflected in, e.g., the Islamic rituals surrounding the Kaaba and nearby pillars. Related phenomena, such as cupholes, rock-cut tombs and circles also occur in the Middle East.
The most common type of megalithic construction in Europe is the portal tomb – a chamber consisting of upright stones (orthostats) with one or more large flat capstones forming a roof. Many of these, though by no means all, contain human remains, but it is debatable whether use as burial sites was their primary function. The megalithic structures in the northwest of France are believed to be the oldest in Europe based on radiocarbon dating. Though generally known as dolmens, the term most accepted by archaeologists is portal tomb. However many local names exist, such as anta in Galicia and Portugal, stazzone in Sardinia, hunebed in the Netherlands, Hünengrab in Germany, dysse in Denmark, and cromlech in Wales. It is assumed that most portal tombs were originally covered by earthen mounds.
The second-most-common tomb type is the passage grave. It normally consists of a square, circular, or cruciform chamber with a slabbed or corbelled roof, accessed by a long, straight passageway, with the whole structure covered by a circular mound of earth. Sometimes it is also surrounded by an external stone kerb. Prominent examples include the sites of Brú na Bóinne and Carrowmore in Ireland, Maes Howe in Orkney, and Gavrinis in France.
The third tomb type is a diverse group known as gallery graves. These are axially arranged chambers placed under elongated mounds. The Irish court tombs, British long barrows, and German Steinkisten belong to this group.
Another type of megalithic monument, the single standing stone, or menhir as it is known in France, is very common throughout Europe, where some 50,000 examples have been noted. Some of these are thought to have an astronomical function as a marker or foresight. In some areas, long and complex alignments of such stones exist, the largest known example being located at Carnac in Brittany, France.
In parts of Britain and Ireland a relatively common type of megalithic construction is the stone circle, of which examples include Stonehenge, Avebury, Ring of Brodgar and Beltany. These, too, display evidence of astronomical alignments, both solar and lunar. Stonehenge, for example, is famous for its solstice alignment. Examples of stone circles are also found in the rest of Europe. The circle at Lough Gur, near Limerick in Ireland has been dated to the Beaker period, approximately contemporaneous with Stonehenge. The stone circles are assumed to be of later date than the tombs, straddling the Neolithic and the Bronze Ages.
Megalithic tombs are aboveground burial chambers, built of large stone slabs (megaliths) laid on edge and covered with earth or other, smaller stones. They are a type of chamber tomb, and the term is used to describe the structures built across Atlantic Europe, the Mediterranean, and neighbouring regions, mostly during the Neolithic period, by Neolithic farming communities. They differ from the contemporary long barrows through their structural use of stone.
There is a huge variety of megalithic tombs. The free-standing single chamber dolmens and portal dolmens found in Brittany, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, Sweden, Wales, and elsewhere consist of a large flat stone supported by three, four, or more standing stones. They were covered by a stone cairn or earth barrow.
In Italy, dolmens can be found especially in Sardinia. There are more than 100 dolmen dating to the Neolithic (3500–2700 BC) and the most famous is called Dolmen di Sa Coveccada (near Mores ). During the Bronze Age, the Nuragic civilization built c. 800 Giants' grave, a type of megalithic gallery grave that can be found throughout Sardinia with different structures. The earliest megalithic tombs in Sardinia are the circular graves of the so-called Arzachena culture, also found in Corsica, southern France and eastern Spain.
Dolmen are also in Apulia and in Sicily. In this latter region, they are small structures located in Mura Pregne (Palermo), Sciacca (Agrigento), Monte Bubbonia (Caltanissetta), Butera (Caltanissetta), Cava Lazzaro (Siracusa), Cava dei Servi (Ragusa), Avola (Siracusa), Argimusco in Montalbano Elicona (Messina). Dating to the early Bronze Age (2200–1800 BC), the prehistoric Sicilian buildings were covered by a circular mound of earth. In the dolmen of Cava dei Servi, the archaeologists found numerous human bone fragments and some splinters of Castelluccian ceramics (Early Bronze Age) which confirmed the burial purpose of the artefact.
