Ancient Megalith

Megalith means structures made of such large stones, utilizing an interlocking system without the use of mortar or cement. The word megalith comes from the Ancient Greek μέγας megas meaning great, and λίθος lithos meaning stone. "Megalith" also denotes an item consisting of rock(s) hewn in definite shapes for special purposes. Most specifically in reference to stone structures erected for ceremonial, astronomical, religious purposes, and as monuments. It has been used to describe buildings built by people from many parts of the world living in many different periods. A variety of large stones are seen as megaliths, with the most widely known megaliths not being sepulchral. The construction of these structures took place mainly in the Neolithic (though earlier Mesolithic examples are known) and continued into the Chalcolithic and Bronze Age.

Around Carnac, in the Brittany region of France, stand more than 4,000 stones dating back 6,000 years. Some of them stand individually, some are aligned in rows, and some mark the sites of chambered graves beneath nearby mounds. Intricate burial chambers in Ireland, like many of the 12,000 ancient chambered burial sites beneath mounds in northern Europe, have arrangements of stone or markings that correspond with lunar and solar cycles. All of those ancient structures and arrangements of large stones are examples of a megalith. Megalith building (placing large stones in a specific site) dates back to at least 5000 B.C.E. Many of the most famous megaliths were erected between then and 1500 B.C.E. The communities that erected them eventually faded into the recesses of history, but the megaliths they left behind continue to tantalize the imagination.

Adding to the mystery of these ancient structures is the supposition that they were erected by people not credited with possessing the knowledge and technology needed to move massive stones. Even if large labor forces were available, most megalithic structures demanded keen architectural and mathematical skills for planning and erection. Additionally, many ancient megaliths seem to have had sophisticated uses as solar and lunar calendars and as astronomical observatories. In fact, the discipline of archaeoastronomy (the study of astronomy among ancient societies) has become a burgeoning field of study during the past few decades, with ancient megaliths often serving as the focus of the discipline.

Megalithic tomb, Mane Braz, Brittany

As ancient megaliths are studied, a greater appreciation for the skills and knowledge of prehistoric civilizations comes forth. Missing pieces of the puzzle of human development remain, however, fueling more speculation and theories. Perhaps survivors from vanished civilizations passed knowledge on to inhabitants of distant lands. As the old myths sometimes suggest, the megalith builders themselves may have known magic secrets of levitation and of transforming and reassembling solid materials. UFO enthusiasts argue that visitors from outer space may have directed the erecting of megaliths, particularly since so many megalithic sites were devised with the intention of viewing and charting the skies above.

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 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.

Spread of megalithic architecture in Europe

In Western Europe and the Mediterranean, megaliths are generally constructions erected during the Neolithic or late stone age and Chalcolithic or Copper Age (4500-1500 BC). Perhaps the most famous megalithic structure is Stonehenge in England, although many others are known throughout the world. The French Comte de Caylus was the first to describe the Carnac stones. Legrand d'Aussy introduced the terms menhir and dolmen, both taken from the Breton language, into antiquarian terminology. He 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 completely unfounded connection between druids and megaliths has haunted the public imagination ever since. . In Belgium there is a megalithic site at Wéris, a little town situated in the Ardennes. In the Netherlands, megalithic structures can be found in the north-east of the current, 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 Western Europe, with over 200 decorated stones found during excavations.

Ancient megaliths are generally divided into five categories:
1. alignments, stones placed in rows and other non-circular shapes;
2. burial chambers, underground chambers usually covered by a mound of some kind;
3. monoliths (from the Greek; “mono” means single, “litho” is stone), single standing stones, also called menhirs;
4. monument memorials to gods or community leaders; and
5. stone circles.

The greatest concentration of aligned megaliths is in the Carnac area of Brittany, France, where megaliths are aligned in rows in three different fields. Le Menec has two stone circles at either end of 12 rows of megaliths. The tallest stones stand 13 feet in height, and the stones dwindle in size moving from west to east, totaling 1,099 megaliths. Kermario has 10 rows and 1,029 megaliths. One tall menhir, in which five serpents are engraved, serves to signal a nearby tumulus, an earthen mound that covers a chambered grave. The third field, Kerlescan, has 13 rows of aligned megaliths that form the shape of a barrel.

The megaliths of Carnac first underwent radio-carbon dating techniques in 1959. At that time it was expected the results would show the megaliths were erected during the first or second century B.C.E., for it was generally believed that the megalith builders had come from the eastern Mediterranean region from Egypt, or Mycea (a civilization that preceded ancient Greece). The radiocarbon test, however, pushed the megalith builders back as far as 4650 B.C.E. All previous theories about the origins of the Brittany megaliths were undermined. The structures originated with pre-Roman and pre-Celtic civilizations, and they were older than similar structures in the eastern Mediterranean region from which the engineering expertise to erect the megaliths was previously believed to have originated.

The question of how the megaliths were positioned at sites where they stand is baffling. Modern-day tests conducted on moving the megaliths from quarries to nearby sites showed that it was possible for the primitive societies to move and erect the megaliths using rope or simply pushing the stones. Such effort, however, would have required coordinating the labor of hundreds of workers. One test during the 1970s showed that 200 people could move a 30-ton stone two to three miles in a few days by rolling the stone over logs. Some monoliths (single blocks or large pieces of stone) are formed naturally and gain mythical importance based on their sublime appearance.

In the Australian desert stands the world’s largest monolith, Uluru (also called Ayers Rock), which reaches about a thousand feet high. Uluru is venerated by aborigines (native people of the area), who believe the ground beneath it is hollow and is a source of energy called Tjukurpa Dreamtime. According to their belief, all life as it is today is part of one vast unchanging network of relationships that can be traced to the spirit ancestors of the Dreamtime. The great spirits walked along the earth and literally sang material objects into existence. The Uluru monolith extends downward more than three miles beneath the surface. Approximately 500 million years ago it was part of the ocean floor at the center of present- day Australia.

Depending on the time of day and the atmospheric conditions, Uluru can dramatically change color, from a deep blue to glowing red. The area draws a variety of visitors, from those seeking to tap mystical energy, to tourists bussed in and out for a couple hours’ worth of viewing time. Among natural monoliths with mysterious qualities are “healing stones,” usually a large stone with a hole through it. The Men-an-Tol in Cornwall, England, is one of several examples of a stone reputed to have healing properties. According to legend, people can be cured of back and leg pains by passing through the hole in the stone

(Source : Encyclopedia of Unusual & Unexplained Things; and Wikipedia)
(Pics source : Pic1 taken from ; Pic2 taken from Pic 3 taken from

Ancient Megalith Ancient Megalith Reviewed by Tripzibit on February 11, 2009 Rating: 5


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tripzibit said...

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