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Megaliths:

Mystic Culture

April Aram
Arvin Reno Labrador
Armand Karlo Lustre
Marielle Anne Rosacay
Archaeology 2
Prof. Alfred Pawlik
March 10, 2011

In archaeology, megalith is a construction involving one or several roughly hewn stone


slabs of great size; it is usually of prehistoric antiquity. Megalithic describes structures made of
such large stones, utilizing an interlocking system without the use of mortar or cement.
Megalithic culture is a culture itself which is centered on megaliths.
These monuments are found in various parts of the world, but the best known and most
numerous are concentrated in Western Europe, including Brittany, the British Isles, Iberia, S
France, S Scandinavia, and N Germany.
Aside from the standing stones and stone heaps that are still raised occasionally as
boundary marks or memorials of personal and public events, most megalithic monuments seem
to have been erected for funerary and religious purposes.
Types:
Monolithic type - single stone slabs

Menhir
In archaeology, Menhir is the name given to the single standing stones of
Western Europe, and by extension to those of other lands. Their size varies and their
shape is rough and squared, tapering toward the top.

Stone row
Stone row 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. "Alignement", a French word, has been used to
identify standing stones rows of long processional' avenue.

Stone circle
A stone circle is a monument of standing stones arranged in a circle. The
arrangement of the stones may be in a circle, an ellipse, or more rarely a setting of four
stones laid on an arc of a circle. The size and number of stones in a 'circle' varies from
example to example.

Polylithic type - stones that may support another stone slab

Dolmen
A dolmenalso known as a portal tomb, portal grave, cromlech (Welsh), anta
(Portuguese and Galician), Hnengrab/Hnenbett (German), Adamra (Abkhazian), Ispun
(Circassian), Hunebed (Dutch), ds (Swedish), goindol (Korean) or quoitis a type of
single-chamber megalithic tomb, usually consisting of three or more upright stones
supporting a large flat horizontal capstone (table). Most date from the early Neolithic
period (4000 to 3000 BCE). Dolmens were usually covered with earth or smaller stones

to form a barrow, though in many cases that covering has weathered away, leaving only
the stone "skeleton" of the burial mound intact.

Trilithon
A trilithon (or trilith) is a structure consisting of two large vertical stones (posts)
supporting a third stone set horizontally across the top (lintel). The word trilithon is
derived from the Greek "having three stones" (tri- "three", - lithos' "stone") and was first
used by William Stukeley.

Stone ship
The Stone ship or ship setting was an early Germanic burial custom,
characteristically Scandinavian but also found in Germany and the Baltic states. The
grave or cremation burial is surrounded by tightly or loosely fit slabs or stones in the
outline of a ship. They are often found in grave fields, but are sometimes far from any
other archaeological remains. Ship settings are of varying sizes, some of monumental
proportions. The largest known is the mostly destroyed Jelling stone ship in Denmark,
which was at least 170 meters long. (1 1/2 football stadium)

Cairn
A cairn (carn in Irish, carnedd in Welsh, crn in Scots Gaelic) is a man-made pile
of stones, often in conical form. They are usually found in uplands, on moorland, on
mountaintops, or near waterways.

Callanish Stone Circle


Regarded as the Stonehenge of Scotland, the Callanish stone circle is among several
megalithic structures around the world. The stones of this structure are made of Lewisian
gneiss, since it is situated in the Callanish village on the west coast of the Isle of Lewis in the
West Isles, Scotland. This site is also called Callanish I, since there are numerous ancient
megalithic sites of similar age in the region.
It contains several sections. One part is the stone circle, which is made of 13 stones,
with a diameter of about 12 meters. Another is the central megalith. The northern part has two
parallel rows of stones that are about 80 meters long. Also, a single row is found on each of the
remaining directions.
According to archaeologists, Callanish I was dated back in the Bronze Age, around
3,000 BC, but some of its parts were constructed on a much later date. For instance, the east
row was believed to be added only around 1,800 BC.
There are a number of debates when it comes to the hypothesizing of its purpose. One
of these is that this structure was believed to be some sort of a calendar system through the
movements of the moon. It accurately marked the 18.61-year cycle of maximum lunar