Examples with outer areas, not used for burial, are also known. The Court Cairns of southwest Scotland and northern Ireland, the Severn-Cotswold tombs of southwest England and the Transepted gallery graves of the Loire region in France share many internal features, although the links between them are not yet fully understood. That they often have antechambers or forecourts is thought to imply a desire on the part of the builders to emphasize a special ritual or physical separation of the dead from the living.
The passage graves of Orkney, Ireland's Boyne Valley, and north Wales are even more complex and impressive, with cross-shaped arrangements of chambers and passages. The workmanship on the stone blocks at Maeshowe for example is unknown elsewhere in northwest Europe at the time.
Megalithic tombs appear to have been used by communities for the long-term deposition of the remains of their dead, and some seem to have undergone alteration and enlargement. The organization and effort required to erect these large stones suggest that the societies concerned placed great emphasis on the proper treatment of their dead. The ritual significance of the tombs is supported by the presence of megalithic art carved into the stones at some sites. Hearths and deposits of pottery and animal bone found by archaeologists around some tombs also implies that some form of burial feast or sacrificial rites took place there.
Further examples of megalithic tombs include the stalled cairn at Midhowe in Orkney and the passage grave at Bryn Celli Ddu on Anglesey. There are also extensive grave sites with up to 60 megaliths at Louisenlund and Gryet on the Danish island of Bornholm. Despite its name, the Stone Tomb in Ukraine was not a tomb but rather a sanctuary.
In association with the megalithic constructions across Europe, there are often large earthworks of various designs – ditches and banks (like the Dorset Cursus), broad terraces, circular enclosures known as henges, and frequently artificial mounds such as Silbury Hill in England and Monte d'Accoddi in Sardinia (the prehistoric step pyramid) . A lot of spirals are found through of Sardinia: the best known is Perda Pinta of Mamoiada.
It seems that spirals were an important motif for the megalith builders (see Megalithic Temples of Malta). They have been found carved into megalithic structures all over Europe, along with other symbols such as lozenges, eye-patterns, zigzags in various configurations, and cup and ring marks. While not a written script in the modern sense of the term, these symbols are considered to have conveyed meaning to their creators, and are remarkably consistent across the whole of Europe.
In Europe megaliths are, in general, constructions erected during the Neolithic or late stone age and Chalcolithic or Copper Age (4500–1500 BC). The megalithic structures of Malta are believed to be the oldest in Europe. Perhaps the most famous megalithic structure is Stonehenge in England. In Sardinia, in addition to dolmens, menhirs and circular graves there are also more than 8000 megalithic structure made by a Nuragic civilisation, called Nuraghe: buildings similar to towers (sometimes with really complex structures) made using only rocks. They are often near giant's grave or the other megalithic monuments.
The French Comte de Caylus was the first to describe the Carnac stones. Pierre Jean-Baptiste Legrand d'Aussy introduced the terms menhir and dolmen, both taken from the Breton language, into antiquarian terminology. He mistakenly interpreted megaliths as gallic tombs. In Britain, the antiquarians Aubrey and Stukeley conducted early research into megaliths. In 1805, Jacques Cambry published a book called Monuments celtiques, ou recherches sur le culte des Pierres, précédées d'une notice sur les Celtes et sur les Druides, et suivies d'Etymologie celtiques, where he proposed a Celtic stone cult. This unproven connection between druids and megaliths has haunted the public imagination ever since. In Belgium, there are the Wéris megaliths at Wéris, a little town situated in the Ardennes. In the Netherlands, megalithic structures can be found in the northeast of the country, mostly in the province of Drenthe. Knowth is a passage grave of the Brú na Bóinne neolithic complex in Ireland, dating from c. 3500–3000 BC. It contains more than a third of the total number of examples of megalithic art in all Europe, with over 200 decorated stones found during excavations.
Nabta Playa at the southwest corner of the western Egyptian desert was once a large lake in the Nubian Desert, located 500 miles south of modern-day Cairo. By the 5th millennium BC, the peoples in Nabta Playa had fashioned an astronomical device that accurately marks the summer solstice. Findings indicate that the region was occupied only seasonally, likely only in the summer when the local lake filled with water for grazing cattle. There are other megalithic stone circles in the southwestern desert.
