6000-Year-Old Stone Monuments in Brittany and Malta

Home | Category: Bronze Age Europe / Life and Culture in Prehistoric Europe


20120207-Brittany alignment menec.JPG
Brittany Alignment Menec
Megaliths are large stone structures (“ mega” means "large" and "lithos" means “ stone”). Megaliths built in Spain, France, the Baltic , Iceland and Britain were independently erected by ancient farming people. There are so many of these stones around Carnac in Brittany that the English words used to describe them all come from the Breton language.

A “ dolmen” is a stone table that is used to identify a group burial chambers, or "houses of the dead." It consists of upright stones capped with a slab of stone for a roof. Two walls side by side, with a cap stone are known as cromleches. There are several of these at Stonehenge.

A “ tumulus” is a large earthen burial mound. A “ cairn” is a pile of rocks. And the huge standing stones themselves are called “ menhirs” . When the stones are arranged into a large circle this is called a “ cromlech” .

Websites and Resources on Prehistory: Wikipedia article on Prehistory Wikipedia ; Early Humans elibrary.sd71.bc.ca/subject_resources ; Prehistoric Art witcombe.sbc.edu/ARTHprehistoric ; Evolution of Modern Humans anthro.palomar.edu ; Iceman Photscan iceman.eurac.edu/ ; Otzi Official Site iceman.it Websites and Resources of Early Agriculture and Domesticated Animals: Britannica britannica.com/; Wikipedia article History of Agriculture Wikipedia ; History of Food and Agriculture museum.agropolis; Wikipedia article Animal Domestication Wikipedia ; Cattle Domestication geochembio.com; Food Timeline, History of Food foodtimeline.org ; Food and History teacheroz.com/food ;

Archaeology News and Resources: Anthropology.net anthropology.net : serves the online community interested in anthropology and archaeology; archaeologica.org archaeologica.org is good source for archaeological news and information. Archaeology in Europe archeurope.com features educational resources, original material on many archaeological subjects and has information on archaeological events, study tours, field trips and archaeological courses, links to web sites and articles; Archaeology magazine archaeology.org has archaeology news and articles and is a publication of the Archaeological Institute of America; Archaeology News Network archaeologynewsnetwork is a non-profit, online open access, pro- community news website on archaeology; British Archaeology magazine british-archaeology-magazine is an excellent source published by the Council for British Archaeology; Current Archaeology magazine archaeology.co.uk is produced by the UK’s leading archaeology magazine; HeritageDaily heritagedaily.com is an online heritage and archaeology magazine, highlighting the latest news and new discoveries; Livescience livescience.com/ : general science website with plenty of archaeological content and news. Past Horizons: online magazine site covering archaeology and heritage news as well as news on other science fields; The Archaeology Channel archaeologychannel.org explores archaeology and cultural heritage through streaming media; Ancient History Encyclopedia ancient.eu : is put out by a non-profit organization and includes articles on pre-history; Best of History Websites besthistorysites.net is a good source for links to other sites; Essential Humanities essential-humanities.net: provides information on History and Art History, including sections Prehistory

World's First Monuments in Malta?

20120207-Malta Ggantija_niches.jpg
The world's oldest freestanding stone monuments are the megalith temples of Mgarr, Skorba, Hagar Qim and Ggantija on Malta. The oldest ones date back to 4000 B.C. There are 30 or so raised stone monuments in Malta built between 6,000 and 3,000 years ago. The largest stones in these monuments weighs up to 20 tons. [Sources: Colin Renfew Sc.D., National Geographic, November 1977; Robert Wernick, Smithsonian magazine; Malta National Tourism Office]

At one time it was believed that culture began in Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt and spread outward. But this no longer seems to the case. Monuments were being built in Malta around 4000 B.C., a thousand years before writing was invented in Mesopotamia and 1,500 years before the Pyramids were built in Egypt.

No one knows why the monuments were raised or why Malta of all places was the chosen site. The monuments are believed to be temples. Even this is conjecture because the monument builders left behind no written word. Many have features that are similar to chapels, altars and screens found in churches. Various carved figurines of fat ladies found in the area suggest goddesses may have been worshiped at the monuments.

