Seven Ancient Megaliths
An aerial view of the Rujm el-Hiri megalithic formation in northern IsraelAn aerial view of the Rujm el-Hiri megalithic formation in northern Israel. (Photo: Itamar Grinberg/Israel Tourism/Flickr)
Stonehenge is not alone: 7 ancient megaliths you’ve never seen
These stone structures are as mysterious as they are beautiful.
by Anna Norris | Wednesday, March 25, 2015
Positively looming with significance, the mysteriously arranged structure of Stonehenge is one of the world’s greatest wonders. But these odd stone arrangements can be found throughout the world in many shapes and sizes. Known as megaliths, these giant stones formed prehistoric structures in amazing (and perplexing!) feats of construction. Their purposes may be shrouded in mystery, but their remains add character and ancient beauty to landscapes across the globe, from the cold mountains of Russia to the balmy Mediterranean.
Constructed between 3000 and 2000 BCE, the Dolmens of North Caucasus dot the Caucasus Mountains in Russia. Their designs are precise, with stones shaped to fit into place just so. No one knows what function they served, or who built them, but more continue to be discovered. The house-like structures contain remnants of ancient pottery, human remains, jewelry and bronze tools.
In the Irish countryside, megaliths were formed into a circle that aligns with the sunset on the winter solstice. Prehistoric huts nearby, Bronze Age pottery and human remains suggest the monument was used from as early as 1100 BCE.
Resembling a giant target from above and boasting intricate stone arrangements within, the Rujm el-Hiri megalithic monument in northern Israel near the Sea of Galilee contains over 40,000 basalt rocks. The circles range from 8 feet in height to 15 feet tall in the center. Archaeologists estimate the site was constructed as early as 3000 BCE. Though its purpose remains unknown, Israeli archeologists have found it aligns with the summer solstice sunrise and that the location may have been used as a place to gaze at and track the stars, working like a kind of ancient calendar.
In Brittany, France, more than 3,000 stones have stood in careful rows since as early as 4500 BCE. Local legend says the stones were once soldiers, frozen in place for all eternity. Other theories point to the sky. The region contains not just megaliths but dolmens as well, stone structures that served as tombs.
On the island of Menorca in the Mediterranean Sea, megalithic monuments called taulas (Catalan for “tables”) attract visitors far and wide. Archaeologists aren’t sure what purpose the taulas served, though it’s possible they held some religious or astronomical significance. Another theory suggests they were centers of healing for the Talaiotic people who built them. Perhaps the most visually similar to Stonehenge, the taulas were constructed between 1000 and 3000 BCE.
In the English Midlands, striking limestone monuments dating back to as early as 4000 BCE draw curious visitors. The Rollright Stones consist of three major formations, constructed at different times throughout the Neolithic and Bronze Age: the Whispering Nights dolmen, the King’s Men stone circle, and the King Stone. Local lore has it that the stones were once a king and his knight, transformed to limestome by a witch. Archaeologists estimate it would have taken weeks for the monuments to be constructed.
Constructed in the Neolithic era and used throughout the Bronze Age, the Callanish standing stones are among the most beautiful megalithic formations in the world. From the side, they may seem like a jumble of rocks – but they were actually laid out carefully, with a stone in the center, a circle around it, and rows of rocks radiating outward. Academics theorize that the stones were a site of lunar observation, though local whispers say the rocks were once giants.
Though we may not completely understand their ancient purposes, megaliths today allow us to travel back in time in a way. There’s something magical about standing amid these looming formations, taking in the surrounding landscape as ancient humans did thousands of years ago.