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Megalith

    Image:Dscn5212-mane-braz 800x600.jpg|thumb|300px|right|Megalithic tomb Mane Braz Brittany A megalith is a large stone which has been used to construct a structure or monument either alone or with other stones Megalithic means made of such stones but uses an interlocking system without the use of mortar or cement The word megalith comes from the Ancient Greek megas meaning large and lithos meaning stone

    Distribution of megaliths

    The term can be used to describe buildings erected by people from many parts of the world living in many different periods In the early 20th century some scholars believed that all megaliths belonged to one global "Megalithic culture" (Hyperdiffusionism e. g. by Grafton Elliot Smith and William James Perry) but this has long been disproved by modern dating methods

    Nabta Playa

    megalithNabta Playa was once a large lake in the Nubian Desert located 500 miles south of modern day Cairo [1] By the 5th millennium BC the peoples in Nabta Playa had fashioned the world's earliest known astronomical device 1000 years older than but comparable to Stonehenge [2]
    Research shows it to be a prehistoric calendar that accurately marks the summer solstice [3] Findings indicate that the region was occupied only seasonally likely only in the summer when the local lake filled with water for grazing cattle [4] [5]

    Western European megaliths

    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 BCE)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 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

    Types of megalithic structures

    Different megalithic structures include:
    • Dolmen: This is a free standing chamber consisting of standing stones covered by a capstone as a lid They were used for burial and were covered by mounds
    • Menhir: This is single standing stone
    • Orthostat: This is an upright slab forming part of a larger structure
    • Stone circle (or cromlech in Welsh)
    • Stone row
    • Stone ship
    • Taula: This is a straight standing stone topped with another forming a 'T' shape
    • Trilithon: Two parallel upright stones with a horizontal stone (called a lintel) placed on top eg Stonehenge

    Megalithic graves

    Main article: Megalithic tomb Russian Federation Russian FederationMany megalithic monuments were burial mounds which were often re-used by different generations The chambered cairn is a common type of collective tomb Some of these are passage graves generally built of drystone walling and/or megaliths often with a round burial chamber in a round mound with a straight passage leading out Gallery graves have a long megalithic chamber with parallel sides often in a long mound with an entrance at one end

    Astronomical use

    Many megaliths were thought to have a purpose in determining important astronomical events such as the solstice and equinox dates (see archaeoastronomy) Cup marks on megaliths have been thought by some to represent stars and thus to show the stellar orientation of megalithic sites

    Modern megaliths

    There are even some modern megalithic structures The Coral Castle is an unusual stone structure created in the 1920s in Homestead Florida by Edward Leedskalnin

    Examples of megaliths

    Other megaliths include:
    • Almendres Cromlech Alentejo Portugal
    • Ale's Stones Skåne Sweden
    • Bryn Celli Ddu Anglesey
    • Carnac Brittany France
    • Callanish stone circle on Lewis in the Outer Hebrides
    • Cueva de Menga Antequera Spain
    • Easter Island
    • Filitosa Corsica France
    • Ġgantija Gozo Malta the oldest known free-standing structure
    • Ħaġar Qim Malta
    • Mnajdra Malta
    • Newgrange Ireland
    • Skara Brae Orkney Scotland
    • Stanton Drew Somerset UK
    • Tarxien Malta
    • Cloghanmore court tomb Donegal Ireland
    • Talayots Balearic Islands

    See also

    • Pre-historic art
    • Monolith
    • Dolmen

    External links