It is believed that teams of 50 to 100 men quarried the stones with stone tools, pulled them out with leather ropes and moved them with tree trunk rollers to where the monuments were built. One of the most unusual sites in Malta is the mysterious double tracks near Naxxar Gap that archeologist believe was created by ancient people dragging dirt to form terraces on the hillside.

The major monuments as they stand today are groups of structures surrounded by D-shaped walls up to 12 feet thick. The flat side of the D is not exactly straight, but slightly concave. At the center of this side is an entrance comprised of two large upright stones about 12 feet apart, with another flat stone laid lintel-like on top. These trilithon entrances are similar to other megaliths found all over Europe.

Almost none of the stones are placed in straight lines. Many are arranged in clover-leaf-like patterns. An entrance way leads into a rectangular courtyard, generally open on three sides to semicircular apses or chapels.

The monuments were made from different kinds of limestone, which is soft and damp when it is quarried and can easily be worked with simple bronze or stones tools. When it dries in the sun it becomes harder and attains the distinctive honey color for which Maltese limestone is famous.

Megalithic Temples of Malta

20120207-Malta Hagar_Qim_northern_temple.JPG
Hagar Qim
According to UNESCO: “Seven megalithic temples are found on the islands of Malta and Gozo, each the result of an individual development. The two temples of Ggantija on the island of Gozo are notable for their gigantic Bronze Age structures. On the island of Malta, the temples of Hagar Qin, Mnajdra and Tarxien are unique architectural masterpieces, given the limited resources available to their builders. The Ta'Hagrat and Skorba complexes show how the tradition of temple-building was handed down in Malta.[Source: UNESCO World Heritage sites website =]

“The Megalithic Temples of Malta (Ġgantija, Ħaġar Qim, Mnajdra, Skorba, Ta’ Ħaġrat and Tarxien) are prehistoric monumental buildings constructed during the 4th millennium BC and the 3rd millennium BC. They rank amongst the earliest free-standing stone buildings in the world and are remarkable for their diversity of form and decoration. Each complex is a unique architectural masterpiece and a witness to an exceptional prehistoric culture renowned for its remarkable architectural, artistic and technological achievements. The Megalithic Temples of Malta are remarkable not only because of their originality, complexity and striking massive proportions, but also because of the considerable technical skill required in their construction. =

“Each monument is different in plan, articulation and construction technique. They are usually approached from an elliptical forecourt in front of a concave façade. The façade and internal walls consist of upright stone slabs, known as orthostats, surmounted by horizontal blocks. The surviving horizontal masonry courses indicate that the monuments had corbelled roofs, probably capped by horizontal beams. This method of construction was a remarkably sophisticated solution for its time. The external walls are usually constructed in larger blocks set alternately face out and edge out, tying the wall securely into the rest of the building. The space between the external wall and the walls of the inner chambers is filled with stones and earth, binding the whole structure together. =

“Typically, the entrance to the building is found in the centre of the façade, leading through a monumental passageway onto a paved court. The interiors of the buildings are formed of semi-circular chambers usually referred to as apses, symmetrically arranged on either side of the main axis. The number of apses varies from building to building; some have three apses opening off the central court, whilst others have successive courts with four, five, and in one case even six apses. =

“The temple builders used locally available stone of which they had a thorough knowledge. They used hard coralline limestone for external walls and the softer globigerina limestone for the more sheltered interiors and decorated elements. Decorated features found within the buildings bear witness to a high level of craftsmanship. These elements consist mainly of panels decorated with drilled holes and bas-relief panels depicting spiral motifs, trees, plants and various animals. The form and layout of these buildings, as well as the artefacts found within them, suggest they were an important ritual focus of a highly organized society. “=

Important Malta Monuments

20120207-Malta Temple_Malte.jpg
Malta Temple
Tarxien Megalithic Monuments is a complex of numerous temple ruins that date back to the forth and third millennium B.C. Describing by some as the world's first temple, it contains worlds oldest life-size statue. They date back to 3,100 B.C. At the entrance is statue of fat seated woman that once stood eight feet tall but has lost her torso to stone scavengers. Fat women is found in other Maltese temples.