Namoratunga, a group of megaliths dated 300 BC, was used by Cushitic-speaking people as an alignment with star systems tuned to a lunar calendar of 354 days. This discovery was made by B. N. Lynch and L. H. Robins of Michigan State University.
Additionally, Tiya in central Ethiopia has a number old megaliths. Some of these ancient structures feature engravings, and the area is a World Heritage Site. Megaliths are also found within the Valley of Marvels in the East Hararghe area.
Megalithic burials are found in Northeast and Southeast Asia. They are found mainly in the Korean Peninsula. They are also found in the Liaoning, Shandong, and Zhejiang in China, the East Coast of Taiwan, Kyūshū and Shikoku in Japan, Đồng Nai Province in Vietnam and South Asia. Some living megalithic traditions are found on the island of Sumba and Nias in Indonesia. The greatest concentration of megalithic burials is in Korea. Archaeologists estimate that there are 15,000 to 100,000 southern megaliths in the Korean Peninsula. Typical estimates hover around the 30,000 mark for the entire peninsula, which in itself constitutes some 40% of all dolmens worldwide (see Dolmen).
Northeast Asian megalithic traditions originated in northeast China, in particular the Liao River basin. The practice of erecting megalithic burials spread quickly from the Liao River Basin and into the Korean Peninsula, where the structure of megaliths is geographically and chronologically distinct. The earliest megalithic burials are called "northern" or "table-style" because they feature an above-ground burial chamber formed by heavy stone slabs that form a rectangular cist. An oversized capstone is placed over the stone slab burial chamber, giving the appearance of a table-top. These megalithic burials date to the early part of the Mumun pottery period (c. 1500–850 BC) and are distributed, with a few exceptions, north of the Han River. Few northern-style megaliths in northeast China contain grave goods such as Liaoning bronze daggers, prompting some archaeologists to interpret the burials as the graves of chiefs or preeminent individuals. However, whether a result of grave-robbery or intentional mortuary behaviour, most northern megaliths contain no grave goods.
Southern-style megalithic burials are distributed in the southern Korean Peninsula. It is thought that most of them date to the latter part of the Early Mumun or to the Middle Mumun Period. Southern-style megaliths are typically smaller in scale than northern megaliths. The interment area of southern megaliths has an underground burial chamber made of earth or lined with thin stone slabs. A massive capstone is placed over the interment area and is supported by smaller propping stones. Most of the megalithic burials on the Korean Peninsula are of the southern type.
As with northern megaliths, southern examples contain few, if any, artifacts. However, a small number of megalithic burials contain fine red-burnished pottery, bronze daggers, polished groundstone daggers, and greenstone ornaments. Southern megalithic burials are often found in groups, spread out in lines that are parallel with the direction of streams. Megalithic cemeteries contain burials that are linked together by low stone platforms made from large river cobbles. Broken red-burnished pottery and charred wood found on these platforms has led archaeologists to hypothesize that these platform were sometimes used for ceremonies and rituals. The capstones of many southern megaliths have 'cup-marks' carvings. A small number of capstones have human and dagger representations.
These megaliths are distinguished from other types by the presence of a burial shaft, sometimes up to 4 m in depth, which is lined with large cobbles. A large capstone is placed over the burial shaft without propping stones. Capstone-style megaliths are the most monumental type in the Korean Peninsula, and they are primarily distributed near or on the south coast of Korea. It seems that most of these burials date to the latter part of the Middle Mumun (c. 700–550 BC), and they may have been built into the early part of the Late Mumun. An example is found near modern Changwon at Deokcheon-ni, where a small cemetery contained a capstone burial (No. 1) with a massive, rectangularly shaped, stone and earthen platform. Archaeologists were not able to recover the entire feature, but the low platform was at least 56×18 m in size.
The Indonesian archipelago is the host of Austronesian megalith cultures both past and present. Living megalith cultures can be found on Nias, an isolated island off the western coast of North Sumatra, the Batak people in the interior of North Sumatra, on Sumba island in East Nusa Tenggara and also Toraja people from the interior of South Sulawesi. These megalith cultures remained preserved, isolated and undisturbed well into the late 19th century.