declination. Also, human remains were found in the one of the tallest stones. This finding
suggests that it also served as a burial site.
According to a legend, the discovery of Callanish was by accident. It is believed before
that these gigantic rocks were buried underground. Several hundreds of years ago, a farmer
was looking for boulders that he can use for building walls. Wandering in the Callanish region,
he stumbled upon a large stone mass. As he began to dig for its base, other stones began to
appear.
Greek writers also suggested that this site played a role in the life of the god Apollo.
According Dioddorus, one of the Greek writers, Hyperboreans lived up north where there was a
circular temple and where the moon was very close to the Earth. Also, once in every 19 years,
Apollo visits this place. It's only at the latitude of the Isle of Lewis do we see the moon behave in
such a dramatic fashion of which the Greek historian wrote.
Nias
Although intensely debated, many believe that Nias culture is one of the few remaining
megalithic cultures in the world. The island of Nias is located in the west coast of Sumatra.
Because of this geographic isolation, it has a unique culture.
The people of Nias used to practice headhunting and decapitation of their enemy. The
practice of decapitation is called mangani binu. The more enemy a person killed and beheaded,
the more he is revered by his fellow Nias tribe members. It is also the measure of social status.
An example of this was the courting or proposal of a man to a woman. The man should first
bring several head of the familys enemy and offer them to the family, before the parents accept
him.
However, this practice was long forgotten. When Christian missionaries arrived, this is
one of the practices that were removed by these missionaries. But, many parents still do not
allow their children to wander by themselves in the afternoon for fear that somebody might still
practice mangani binu.
After the advent of the missionaries, the new basis for social status was stone jumping.
Men who jumped more times over the 2-meter tall stone wall is said to be more respected,
because the stone wall symbolizes challenges and problems. This also serves as a rite for the
young to enter adulthood.
Stone plays major roles in the lives of Nias people. It represents the religious, social,
eternal, devotional and conceptual values within the Nias people. It immortalizes giving birth,
marriage, social status inaugurations (owasa), elevation to divine status and even funerals.
Menhirs, tall upright stones, embody male; while, dolmens, large flat stones, embody female.
In funerals, a stone pillar is erected in front of the deceased persons home to glorify
him.
Easter Island (Rapa Nui)

Easter Island, also referred locally as Rapa Nui , is located at Easter Island, Chile.
Easter Island is over 2,000 miles from the nearest population center, (Tahiti and Chile), making it
one of the world's most famous yet least visited archaeological sites.
The large stone statues, or MOAI, for which Easter Island is world-famous, were carved
from 11001680 CE (rectified radio-carbon dates)
Although often identified as "Easter Island heads", the statues are actually complete
torsos, the figures kneeling on bent knees with their hands over their stomachs
Almost all (95%) moai were carved out of distinctive, compressed, easily worked
solidified volcanic ash or tuff found at a single site inside the extinct volcano Rano Raraku.
A total of 887 monolithic stone statues have been inventoried on the island and in museum
collections so far.
Scholars are unable to definitively explain the function and use of the moai statues.
Archaeological and iconographic analysis indicates that the statue cult was based on an
ideology of male, lineage-based authority incorporating anthropomorphic symbolism. The
statues were thus symbols of authority and power, both religious and political.
When a ceremony took place, "eyes" were placed on the Statues. The whites of the eyes
were made of coral, the iris was made of obsidian or red scoria.
Among the many secrets buried in Easter Island prehistory is the question of how the
Rapanui people transported the multi-ton statues, or moai, from their quarries to their final
ceremonial ahu sites around the island. Most center on the mystical idea that the massive
megaliths were moved using "mana," or divine power. Those who possessed mana were able to
command the moai to walk to their designated places.
The statues have been toppled and re-erected over the centuries; most of the statues
now erected around the area are the result of recent archaeological efforts.
West Kennet Long Barrow
The West Kennet Long Barrow is a prehistoric burial mound in Wiltshire, England. It is
one of the largest and best-preserved monuments of its kind in Britain. You can enter the barrow
and explore five empty stone chambers in which humans were buried from 3700 to 2000 BC.
Radiocarbon dating indicates that the West Kennet Long Barrow was used as a burial
ground for over a thousand years, from about 3700-3500 BC to 2200-2000 BC.
It is possible that each one served a clan or extended family. Thus the tombs may have
been regarded as a place of the ancestors, making the barrow a monumental and sacred site.
Interestingly, some long barrows contain no human remains at all perhaps these were
symbolic cenotaphs.
In all, the bones of about 46 individuals were buried in the chambers of the barrow. It
appears that bodies were buried in social groups: the west chamber was mainly for adult males;
the northeast and northwest chambers for mixed adults; the southeast for the old and the
southwest chamber for children.
The tombs contained grave goods of various kinds, including pottery of various kinds,
beads made of bone, stone and shells, flint tools, and animal bones.
Today, the stone chambers are open to visitors and are frequently used by modern
pagans for ceremonies.