Tarxien (pronounced TAR-shen) is the largest Copper Age site in Malta. It embraces stone idols, animal reliefs, stone tablets, altars and screens decorated with spirals and other patterns, fire places, ornamented niches, oracle chambers and sanctuaries. Of particular interest are massive four foot bowls carved out of a single boulder. Also noteworthy are the carving of a sow suckling her piglets. a flat-bottomed ship, bulls and rams in a procession, and birds and fishes.

Mnajdra is one of the world's oldest temples, predating the pyramids in Egypt. It consists of walls made from singles labs of rocks placed side by side in a clover leaf pattern. Built on a small terraced rise with boulders shaped by stone hammers found in the ruined temples, Mnajdra (pronounced NY-dra) is comprised of several oval shaped rooms, doors hearths and a water storage area. The boulders were pulled to the site on top of round of stones and adorned with reliefs carved by flint and obsidian blades.

Hagar Qim (adjacent to Mnajdra) is another ruined temple. It once held the famous 4000-year-old "fat lady" statue. Now in the Malta National Museum, the fat lady statue, most likely was a representation of a fertility goddess. There is also a 24-foot-high phallic stone here. The main complex of Hagar Qim (pronounced Had-jar IM) extends over 10 acres. Some of the large standing stones have portals chiseled in them. Some of he limestone blocks may have been used as altars.

Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum

Hypogeum is the only known underground Copper Age temple in the world. Built over 5000 years ago it consists of an intricate network of interlocking caves, passageways, tombs and cubicles carved into rock 40 feet below the surface — Hypogeummeans Cellar. The interiors are similar to those in megalithic temples. Encompassing 1,600 feet and three levels the temple contains an oracle shrine used for making prophecies and another shrine called the Holy of Holies where the priestess of the temple is said to have slept. One of the chambers has a curved ceiling that amplifies voices spoken into an opening in an opposite wall.Some 7,000 skeletons have bee found here.

According to UNESCO: “The Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum is an enormous subterranean structure excavated c. 2500 B.C., using cyclopean rigging to lift huge blocks of coralline limestone. Perhaps originally a sanctuary, it became a necropolis in prehistoric times. It is one of the best preserved and most extensive environments that have survived from the Neolithic. With the exception of the fragmentary remains of the above-ground entrance, all the key attributes of the property, including the architectural details and painted wall decorations, have remained intact within the boundaries. The Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum is a unique monument of exceptional value. It is the only known European example of a subterranean ‘labyrinth’ from about 4,000 B.C. to 2,500 B.C. The quality of its architecture and its remarkable state of preservation make it an essential prehistoric monument.[Source: UNESCO World Heritage sites website =]

20120207-Malta Tarxien_temple_altar.jpg
Tarxien temple altar
“The Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum (underground cemetery) was discovered in 1902 on a hill overlooking the innermost part of the Grand Harbour of Valletta, in the town of Paola. It is a unique prehistoric monument, which seems to have been conceived as an underground cemetery, originally containing the remains of about 7,000 individuals. The cemetery was in use throughout the Żebbuġ, Ġgantija and Tarxien Phases of Maltese Prehistory, spanning from around 4000 B.C. to 2500 B.C. =

“Originally, one entered the Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum through a structure at ground level. Only a few blocks of this entrance building have been discovered, and its form and dimensions remain uncertain. The plan of the Hypogeum itself is a series of three superimposed levels of chambers cut into soft globigerina limestone, using only chert, flint and obsidian tools and antlers. The earliest of the three levels is the uppermost, scooped out of the brow of a hill. A number of openings and chambers for the burial of the dead were then cut into the sides of the cavity. =

