What are megaliths?

 

Megaliths can be divided into two broad classes: chamber-tombs (or 'dolmens') and standing stones (or 'menhirs'). Both types of monuments are made of big stones ('slabs').

A chamber-tomb or 'dolmen' is a rough-stone burial monument, comprising a chamber made of large upright slabs ('orthostats') supporting a capstone ('roofing-slab'), with or without an entrance-passage, and set in a mound of earth or stones; or the equivalent party or wholly made of dry-stone walling. European chamber-tombs have usually been divided into two broad groups: the 'passage-graves' have a chamber which is quite distinct from the access-passage which leads to it; for the other group of monuments, in which there is no sharp distinction between chamber and passage, the French name 'allée couverte' is used in preference to its English form, 'gallery grave'.  For regional types regional names are used when passage-grave or 'allée couverte is inappropriate or not in common use, so there are 'Steinkisten' in Germany and 'hunebedden' in the Netherlands. The roof of the chamber, and sometimes of the passage, may be made of piled and overlapping layers of stone. The mound in which a chamber-tomb is set is called a mound in general, a cairn when it is specifically made of stones rather than piled earth, and a barrow when that is the local name.

Standing stones are called standing stones, except when the French 'menhir' is appropriate. They may appear alone of together with other standing stones, in a row ('stone row' or 'alignement') or in a circle ('stone circle' or 'cromlech').

A special place is reserved for the 'statues-menhirs'. These - in general - small, carved, standing stones can be found on many places in Europe, but they are widespread in the southern part of France (in the departments of Aveyron and Tarn). Dating from the late Neolithic period they can be divided into two groups: the 'male' figured stones and the 'female' ones. More information can be found in the leaflet "Au pays des statues-menhirs" and - of course - in the books of Maillé and Philippon. Less widespread but certainly not less beautiful are the 'statue-stele' from the Lunigiana, a region in the far north-west of Tuscany. More information about these 'statue-stele' can be found in the leaflet of the 'Museo delle statue stele Lunigianesi' at Pontremoli. Furthermore there are the 'statue-menhir' of Sardinia. mainly found around Laconi in the middle of the island. In Laconi one can find the 'Museo della Statuaria Preistorica in Sardegna' where almost fifty 'statue-menhir' have been collected. Furthermore you will find on this site stones from the Rhône Valley (Sion) in Switzerland, from the Aosta Valley in Italy and from Sachsen-Anhalt in Germany.

Not megalithic in the narrow sense of 'built of great stones', but in the same tradition are burial places dug in sand or chalk, or carved into more solid rock.

The megaliths that have been visited the past years are arranged by country. Whenever possible references have been made to the official code of the monuments in the countries.

The description of a megalith includes the following items:

 

the notation (in a country or from the bibliography) the name of the megalith (when appropriate)
the name of the referring author the type of the monument (dolmen, menhir(s), 'statue-menhir', 'statua-stele', 'statua-menhir')
where the monument is situated the date(s) of the visit
the total impression of the monument additional remarks about the megalith
one or more recent pictures a map on which the monument can be found
whenever present: a picture from the past other pictures concerning the monument