megalithic monument

megalithic monument

(mĕgəlĭth`ĭk) [Gr.,=large stone], in archaeology, a construction involving one or several roughly hewn stone slabs of great size; it is usually of prehistoric antiquity. 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. The Western European megaliths were constructed during the Neolithic and the Bronze Age and are believed to range in date from c.4000 B.C. to 1100 B.C. Most chamber tombs were probably built during the 4th millennium B.C., and the stone circles generally date somewhat later. Megalithic monuments may be divided into four categories: the chamber tomb, or dolmendolmen
[Breton,=stone table], burial chamber consisting of two or more upright stone slabs supporting a capstone or table, typical of the Neolithic period in Europe. See megalithic monuments.
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; the single standing stone, or menhirmenhir
[Breton,=long stone], in archaeology, 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. See megalithic monuments.
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; the stone row; and the stone circle. Chamber tombs were usually covered with earth mounds, forming a barrowbarrow,
in archaeology, a burial mound. Earth and stone or timber are the usual construction materials; in parts of SE Asia stone and brick have entirely replaced earth. A barrow built primarily of stone is often called a cairn.
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. Menhirs sometimes stood alone near the entrance of a tomb or on top of the mound. Sometimes they were set in long rows called alignments, as at CarnacCarnac
, town (1993 est. pop. 4,322), Morbihan dept., NW France, in Brittany, at the foot of the Quiberon peninsula. It is the site of remarkable megalithic monuments, particularly the menhir.
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 in Brittany; in other places they were arranged in a circle, the most elaborate of which is StonehengeStonehenge
, group of standing stones on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire, S England. Preeminent among megalithic monuments in the British Isles, it is similar to an older and larger monument at Avebury.
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 in England (these are known as cromlechscromlech
[Welsh or Breton,=crooked stone], term that has changed in meaning from its original equivalent to dolmen. It later came to be used for a single standing stone and now usually refers to a circle of such stones; however, the term is used in this sense for such remains on
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 outside Britain). The individual stone slabs may reach 65 ft (20 m) in length and 100 tons (90 metric tons) in weight. Such massive structures testify to the engineering feats possible with the concerted efforts of relatively ill-equipped peoples.

Bibliography

See G. Daniel, The Megalith Builders of Western Europe (1958); A. Thom, Megalithic Sites in Britain (1967) and Megalithic Lunar Observations (1973); C. Renfrew, Before Civilization (1973); J. Mitchell, Megalithomania (1982); R. Joussaume, Dolmens for the Dead (tr. by A. and C. Chippendale, 1988).

References in periodicals archive ?
The knowledge necessary for the construction of a megalithic monument is part of a cultural system, as is the creation of elaborate recipes for the pigments.
During a formal celebration, in front of Dolmen della Chianca, a prehistoric megalithic monument that dates back to the 'Bronze Age,' which is a UNESCO "heritage (site, witness to a culture of peace for humanity," the city's mayor delivered a speech on behalf of the municipality.
Youngsters can clamber on a giant felled tree, mess around in a living willow dome and scuttle between upright logs that look like a megalithic monument.
A giant felled tree, a living willow dome and upright logs that look like a megalithic monument are part of the new attraction.
STONEHENGE: A 5,000-year-old megalithic monument on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire, composed of a circle of stones, which in turn surround another circle of stones originally topped by lintels.
I suggest that it is an unusual type of megalithic monument and should be officially recognised as a potential ancient site.
The 3m-diameter perimeter of the megalithic monument is similar in plan and was erected over the south-western corner of the pit, sealing part of its backfill (Figure 3).
Paintings on stone, whether on a cave wall or a megalithic monument, pose serious and unique challenges for accurate dating: (1) images are often painted on limestone, a carbon-containing mineral; (2) the amount of carbon from the paint sample available for dating is small-orders of magnitude less than a typical artefact; (3) little is known about binders and/or vehicles used in making ancient paints; (4) physical contamination must be removed; and (5) organic material unassociated with painting activity can occur in unpainted rock (see Rowe 2001; Bednarik 2002; Steelman et al.
were built between 800 BC and AD 1900, and that there is no megalithic monument before 800 BC, which appears to be the terminus post quem".
A UNESCO world heritage site, Stonehenge is one of the most impressive prehistoric megalithic monuments anywhere due to its size, sophisticated concentric plan and architectural precision.