“The two lower levels were also hewn entirely out of the natural rock. Some natural daylight reached the middle level through a small opening from the upper level, but artificial lighting must have been used to navigate through some of the middle level chambers and the lowest level, which is 10.60 meters below the present ground level. One of the most striking characteristics of the Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum is that some of the chambers appear to have been cut in imitation of the architecture of the contemporary, above-ground megalithic temples. Features include false bays, inspired by trilithon doorways, and windows. Most importantly, some of the chambers have ceilings with one ring of carved stone overhanging the one below to imitate a roof of corbelled masonry. This form echoes the way in which some of the masonry walls of the contemporary above-ground temple chambers are corbelled inwards, suggesting that they too were originally roofed over. =

“Some of the walls and ceilings of the chambers were decorated with spiral and honey-comb designs in red ochre, a mineral pigment. These decorations are the only prehistoric wall paintings found on the Maltese Islands. In one of these decorated chambers, there is a small niche which echoes when someone speaks into it. While this effect may not have been created intentionally, it may well have been exploited as part of the rituals that took place within the chambers. =

“Excavation of the Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum produced a wealth of archaeological material, including numerous human bones, which suggests that the burial ritual had more than one stage. It appears that bodies were probably left exposed until the flesh had decomposed and fallen off. The remaining bones and what appear to be some of the personal belongings were then gathered and buried within the chambers together with copious amounts of red ochre. The use of ochre seems to have been a part of the ritual, perhaps to infuse the bones with the colour of blood and life. Individuals were not buried separately, but piled onto each other.

“Artefacts recovered from the site include pottery vessels decorated in intricate designs, shell buttons, stone and clay beads and amulets, as well as little stone carved animals and birds that may have originally been worn as pendants. The most striking finds are stone and clay figurines depicting human figures. The most impressive of these figures is that showing a woman lying on a bed or ‘couch’, popularly known as the ‘Sleeping Lady’. This figure is a work of art in itself, demonstrating a keen eye for detail.”

Malta Monument Builders

islands of Malta
The Malta Temple-builders are believed to have originated from Sicily. Due to the limited water sources and farm and pasture land on Malta it is believed that no more than a few thousand people lived on Malta at one time. They occupied Malta for a thousand years then inexplicably disappeared around 2500 B.C. Why they disappeared is a mystery.

Malta was first colonized by Copper Age tribe around 5200 B.C. Scholars believe they came from Sicily because they used Sicilian pots. They most likely arrived on flat-bottomed boats made from stretching animal skin over a wooden frame.

These people lived in clay-and twig huts and possessed stone tools, buttons and pottery. They lived in small communities had no metal, money or government. They ate emmer wheat, lentils and red deer they hunted on the islands. Based on the discovery of clay spindles, it is also believed these people made garments from the wool of sheep and/or goats.

The civilization that occupied Malta during this time was a highly organized society that worshiped it ancestors and pagan gods.

Fat lady statues have been found all over Malta. They come in various sizes and are depicted standing, seated and lying down. Many often are topless and wearing a skirt. The fat lady statue, most likely was a representation of a fertility goddess.

There is no evidence of any war. The monument buildings may have had time, energy and aroused to build the monuments because they weren't engaged in any kind of warfare.

After Monument Builders left, Bronze Age people arrived. They didn't build monuments. Instead they built armed camps at placed that could be defended and made bronze swords and shield that were buried with the dead.

Megaliths of Carnac, Oldest Stone Monuments

20120207-Brittany Carnac_Kermario_Dolmen_2.jpg
Carnac Kermario Dolmen
The oldest stone structures in Europe are the Megaliths of Carnac on the southwest coast of Brittany. Here approximately 10,000 megaliths (Stonehedge-like "great stones") have been raised among what are now maritime fields, farms, cottages, and heath more or less in single parallel rows. The British writer and archeologist Evan Hadingham described them as "one of archeology's greatest mysteries...it poses as many tantalizing unanswered questions as the pyramids." [Source: William Devenport, National Geographic, June 1978, Robert Wernick, Smithsonian magazine; New York Times travel article; French Government Tourism Office] Covering an area of roughly five square miles, Carnac contains the world's largest assemblage of prehistoric stone monuments. About 3,000 stones (out of a possible 10,000 original stones) are grouped in three alignments concentrated in a small area north of the town of Carnac. The largest megaliths (now broken) are 65 feet high and weigh almost 400 tons. Among the items unearthed by archaeologists at the site are beads, tools, and jadite axes. There are so many of these stones around Carnac that the English words used to describe them all come from the Breton language. (See Above)

Most of the stones are arranged into three major groupings know as alignments that consists of huge stones fanning out in rows from a cromlech. Similar groupings of stone have been found in northern Scotland and the Exmoor and Dartmoor areas of southwestern England. The U-shaped cromlechs in Carnac and Caithness, Scotland have the same astronomical sight lines even though they are 750 miles a part.

