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Ancient Stone Megaliths

Stone Megaliths

A megalith is a large stone used to construct a structure or monument, either alone or together with other stones. Megalithic means structures made of such large stones, with an interlocking system without the using of mortar or cement.

European Megaliths

The most common type of megalithic construction in Europe is a chamber consisting of upright stones with one or more large flat capstones forming a roof. Many of these did not contain human remains. It’s not known if they were used as burial sites
The second most common tomb type is the passage grave. It normally consists of a square, circular chamber with a slabbed or roof, accessed by a long, straight passageway, with the whole structure covered by a circular mound of earth. Sometimes it is also surrounded by an external stone
The third tomb type is a diverse group known as gallery graves. These are axially arranged chambers placed under elongated mounds
Another type of megalithic monument is the single standing stone, Some of these are thought to have an astronomical function as a marker..
In parts of Britain and Ireland the best-known type of megalithic construction is the stone circle, is Stonehenge which displayed evidence of astronomical alignments, both solar and lunar. Stonehenge is famous for its solstice alignment.

Asian Megaliths

Megalithic burials are found in Northeast and Southeast Asia. They are found in in China, Japan, and parts of India. A living megalithic tradition is found on the island of Sumba in Indonesia. The greatest concentration of megalithic burials may be in Korea. Archaeologists estimate varying that there are 15,000 to 100,000 southern megaliths in the Korean Peninsula.

Northern Style

Northeast Asian megalithic traditions originated in Northeast China, 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 An over sized capstone is placed over the stone slab burial chamber, giving the appearance of a table-top. These megalithic burials date to (c. 1500-850 BC). Few northern-style megaliths in China contain grave goods such as bronze daggers, graves of chiefs or preeminent individuals.

Southern style

Southern-style megalithic burials are distributed in the southern Korea. Southern-style megaliths are typically smaller in scale than northern megaliths. The interment area of southern megaliths has an underground burial chamber made of earth or lined with thin stone slabs. A massive capstone is placed over the interment area and is supported by smaller propping stones. Most of the megalithic burials on the Korean Peninsula are of the southern type.
As with northern megaliths, southern examples contain few, if any, artifacts. A small number of megalithic burials contain fine red-burnished pottery, bronze daggers, polished groundstone daggers, and greenstone ornaments. Southern megalithic burials are often found in groups, spread out in lines that are parallel with the direction of streams. Megalithic cemeteries contain burials that are linked together by low stone platforms made from large river cobbles. Broken red-burnished pottery and charred wood found on these. The capstones of many southern megaliths have 'cup-marks' carvings. A small number of capstones have human and dagger representations.

African Megaliths

Nabta Playa at south west corner of western desert was once a large lake in the Nubian Desert, located 500 miles south of modern day Cairo. 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. Research shows it to be a prehistoric calendar that accurately marks the summer solstice. Findings indicate that the region was occupied only seasonally, likely only in the summer when the local lake filled with water for grazing cattle. There are other megalithic stone circles in the south of western desert.
There are various stones and megalith-like structures arranged in circles and other patterns at sites throughout Southern Africa. Most of the attention seems to focus on a group of rocks that face towards what would have been the Orion constellation.

Tombs

Megalithic tombs are above ground burial chambers, built of large stone slabs (megaliths) laid on edge and covered with earth or other, smaller stones. They are a type of chamber tomb, and the term is used to describe the structures built across Atlantic Europe, the Mediterranean and neighboring regions.
There is a huge variety of megalithic tombs. The free-standing single chamber type consist of a large flat stone supported by three, four or more standing stones. They were covered by a stone or earth.
The Passage graves of Ireland's Boyne Valley, and north Wales are even more complex and impressive, with cross shaped arrangements of chambers and passages. The workmanship on the stone blocks is unknown elsewhere in north west Europe at the time.
Megalithic tombs appear to have been used by communities for the long-term deposition of the remains of their dead and some seem to have undergone alteration and enlargement. The organization and effort required to erect these large stones mean that the societies concerned must have placed great emphasis on the proper treatment of their dead. The ritual significance of the tombs is supported by the presence of megalithic art carved into the stones at some sites. Hearths and deposits of pottery and animal bone found by archaeologists around some tombs also implies some form of burial feast or sacrificial rites took place there.











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