In Neolithic architecture, a megalith (Greek mega (μέγας), “big”, and líthos (λίθος), “stone”) is a monument related to megalithism and consists of one or more large stones, erected (or lifted) by men, without the aid of mortar or cement to fix the structure. If the term “megalith” can be used to describe monuments erected everywhere on the planet at different times, the attention of researchers focuses on the oldest monuments corresponding to the Mesolithic, the Neolithic, the Chalcolithic or even the Bronze age, depending on the region. For some researchers, there exist in the Neolithic next to these megaliths, their wooden counterparts called, lack of term created to designate them, dolmens and menhirs in wood.
The cooling and crystallization of plutonic rock intrusions creates a network of shrinkage faults causing chaos but also tectonic cracks that can form, under the effect of erosion that is flush with the rock, a flow of this rock shaped blades more or less rounded giving a megalith.
The term “megalith” covers different structures. Among the prehistoric megaliths we distinguish mainly: There are also rare megalithic monuments, such as Stonehenge or the taulas of the Balearic Islands, vertical stones surmounted by another horizontal. There are also many megalithic circles in West Africa (but some of them are from a historical period corresponding to the Middle Ages), or in Great Britain. The image of Epinal dolmens or isolated standing stones is today contradicted by archaeological research that shows that megalithic monuments are usually part of larger architectural features. If one considers the large number of megalithic monuments that can be observed around the world, and which have survived the multiple factors of destruction (including those of the man himself) that they have faced during the It seems that it may well be considered that the motives which led to their construction have been of considerable importance to mankind, both at the earliest stages of its development and at present. Most of the researchers concerned nowadays agree to give them a multiple role, that is, in order of importance, social, cultural (religious and funerary, archaeologists can not always highlight the latter role because of the total absence of missing bones in areas of ancient rocks, soils that are too acidic), astronomical, astrological, artistic, agricultural, etc. If all these constructions did not have all these functions, they reveal an organized society. These constructions create or maintain the cohesion of the group, indicating to the new arrivals and the people of passage a significant technical and human capacity. In the strict and archeological sense of the word, megaliths refer to buildings made with large stones, but especially ” ‘raised in prehistoric times’ ”.
In Western Europe, the neolithization of the Atlantic coastal regions coincides with the first constructions of the Atlantic coast and the beginning of the megalithic movement. In England, one can not ignore the exceptional site by its state of conservation Stonehenge. On the French territory, one can mention the tumulus of Bougon or the cairn of Barnenez which can be dated from the V millennium BC. AD, more than 2,000 years before the first Egyptian pyramid. These extremely numerous constructions generally date from the Neolithic or Chalcolithic period (4700 to 1500 BC), such as Stonehenge in England. But the Bougon tumulus F provided the date of 4785 BC. J.-C. in its part Fo. The alignments of Carnac date from about 4000 BC. In Belgium, more than one hundred and twenty sites of megaliths, dolmens and menhirs are raised, including the alignments of Weris with the dolmens and cromlechs that make them procession, the stones of Mousny-lez-Ortho, Gozée, Sart – Spa, Neerwinden, Manderfeld, the tomb of Tourinnes-Saint-Lambert and even Brussels where toponyms (Tomberg, Plattesteen, etc.) testify to the existence of ancient megalithic monuments. The important Mediterranean megalithic group of Corsica and Sardinia extends to Syria. The megalithism of Malta (Ggantija, 3500 BC) is a special and culturally independent case. In Sicily is the plateau of Argimusco near the town of Montalbano Elicona where are located several megaliths that have a very unusual shape still uncertain sources.
In India, megalithic monuments date from the millennium BC. BC until the middle of the millennium BC The most eastern dolmens, in Korea, are from the millennium, and in Japan from to. In Central Asia, Siberia and Mongolia, deer stones are dated from the end of the millennium BC. BC and millennium BC BC, they are attributed to Indo-European cultures such as the Andronovo culture and its annexes and descendants like the Scythians who will also raise many anthropomorphic menhirs. In Indonesia, production from megalithic quarries, sometimes very ornate, was still part of the cultural traditions of the island of Nias in the last century. There were stone statues, stone benches for the chiefs, and stone tables to exercise justice. Megaliths were also needed to commemorate the dead of the nobility so that they could join their pious ancestors in the afterlife. The erection of such a stone was a prelude to a ritual feast. The photo shows one of these ritual stones, shot (around 1915) on a slope. Local history has it that 525 people have, in three days, erected this stone in the village of Bawemataloeo.