Several megalith sites and structures are also found across Indonesia. Menhirs, dolmens, stone tables, and ancestral stone statues were discovered in various sites in Java, Sumatra, Sulawesi, and the Lesser Sunda Islands.
Megaliths in South Asia are dated before 3000 BC, with recent findings dated back to 5000 BC in southern India. Megaliths are found in almost all parts of South Asia. There is also a broad time evolution with the megaliths in central India and the upper Indus valley where the oldest megaliths are found, while those in the east are of much later date. A large fraction of these are assumed to be associated with burial or post burial rituals, including memorials for those whose remains may or may not be available. The case-example is that of Brahmagiri, which was excavated by Wheeler (1975) and helped establish the culture sequence in south Indian prehistory. However, there is another distinct class of megaliths that do not seem to be associated with burials.
In South Asia, megaliths of all kinds are noted; these vary from Menhirs, Rock-cut burial, chamber tomb, dolmens, stone alignment, stone circles and anthropomorphic figures. These are broadly classified into two (potentially overlapping) classes (after Moorti, 1994, 2008): Sepulchral (containing remains of the dead), or memorial stones where mortal remains along with funerary objects are placed; and Non-sepulchral including large patterned placement of stones over a wide area. The 'non-sepulchral' type is associated with astronomy and cosmology in South Asia and in other parts of the world (Menon and Vahia, 2010).
In the context of prehistoric anthropomorphic figures in India, (Rao 1988/1999, Upinder Singh 2008) note that it is unclear what these giant anthropomorphs symbolize. They usually occur in association with megalithic monuments and are located in megalithic burial grounds, and may have been connected with ancestor worship.
Megaliths occur in many parts of Melanesia, mainly in Milne Bay Province, Fiji and Vanuatu. Few excavations has been made and little is known about the structures. The megalith tomb Otuyam at Kiriwina has been dated to be approximately 2,000 years old which indicates that megaliths are an old custom in Melanesia. However very few megaliths have been dated. The constructions have been used for different rituals. For example, tombs, sacrifices and rituals of fecundity. Dance sites exist next to some megaliths. In some places in Melanesia rituals are continued to be held at the sacred megalith sites. The fact that the beliefs are alive is a reason that most excavations have been stopped at the sites.
Megalithic structures in Micronesia reach their most developed form on the islands of Pohnpei and Kosrae in the Eastern Caroline Islands. On these two islands there was extensive use of prismatic basalt columns to build upland building complexes such as those at Salapwuk on Pohnpei and Menka on Kosrae. These building sites, remote from the ocean, appear to have been abandoned early. Megalithic building then shifted to constructing networks of artificial islands on the coast that supported a multitude of common, royal and religious structures. Dating of the structures is difficult but the complex at Nan Madol on Pohpei was probably inhabited as early as 800 c.a. probably as an artificial islands with the more elaborate buildings and religious structures added to the site from 1000–1400 AD.
Megaliths were used for a variety of purposes ranging from serving as boundary markers of territory, to a reminder of past events, and to being part of the society's religion. Common motifs including crooks and axes seem to be symbols of political power, much as the crook was a symbol of Egyptian pharaohs. Amongst the indigenous peoples of India, Malaysia, Polynesia, North Africa, North America, and South America, the worship of these stones, or the use of these stones to symbolize a spirit or deity, is a possibility. In the early 20th century, some scholars believed that all megaliths belonged to one global "Megalithic culture" (hyperdiffusionism, e. g. ‘the Manchester school’, by Grafton Elliot Smith and William James Perry), but this has long been disproved by modern dating methods. Nor is it believed any longer that there was a pan-European megalithic culture, although regional cultures existed, even within such a small areas as the British Isles. The archaeologist Euan Mackie wrote, "Likewise it cannot be doubted that important regional cultures existed in the Neolithic period and can be defined by different kinds of stone circles and local pottery styles (Ruggles & Barclay 2000: figure 1). No-one has ever been rash enough to claim a nationwide unity of all aspects of Neolithic archaeology!"
The types of megalithic structure can be divided into two categories, the "polylithic type" and the "monolithic type." Different megalithic structures include:
British megalith architecture is the study of those ancient cultures that built megalithic sites on the British Isles, including the research and documentation of these sites. The classification sometimes used of these cultures based on geological criteria is problematic.
