Page content - Navigation bar - Next page - Previous page - Index ABC (EN) - Intro-EN - NL Belgium

Link to English intro MEGALITICA Index-Link
English pages Megaliths: General information
General info > Appearance - Age - Function - Civilization - Funnel Beaker

Next page

Megaliths: Appearance

Megalithic monuments of different models and age are existing in Western Europe, North-Africa, the Middle-East, India, Japan en America (N&Z).
The meaning and the age of megalithic constructions still is a controversial subject.

Megalith = 'big stone' (Greek).


Standing stones

Standing stones, also called "menhirs", are up-standing stones witch are mostly slightly shaped by human.
"Menhir" is formed by the Breton words 'men' (stone) and 'hir' (long).

Many standing stones are solitaire monuments, but they also exist in rows (alignment) like in Carnac and Kerzhero (Bretagne, France).

Figure: Standing stones, alignment and cairn

Alignments Kermario, Carnac
Alignments Kermario, Carnac

Some standing stones are colossal.
"Le Menhir du Champ Dolent" (Bretagne, France) is 9,6 meter high whit a weight over 150 ton.
The big broken standing stone in Locmariaquer (Bretagne, France) had a length of 20-meter and a weight of +- 300 ton!

Le Menhir du Champ Dolent - Bretagne
Le Menhir du Champ Dolent

Some standing stones are Christianised. A cross once was carved in the stone or a metal cross was put on top...

Christianized standing stone, France Christianized standing stone, France

Not all standing stones are real megaliths. Some are natural rock formations, other are more recent.


Stone circles

In many sites the standing stones are set in a circular shape, sometimes surrounded by a ditch. The biggest stone circle is situated in Avebury (G.B.). Stone circles are also called "cromlechs". The term "cromleg" is also used for incomplete circles, elliptic- and rectangular shapes.

Avebury - Stone circle
Stone circle - Avebury


Dolmen, Passage tomb etc.

The variation in names can be very confusing...

Dolmen strictly seen have only one capstone, also called portal tomb. Possible this kind of monuments never was covered by a mound. Constructions whit several capstones, like "passage tombs", are also often called "dolmen".

The name "dolmen" or "stone table" is formed by the Breton words "dol" (table) and "men" (stone). 

Dolmen, passage tomb and cairn

Passage tombs or passage graves, in French allée couverte, are names used for tombs consisting a passage made of many side stones supporting several capstones.
Many tombs have an entrance ending in a chamber, this type is called chambered tomb. The chamber can be rectangle or  round, sometimes consisting side-chambers.
Many monuments are still covered by a mound of sand or stones.
When the mound is made of stones the name cairn is used.
(Example: Cairn de Gavrinis, Morbihan)

Figure: Structure passage tomb

A ring of kerbstones often encircles the mound.

Court tombs are an Irish variant whit an enclosed "court" in front.

Passage tombs covered whit a mound of sand are also called tumulus.
(Example: Tumulus de Kercado, Carnac). This can be confusing; the term "tumulus" is also used for Bronze Age and Iron Age grave mounds without stone construction.
Barrow is the English name for a grave mound of sand, most barrows origin from Bronze Age.

A long barrow is a long grave mound.
Long barrows are strictly seen no megalithic monuments, they have no stone construction inside. Many long barrows belong to the oldest monuments.

Hunebedden are a variation on passage tombs existing in the Netherlands and Germany. The entrance is situated on one of the sides, not in front.

Loughcrew (Cairn-T) - Ireland
Loughcrew (Cairn-T) - Ireland

Hunebed D1 , Steenbergen (Drenthe, Netherlands)
Hunebed D1, Steenbergen (Drenthe, Netherlands)



Henges hebben een cirkelvormige omwalling (figuur)

"Henge" mains "hanging stone", called after the famous example in Stonehenge (G.B.). The stone construction in Stonehenge is set inside a circular ditch. Other monuments consisting a circular ditch are also called henge, even if hey are stone less.  (Example: "Durrington Walls" near Stonehenge.)


'Back to top'   -   Age (= Next page)

  Link to English intro MEGALITICA Next page

Page published November 21, 2015

Alec Van Rompuy creates these Web Pages, all designs, maps and pictures.
Except pictures marked with other author in the subscription.
For questions and comments please contact the author.

© Copyright Alec Van Rompuy

Pictures may be used for non-commercial projects,
only if you refer to