The alignments of standing stones in Carnac is roughly northeast to southwest. Many of the stones are relatively small, only a few feet high. The largest complete ones are about 15 feet high. The most impressive stones are fenced off; they have to be observed from a road or a pathway.

History Megaliths of Carnac

20120207-Brittany Kerloas_menhir.JPG
Brittany Kerloa Menhir
There was no mention of the stones of Carnac before the 18th century. The first known account is by travelers who wrote about them in the 1720s. The 19th century novelist Gustave Flaubert wrote, "Carnac has more rubbish written about it than it has standing stones."

Most of the stones were raised between 4000 and 4500 B.C. (2000 years before Stonehedge) As is true with Stonhedge nobody is sure why they were placed where they were. There are several local legends that account for their origin. Some say they were they were produced by goblins, Druids or Merlin the magician. Other say they were Roman soldiers turned to stone while chasing after local holymen. Yet others say they were local soldiers so determined to stand their ground against the Romans they turned to stone. Most historians believe the stones were a astronomical calendar used to determine lunar eclipses, solar cycles, harvests, planting times, religious festivals, and fertility rites. Many of the stones are lined up so they correspond with the sunrises and sunsets of specific dates. Others have objects buried around them which indicate they may have been used in fertility and funerary rituals.

Other archeologist have suggested they may have been representations of snakes, fish-drying platforms, phallic symbols, representations of cattle, signs for hotels and markets, windbreaks for tents, fields for ancient sports or games or markers showing the routes to local brothels. Some modern pseudo-scientists claim they are "stone computers" built by to guide alien spacecraft.

The stones were taken from local quarries. They may have been prodded loose using water-soaked wedges placed into cracks that widened in fractures rock. It is believed they were moved using rollers, levers, inclined planes, ropes and pulleys. By one estimate at least 200 people were needed to drag a 32-ton slab on wooden rollers on level ground.

Archeologist originally thought that the people who raised the megaliths were descendants of peoples that came from ancient Egypt, Greece or Crete based on similarities between certain symbols and artistic motifs found in those places and in Carnac. In the 1950s and 1960s when carbon dating dated tombs in the area to between 4300 and 4650 B.C., the archeologist were shocked by their age. Assumptions made about early people in Europe and the Mediterranean were turned completely on their head. If anything it was the people of Breton that influenced ancient Egypt, Greece or Crete.

From what archaeologist can tell the people who built the stone monuments were farmers who raised cattle and crops on farmsteads which had standing stones or stone rows on them. These people are believed to have arrived in Brittany around 5500 B.C. Their successors are believed have been from a succession of cultures with their own myths and rituals.

People in some part of Brittany conduct ceremonies at some of the stones. At Cruz-Moquen, women hoping to get pregnant raise their skirts to a dolem during the full moons. At a menhir called Le Vaisseau in Le Ménec, childless couples fling off their clothes on the full moon and run around the stone in hopes of having a child.

Important Megaliths of Carnac

20120207-Brittany Menec-West.jpg
Brittany Menec West
Menec Alignment contains 1099 granite menhirs arranged into 12 one kilometer long lines that originate from a circle of 70 stones. At the western end of the Menec Alignment there once may have been a cromlech that was used as a religious sanctuary. The menhirs fan out from this point. The spacing between the stones is irregular and the line curve slightly. The tallest stones are about 13 feet in height. Many of the stones from the damaged Petit Menec alignment were carried off to make a lighthouse on a nearby island. Only about a hundred menhirs remain. Kermario Alignment (near the Menec Alignment) are arranged more or less the same way. At the end of the Kermario Alignment, which contains 1,029 stones organized in 10 rows, is a passage grave, open to the public, that was once covered by an earth and stone mound. The lines of stones are longer than those at Menec. It is believed that the grave is older than the alignment. Near the grave is a ruined windmill and a visitors center with an elevated deck which provides a good view of the rows of stones. Kermario means "place of the dead." Kerlescan Alignment (near the Kermario Alignment) has 55 menhirs arranged in thirteen 400-foot-long rows with semicircular 29-stone cromlech at one end. Kerlescan means "place of burning."