The neolithic sites of Britain are amongst the most varied in the prehistory of Europe. Although (geologically) different from "megalithic" sites, the earthen long barrows in East England are grouped with them from a cultural historical perspective. The Medway tombs and the Derbyshire chamber tombs (Five Wells) occupy a special position as examples of megalithic sites in East England. The north-south boundary between earthen sites and stone sites in England and Scotland is crossed at three points to the east by the seven different types of megalith site types (in the so-called mixed regions).
The activities of megalithic cultures in the region dates back to prehistoric times. There are many parallels between the prehistoric architecture of Ireland and the now British regions of Cornwall (including the Isles of Scilly), the Isle of Man, Wales and Scotland; but there are somewhat greater differences between those and the sites in England and, particularly, the Channel Islands. Although almost all regions have endemic megalith types, but they also usually have unique examples (e.g. the chamber tomb of Glyn) as well as forms that they share with one or two neighbouring regions.
Exemplary in this respect are the "cruciform passage" sites of the Maes Howe type on Orkney (in Ireland e.g. Knowth and Newgrange), whose distribution extends as far as the Scilly Isles and Devonshire in England. In addition to the great wealth of variety in Scotland, favoured by its geography, there are also sites on the Scottish islands with individual characteristics.
Neolithic monuments are an expression of the culture and ideology of Neolithic societies. Their origin and function are considered characteristic of social development.Carved stone balls
Carved stone balls are petrospheres dated from the late Neolithic to possibly as late as the Iron Age mainly found in Scotland, but also elsewhere in Britain and Ireland. They are usually round and rarely oval, and of fairly uniform size at around 2.75 inches or 7 cm across, with 3 to 160 protruding knobs on the surface. They range from having no ornamentation (apart from the knobs) to extensive and highly varied engraved patterns. A wide range of theories have been produced to explain their use or significance, with none gaining very wide acceptance.
They are not to be confused with the much larger smooth round stone spheres of Costa Rica.Chovvanur burial cave
Chowannur Burial Cave is a prehistoric Megalith rock cut cave situated in Chowannur, of Thrissur District of Kerala. The cave can be accessed from single entry and its chamber is circular. The cave has a single chamber and two benches. The Archaeological Survey of India has declared this cave as centrally protected monument.Cumberland point
A Cumberland point is a lithic projectile point, attached to a spear and used as a hunting tool. These sturdy points were intended for use as thrusting weapons and employed by various mid-Paleo-Indians (c. 11,000 BP) in the Southeastern US in the killing of large game mammals.El Oso, Ávila
El Oso is a municipality (pop. 229) in the Spanish province of Ávila, in the autonomous community of Castile-Leon.Great dolmen
The great dolmen or grand dolmen (German: Großdolmen, Danish: Stordysse) is a type of megalithic site of the Funnelbeaker culture (TBK) that occurs in Nordic megalith architecture, primarily in the east of what is now German Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, and which has two different types of entrance. Neolithic monuments are features of the culture and ideology of Neolithic communities. Their evolution and function act as indicators of social development. The type of site, called Stordysse in Danish, does not follow the criteria listed below. In Germany, dolmens with three or more capstones are described as great dolmens and are divided into:
Great dolmens with an antechamber (Vorraum)
Great dolmens with a porch (Windfang)The porch dolmen is mainly found on the island of Rügen and on the mainland opposite the island. The antechamber dolmen is found southeast of that, between Demmin and the island of Usedom. Several variant, but very rare examples recall the extended or polygonal dolmen types. In Mecklenburg there are 146 great dolmens, of which Ewald Schuldt has investigated 44. There are also two great dolmens in Schleswig-Holstein (Wees, Flensburg county and in Nebel auf Amrum), several in western Lower Saxony, but quite a few in Saxony-Anhalt (e.g. Lüdelsen 3).
Since the width of northern megalith sites is limited due to the source material used, the main design aim of their longitudinal extension was an effort to increase the size of the chambers. Great dolmens reach an average interior size of 14 cubic metres, a scale only otherwise matched by that of the gallery and passage grave. Great dolmens have up to five capstones lying on eight to twelve supporting stones. Several great dolmens were extended using wide piers (Zwischenmauerwerk), on which, in certain cases, even capstones may have been placed.