Stonehenge
Stonehenge was built in three phases over 1,500 years, and during each phase, a new
element was added to the site. During the first phase, which began around 3,000 B.C., 56 holes
two and a half feet deep and named after John Aubrey, who discovered them more than 300
years ago were made inside a circular ditch and bank. The bank and ditch are considered a
henge, but theres only one at that site. During the second phase, aligned wooden posts were
added to the monument, and during the third, bluestones and sarsen stones were brought to the
site.
The bluestones were transported from the Preseli Mountains in southwestern Wales a
winding journey of some 250 miles. No clear archaeological evidence indicates why these
particular stones were chosen, or even how they were carried to Stonehenge a huge
undertaking given that the stones can weigh up to four tons.
Found in the inner circle of Stonehenge, the bluestones are a mixture of dolerite and
milky feldspar. (Dolerite is an intrusive volcanic rock, and forms of it can be found around the
world.) When the stones fracture, the newly exposed surface is blue. Some people do say the
stones turn blue when it rains, but the color is actually closer to green. Of the 80 or so original
bluestones, 45 are still at Stonehenge.
Many theories flooded the mystical stone. Stukeley believed that the builders (Druids) of
Stonehenge aligned the monument with the magnetic North. Although incorrect, he was the first
to attempt to connect Stonehenge and natural phenomena. Sir John Lubbock, the influential
mid-19th century archaeologist who invented the terms Paleolithic and Neolithic, was the first to
date Stonehenge as a Bronze Age site, based upon bronze objects found in nearby graves and
the fact that the occupants had been cremated. In his 1865 book, Prehistoric Times
as Illustrated by the Ancient Remains and Manners and Customs of Modern Savages, Lubbock
compared and noted similarities between Stonehenge and other monolithic stone structures
elsewhere in the world, in particular, to Buddhist temples in India. In the most celebrated
example, at Sanchee, the circle consists of roughly squared upright stone posts, joined at the
top by an architrave of the same thickness as the posts, exactly as at Stonehenge, he wrote.
Like those temples, Lubbock concluded, Stonehenge also had been built as a place of worship.
Sir Joseph Norman Lockyer, the renowned English scientist and astronomer who was the codiscoverer of the element helium and founded the scientific journal Nature, also dabbled in
antiquities. Lockyer developed a theory that ancient temples were aligned according to the
position of the sunrise at the time they were built. In 1901, he wrote a paper in which he
assumed that portion of Stonehenge known as the Heel Stone had been originally aligned with
the Summer Solstice, and on that basis calculatedincorrectly, as we now know-- that the
monument had been built in 1800 BC.
But latest study argues that Stonehenge was a cemetery. New radiocarbon dates
spanning 500 years were obtained for three cremated humans unearthed in 1950s at
Stonehenge and kept at the nearby Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum.

The earliest cremation, a pile of burned bones and teeth, came from one of 56 pits called
the Aubrey Holes. These remains were dated to the monument's first phase, when a circular
bank and ditch were created on Salisbury Plain. The second cremation, from inside the ditch
surrounding Stonehenge, is said to be that of an adult buried between 2930 to 2870 B.C. The
latest burial studied, from the ditch's northern side, was identified as that of a woman in her
twenties. It dates to 2570 to 2340 B.C.the period when the huge sandstone blocks known as
sarsen stones were put up.

References:
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"menhir." The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2008. Retrieved March 04, 2011 from
Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1E1-menhir.html
"dolmen." The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2008. Encyclopedia.com. (March 4, 2011).
http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1E1-dolmen.html
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