Grand Menhir Brisé (Locmariaquer, Brittany) is the world's tallest menhir. Originally 67-feet-high and sometimes called the "Fairy Stone," the 340-ton standing stone is now in four pieces. The three top pieces lie neatly on the ground in a patch of heath. The huge base is flipped and twisted and pointing at an angle. In contrast the largest stone at Stonehedge is 29 feet high and weighs 50 tons. The 340-ton stone is believed to have been moved 2.5 mile from a nearby quarry site. On May 1st women from Locamarinauer slide down the stones without panties in hopes of getting pregnant.

Burials Chambers in Carnac

Also found in the area are 5000 year old tumuluses and dolmens. Many of the tumulus resemble small hills. The largest dolem, the Mané Rutuel, has a capstone, weighing 50 tons. The remains of young girls and cows, presumably left as sacrifices, have been in chambers near Tumulus of St. Micheal, Kercado (near Carnac) is a 7000-year-old burial mound passage grave with a 20-foot corridor of granite slabs that lead to a burial chamber large enough to stand up in. The walls and ceiling are comprised of granite slabs.

20120207-Brittany Le Menec Carnac.JPG
Le Menec Carnac

The Tumulus of St. Micheal is the most impressive tomb in the Carnac area. Resembling a small hill and capped by a small church, it is comprised of 1.4 million cubic feet of soil. This is where French archeologist René Gallas discovered an undisturbed main burial chamber in 1862 below 35 feet of dried mud and stone. Inside the chamber he found polished jadeite and fibrolote axeheads, necklaces made form turquoise-like callais, jasper discs and pendants, viriscite beads, pottery, arrowheads, burned offerings and "the cremated remains of the powerful and mysterious tenet of the burial mound."

Table of Merchants (near Grand Menhir Brisé) is a passage grave enclosed within a cairn. The engraved section of the menhir forms part of the roof. Another section from the menhir with similar engravings, weighing a dozen tons, was incorporated into the roof of the Er Vingle dolmen two miles away; and a third section was presumably floated by raft to the tumulus at Île Gavrinis three miles away in the Golfe of Morbihan. There also representations of theories of the origin of the monuments and dioramas that show what the everyday life of Carnac's prehistoric inhabitants. The museums gives out a good free map of the archeological sites.

How Were the Menhirs Moved?

How the menhirs were moved and raised remains adequately explained. In 2010 in Le Petit Mont in northwest France 30 tourists were enlisted to heave on a rope to move a 4.2-tonne stone block as part of an experiment probing the mysterious history of megaliths in the Brittany region. The participants found that among the things that were needed were vast quantities of muscle power and lots of patience. [Source: Sophie Pons, AFP, July 23, 2010]

"It's experimental archeology," explained Cyril Chaigneau, an architect who runs a programme on the megalithic sites of Petit Mont and Gavrinis in the Gulf of Morbihanm told AFP. "We're trying to find out how men from the neolithic period moved enormous blocks across distances of 10km (six miles) or more.

megaliths in Portugal

Sophie Pons wrote in AFP, No one today knows how or why the sedentary tribes that settled 7,000 years ago on this stretch of the Atlantic coast transported and then erected the menhirs, dolmens and other huge stone steles that dot the Breton landscape. Chaigneau's investigation focuses on the journey of a slab that makes up part of the dolmen on the island of Gavrinis, an engraved block of 17 tonnes that serves as the ceiling of a funeral monument built in 3,600 BC. Work carried out by other archeologists has established that this slab was in fact a fragment of another dolmen five kilometres away.