Like passage graves, great dolmens are a type of layout, in which the centre capstones were sometimes placed in a bay configuration (Jochbauweise, see picture). Whilst, initially, the roof was only built in such a way that its structural stability was based on a three-point support, in the later bay designs, a capstone could be supported on just two uprights (forming a single bay), the three stones being built as one unit, like a trilithon.
The 44 great dolmens that have been investigated were found in various configurations. Five were surrounded by rectangular and 8 by trapezoidal frames of standing stones; 4 were buried under circular mounds, but the majority, 26, were under mounds covered by boulders. In one case, the type of mound was not known because it had been removed. The trapezoidally-framed dolmens (e.g. Dwasieden, Lancken-Granitz I, Kruckow, Nadelitz, Pöglitz, Poggedorf Forest) have guardian stones, sometimes at both ends. The great dolmen of Gaarzerhof, which initially lay within a very short rectangular frame, was eventually covered with a circular mound.Grinding slab
In archaeology, a grinding slab is a ground stone artifact generally used to grind plant materials into usable size, though some slabs were used to shape other ground stone artifacts. Some grinding stones are portable; others are not and, in fact, may be part of a stone outcropping.
Grinding slabs used for plant processing typically acted as a coarse surface against which plant materials were ground using a portable hand stone, or mano ("hand" in Spanish). Variant grinding slabs are referred to as metates or querns, and have a ground-out bowl. Like all ground stone artifacts, grinding slabs are made of large-grained materials such as granite, basalt, or similar tool stones.Megaliths in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern
In the area of present-day Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany, up to 5,000 megalith tombs were erected as burial sites by people of the Neolithic Funnelbeaker (TRB) culture. More than 1,000 of them are preserved today and protected by law. Though varying in style and age, megalith structures are common in Western Europe, with those in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern belonging to the youngest and easternmost—further east, in the modern West Pomeranian Voivodeship of Poland, monuments erected by the TRB people did not include lithic structures, while they do in the south (Brandenburg), west (Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein) and north (Denmark).
Though megaliths are distributed throughout the state, their structure differs between regions. Most megaliths are dolmens, often located within a circular or trapezoid frame of singular standing stones. Locally, the dolmens are known as Hünengräber ("giants' tombs") or Großsteingräber ("large stone tombs"), their framework is known as Hünenbett ("giants' bed") if trapezoid or Bannkreis ("spellbind circle") if circular.
The materials used for their construction are glacial erratics and red sandstones. 144 tombs have been excavated since 1945. The megaliths were used not only by the bearers of the TRB culture, but also by their successors, and have entered local folklore.Megaliths in the Urals
In recent years, many megaliths have been discovered in the Urals: dolmens, menhirs and a large megalithic cultic complex on Vera Island.Nordic megalith architecture
Nordic megalith architecture is an ancient architectural style found in Northern Europe, especially Scandinavia and North Germany, that involves large slabs of stone arranged to form a structure. It emerged in northern Europe, predominantly between 3500 and 2800 BC. It was primarily a product of the Funnelbeaker culture. Amongst its researchers, Ewald Schuldt in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania excavated over 100 sites of different types - simple dolmens, extended dolmens – also called rectangular dolmens – passage graves, great dolmens, unchambered long barrows and stone cists - between 1964 and 1974. In addition, there are polygonal dolmens and types that emerged later, for example, the Grabkiste and Röse. This nomenclature, which specifically derives from the German, is not used in Scandinavia where these sites are categorised by other, more general, terms, as dolmens (Dysser, Döser), passage graves (Ganggrifter, Jættestuen) and stone cists (Hellekister, Hällkista).