It is in the region of southern Ethiopia that is still today the largest concentration of megaliths on the entire continent of Africa. they are divided into two distinct groups: dolmenic cists dating from the millennium for the oldest set, and others, more recent (I millenium of our era), are counted by thousands (a figure of 10,000 is advanced) in Shoa and Ethiopian Sidamo. One of the regions most marked by this megalithism is the Soddo district (wereda), south of Addis Ababa, where some 160 archaeological sites have been discovered so far; Tiya, one of the most important, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The dolmens and menhirs of Upper Egypt (Abu-Simbel, Nabta Playa, etc.) are dated to the fifth millennium BC (- 4500). The megaliths of North Africa only appear at the end of (- 2200). In Tunisia, the necropolis dolmens djebel Gorra, located near the small town of Thibar, on the road that leads to Téboursouk, has two to three hundred megalithic graves well recognizable.Dolmens necropolis also exist in Algeria in the border region Cheffia, until Calle, they date from the period Libyco-Berber. In Mauritania, Mali (in the Niafunké region, the Tundidaro site includes more than 150 erected stones). In Niger, Togo and Chad, erected stones protect burials; in Senegambia, nearly 29,000 megalithic circles of laterite have already been identified, in a limited space between the rivers Gambia in the south and Saloum in the north. They are dated from a period that extends from to perhaps even to our era. In the Central African Republic, in Bouar, megalithic buildings date from.
Colombia has dolmens: San Augustin and Alto de los Idolos, the two main sites are only a few kilometers apart. They stretch from till. In Brazil: A team of Brazilian archaeologists discovered at the Calçoene site (Amazonian state of Amapá) near French Guiana, an astronomical observatory dating back to the ancient times, probably dating back 2000 years. (Study of the ceramics found on the spot.) According to the archaeologist Mariana Petry Cabral, of the Institute of Scientific and Technological Research of Amapá (IEPA), only an organized society could be able to erect such a monument. The observatory consists of 127 blocks of granite, each of a height of, arranged in regular circles in a clearing of the Amazon rainforest. The layout of the monument is reminiscent of Stonehenge. Among the best examples of Neolithic architecture in Peru, in Cuzco, we must mention Sacsayhuaman (fortress made of cut stones of more than 100 tons) and the KoriCancha which, according to Inca legend, were there long before the arrival of the Incas ( 1320-1533). In Bolivia, Puma Punku (near Tihuahuanaco) still remains a mystery, with its precisely cut and interlocking stones.
At the extraction level, deer antler trees were able to extract the blocks by widening natural cracks or stratification planes. Strikers in flint or chaille could be used to drive the peaks into the rock or to form by bushhammering, while the shoulder blades of cattle could be used as a shovel. The use of wooden wedges, wet, allowed to inflate and disintegrate the rocky bench. In terms of transport and erection, the techniques are diverse: transport by water for long distances. Transportation on the mainland can be done by rolling on log roads, by sliding on frozen ground, by sleighs or kinds of rails in oak trunks, by the technique of panglong in Southeast Asia. Corners, poles and ropes (ropes made of braided vegetable fibers, soft roots of fir, ivy and viburnum, which are soaked, hammered and then braided) make it possible to manipulate and raise these blocks. The placement of roof slabs on vertical pillars can be achieved using ramps or inclined planes, or even scaffolding. After tipping the menhir into its pit, this megalith can be raised with a gantry crane, then firmly held by “blocks of rigging.” It does not seem that the oxen were used to tow, although the yoke was known in Neolithic times. The researchers thought that the transport and erection of megaliths required a large workforce gathered during festivities or ceremonies. But the experiment, widely publicized in 1979, carried out by Jean-Pierre Mohen in Bougon in the Deux-Sèvres, jostled many misconceptions about investments in time and labor, on the usury, or on the population density that would have participated in the work. Pushed by twenty men and fired by a hundred and seventy others using linen ropes on a train of logs, themselves installed on wooden rails, a block of 32 tons traveled about forty meters before be raised one meter by means of three levers. Similar experiences have shown that significant effects can also be achieved with few people, although slowly
If the degradation of megalithic buildings is partly due to the ravages of time, the destruction most often results from a voluntary human action, sometimes very old. From the Neolithic, since a site had no more funeral use, its blocks of stone could be recovered or destroyed symbolically. Many tombs were looted in ancient times. Emile Cartailhac evokes a passage from Cassiodorus that attributes to the Goths the habit of opening the ancient tombs, to steal the treasures supposed to be hidden while ensuring respect for the ashes of the dead. In its desire to remove all traces of paganism, the Catholic Church was one of the greatest destroyers of megalithic monuments. From 452, the council of Arles condemns as sacrilege any person lighting torches or rendering any worship near these stones. In 567, the Council of Tours renewed this condemnation. In 658, the Council of Nantes ordered the bishops to demolish the buildings that are still worshiped and to have the stones transported to lost places where no one will find them. In 789, a decree of Charlemagne exonerated those who worshiped them before God. Later, the Church will adopt less violent methods, such as the Christianization of menhirs. Apart from a deliberate desire for destruction, various human actions contribute to an inexorable degradation, in particularin the case of dolmens: destruction of tumuli which protect buildings but hamper crops, recovery of stones (roofing slabs, orthostats, dolmene cairn stones) for construction, paving, road works … These destructions increase considerably with the development of agricultural machinery from the middle of the. From the end of the year, archaeological maps and inventories made it possible to identify the megalithic heritage and lead the administrative authorities to protect certain buildings as historical monuments.