That huge structure was erected a thousand years earlier and stood 25 metres tall (82ft), was three metres wide and weighed around 300 tonnes. The stone it was made of came from a quarry situated 10km away. "The goal is to reconstitute the journey by land and sea or river but also to help members of the public get a practical understanding of prehistory, to engage the public in science in action," said Yves Belfenfant, the director of the sites of Gavrinis and Petit Mont.

Elisabeth, a banking executive from Versailles, was one of the 30 people trying to move the massive stone. She said she and her husband and their five children liked "cultural" holidays and that was why they wanted to take part in this experiment. "It's impressive to see this massive stone moving," she said.

The tourists managed to pull the stone 4.4m in about 12 minutes on their first stint, but by their fifth try their technique had improved and they pulled it 22m in 24 minutes. Jerome, a 36-year-old father, said he was taking part because he had "always wondered how the Egyptians built the pyramids". "This is far better than school to help you understand," said nine-year-old Valentine, who was proud of her part in pulling the giant stone forward across logs laid on the ground.

"You don't need magic powers to move a block, you just need a lever," said Chaigneau, who has programmed several stone-pulling events. The first such experiment in France was held in Bougon in western France in 1979, when 150 volunteers helped shift a block of 32 tonnes.

Stone Monuments in Britain and Ireland

20120207-Neolithic axe factory.jpg
Neolithic axe factory in Scotland
Numerous prehistoric sites between 4000 B.C. and 1500 B.C. have been discovered around Britain and Scotland. The most famous site is Stonehedge, which dates back to 2500 B.C. . In 1997, scientists found a site twice as large as Stonehedge, with stone circles remains of timber temples, at Stanton Drew in Somerset.

On the Orkney Islands of Scotland, near Skara Brae are the standing stones of Stenness and the 5,000-year-old Maes Howe burial mound, described as the best preserved chambered tomb in Western Europe.

Carrowmore, Ireland is the home of the world's oldest megalithic cemetery. The cremated bodies in the cemetery were buried between 4800 and 3200 B.C. About a mile away a cemetery dating back to 4000 B.C. was found with uncremated bodies and chert arrowhead unlike those found at Carrowmore. Archaeologist Göran Burenbult told National Geographic, "This opens up a much more complex picture than we could have imagined. It's as if two separate people with different social and religious traditions lived very close together at the same time."

Ancient Sites in Sardinia and Spain

Scattered around the large Italian island of Sardinia are about 7000 ancient standing stones and cone towers including the "The Tomb of the Giants" and the "Houses of the Witches." The tombs are carved into the rock and some of the cone towers — originally 40 feet in diameter and up to 65 feet high — were used as dwellings.

It was long believed that culture spread westward from Crete to Iberia because spiral shaped symbols on tombs found in on Crete resembled those at Los Millares in Spain. Recent changes in carbon dating based on correcting the carbon data with tree rings from 4000 year old bristlecone pines have shown that the site in Iberia is older than the one in Crete.^^ Scattered around the Spanish island are clusters of prehistoric Stonehedge-like megaliths (stone monuments). Among the different Bronze-Age formations found on Menorca are “taulas, T-shaped formations that have one rock balancing on another; “talayots”, igloo-shaped mounds; and “navetas” which look like overturned boats. The most impressive megaliths are found at Torre d'en Gammes, with a perfectly preserved taula, three taayayots and a stone pillared hall. Naveta d'els Tudons contain a burial chamber that some argue is the oldest building in Iberia.

megaliths in Portugal

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: National Geographic, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, Nature, Scientific American. Live Science, Discover magazine, Discovery News, Ancient Foods ancientfoods.wordpress.com ; Times of London, Natural History magazine, Archaeology magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, BBC, The Guardian, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “History of Warfare” by John Keegan (Vintage Books); “History of Art” by H.W. Janson (Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.), Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated September 2018

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been authorized by the copyright owner. Such material is made available in an effort to advance understanding of country or topic discussed in the article. This constitutes 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. If you are the copyright owner and would like this content removed from factsanddetails.com, please contact me.