Neolithic monuments are a feature of the culture and ideology of Neolithic communities. Their appearance and function serves as an indicator of their social development.Oldendorfer Totenstatt
The Oldendorfer Totenstatt is a group of six burial mounds and megalith sites in Oldendorf north of Amelinghausen in the valley of the River Luhe in Lüneburg district in the German state of Lower Saxony. It consists of dolmens (sites 1, 3 and 4) and tumuli (sites 2, 5 and 6).Rectangular dolmen
A rectangular dolmen (German: Rechteckdolmen), extended dolmen (German: erweiteter Dolmen) or enlarged dolmen is a specific type of megalith, rectangular in shape, with upright sidestones and, usually, two capstones. The term rectangular dolmen was coined by Ekkehard Aner and is used especially in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein, where dolmens with this type of ground plan primarily occur. A more precise term, however, is extended dolmen, used by Ewald Schuldt and Ernst Sprockhoff, because these types of dolmen also occur with trapezoidal ground plans (e.g. the Gnewitz).
Neolithic monuments are an expression of the culture and ideology of neolithic communities. Their emergence and function are a hallmark of social development.Riesenstein (Wolfershausen)
The Riesenstein (English: giant's stone) is a megalith or menhir, which is situated close to the village of Wolfershausen. It is the largest megalith in the district of Schwalm-Eder-Kreis, Hesse, Germany.Rudston Monolith
The Rudston Monolith at over 7.6 metres (25 ft) is the tallest megalith (standing stone) in the United Kingdom. It is situated in the churchyard in the village of Rudston (grid reference TA098678) in the East Riding of Yorkshire.Smythe's Megalith
Smythe's Megalith, also known as the Warren Farm Chamber, was a chambered long barrow near the village of Aylesford in the south-eastern English county of Kent. Probably constructed in the 4th millennium BCE, during Britain's Early Neolithic period, it was discovered in 1822, at which point it was dismantled. Built out of earth and at least five local sarsen megaliths, the long barrow consisted of a roughly rectangular earthen tumulus with a stone chamber in its eastern end. Human remains were deposited into this chamber.
Archaeologists have established that the monument was built by pastoralist communities shortly after the introduction of agriculture to Britain from continental Europe. Although representing part of an architectural tradition of long barrow building widespread across Neolithic Europe, Smythe's Megalith belonged to a localised regional variant produced in the vicinity of the River Medway, now known as the Medway Megaliths. Several of these still survive: Coldrum Long Barrow, Addington Long Barrow, and Chestnuts Long Barrow are on the river's western side, while Kit's Coty House, the Little Kit's Coty House, and the Coffin Stone are on the eastern side nearer to Smythe's Megalith. Close to the site of the lost monument is the White Horse Stone, a standing stone that may have once been part of another chambered long barrow.
The site may have been ransacked during the Middle Ages, as other Medway Megaliths were. By the early 19th century it was buried beneath soil, largely due to millennia of hillwash coming down from the adjacent Blue Bell Hill. In 1822, it was discovered by farm labourers ploughing the land; the local antiquarians Clement Smythe and Thomas Charles were called in to examine it. Shortly after, the labourers pulled away the stones and dispersed most of the human remains, destroying the monument. Smythe and Charles produced, but did not publish, reports on their findings, and these have been discussed by archaeologists since the mid-20th century.Stone row
A stone row (or stone alignment), is a linear arrangement of upright, parallel megalithic standing stones set at intervals along a common axis or series of axes, usually dating from the later Neolithic or Bronze Age. Rows may be individual or grouped, and three or more stones aligned can constitute a stone row.Unchambered long barrow
The unchambered long barrow earthen long barrow, non-megalithic long barrow or non-megalithic mound (German: kammerloses Hünenbett or Hünenbett ohne Kammer), is a type of long barrow found across the British Isles, in a belt of land in Brittany, and in northern Europe as far east as the River Vistula (the Niedźwiedź type graves - NTT). The term "unchambered" means that there is no stone chamber within the stone enclosure. In Great Britain they are often known as non-megalithic long barrows or unchambered long cairns.
Since the 1980s, barrows of the Passy type, part of the Cerny culture, have been discovered in the French département of Essonne in the Paris Basin. These are not, however, megalithic structures.
Neolithic monuments are an expression of the culture and ideology of neolithic communities. Their emergence and function are a hallmark of social development.Wotanstein (Hesse)
The Wotanstein (English: Wotan's stone), also known as 'Wodanstein' or earlier on 'Malstein', is a small megalith or menhir situated close to the village of Maden, Schwalm-Eder-Kreis, Hesse, Germany.
Middle Eastern megaliths