Mystery of the Megaliths: What are They?

Stonehenge never fails to impress those who view it. This becomes especially true when one learns that the estimated age Stonehenge is 5100 years old. To date, there is no clear answer as to who built Stonehenge, how they built it (since stones weigh up to 50 tons and were brought to the location from 150+ miles away). There is no end to theories as to why it was built. What may be even more impressive than Stonehenge is that Stonehenge is NOT the ONLY massive stone structure pre-dating human history. In fact, there are tens of thousands of ancient stone structures, many remarkably similar, located world wide. There are so many of these mysterious stone structures that archaeologists had to create a special category for them. They are called ‘Megaliths’ and they are one of the world’s great mysteries.


Stonehenge – The most famous megalith

Megaliths Around the World

Megaliths are generally divided into two basic types. First there are the dolmens, which are sometimes known as "chamber tombs". Dolmens typically consist of one large stone, acting as a sort of roof, placed on top of other large stones in order to create a room-like structure. The largest concentration of megalithic dolmens are in Korea, perhaps 35,000 or more. Yet, the oldest dolmens are in Western Europe, many in Ireland and England, and may be as much as 7,000 years old. These massive stone structures are also found in India, China, Russia, Jordan, pretty much world wide.

What adds to the mystery is that megalithic dolmens are often very similar. Though they are called "chamber tombs", and human remains have been have been found in or around some of the structures, those remains are sometimes not nearly as old as the dolmens themselves. It is not clear the structures were originally built as tombs at all.

Dolmen Megalith - Korea

Dolmen Megalith – Korea

The idea that these huge stone structures are ‘burial sites’ is at best a guess. Ancient artifacts that have been found in and around dolmens have yet to point to who built them and exactly when or why. Most of the artifacts point to people and cultures who arrived after the dolmens were built, people who ‘discovered’ them, much like we have, and marveled at them, just like we do.

Besides what might be called the typical dolmen megalith, there is another type of megalithic structure, the "menhir". The word menhir means Standing Stone. As with the megalithic dolmens, the megalithic menhir are older than human history. The megalith menhirs are typically gigantic stones that have been positioned like huge ‘poles’. Sometimes this stones are arranged in a group. Stonehenge is considered a megalithic menhir, even though it has some similarities to the ‘table top’ structure of the dolmens. Again, as with the dolmen megalithic structures, the menhir are found world wide. However, in the case of menhirs, the largest concentration of them seems to be located in Great Britain. Menhirs, standing alone, have also been called "monoliths" (and likely were the inspiration for the huge, black monoliths in the classic film ‘2001 Space Odyssey’).

Megalith Jordan

Dolmen Megalith – Jordan

There is no shortage of theories about who constructed the monolithic menhirs. Over the centuries, several different cultures have been credited with building Megaliths such as the ancient druids and/or the Beaker people. Though carbon dating is tricky with all the Megaliths, recently testing with improved techniques indicate that the menhirs, just like the dolmens, pre-date the arrival of even the oldest known cultures. Megalithic structures going back 7000 years enter a time where little is known about human culture. It is likely the ancient people of Britain and Ireland adopted the ancient Megaliths, perhaps enhanced the construction of megalithic stone circles (Stonehenge being a quintessential example). There is speculation that the site where Stonehenge was constructed was in use by humans going back as far as 8000 BC. Even before this time, as early as the 10th millennium BC, a tradition of megalithic temple complexes also characterized by large standing stones had already begun in the area of modern-day Turkey. This would make the Megaliths in Turkey over 12,000 years old.

The Impressive Engineering of Megaliths

No matter which type of megalithic structure one is talking about, it is impossible to overlook the masterful engineering that must have gone into its construction. Both dolmen and menhir megaliths were constructed using stone blocks that often weighed several tons, some up to 100 tons, and had to have been transported over extremely long distances. This is a difficult task today, with all our modern technology. Doing this type of construction in the Stone Age seems nearly impossible and would require huge investments in man power and ingenuity.

Even more astounding is the precision with which many of these blocks seem to have been cut and placed, a precision that, some argue, modern construction techniques would have a hard time emulating. These facts have intrigued many minds throughout the centuries, leading to an astonishing number of theories about how and why megalithic sites were built.

Megalithic Menhir - Kazakhstan

Megalithic Menhir – Kazakhstan

Mainstream Theories

There is very little consensus among researchers as to how these megalithic stones could have been moved across such vast distances and put up with such precision. Compounding this problem is the fact that some research think that various civilizations who built megaliths likely employed many different methods. Nevertheless, most researchers agree that these feats of engineering, astounding as they seem, could have been undertaken using the tools of the day, with simple pulley systems, wooden tracks, and a good amount of manpower. However, there is no proof any of the ‘supposed’ methods of building megaliths were ever used.

Most archaeologists and other researchers who study these megalithic sites are in agreement that they were generally used for spiritual reasons and/or religious ceremonies. Some may have acted as burial sites, gathering places, or even astronomical observatories. Keep in mind, of course, that thousands of years ago astronomical observations would have been closely tied in with religious and mythological beliefs.

Archaeological study of megaliths is fairly recent, in historical terms. It is only recently that archaeologists discovered that Megaliths were world wide and shared may of the same attributes. Many theories that about who built them have been overturned by recent advancements in dating how old these structures really are. For the moment, advancement in archaeological understanding and theories about Megaliths have been about discovering much of what we thought we knew about their origins is incorrect.

Unconventional Theories

One thing seems to tie the unconventional theories with the mainstream theories: Spirituality. It would appear that nothing inspired pre-historic man like spirituality and religion (assuming that the megaliths were built by homo sapiens).

Menhir Megalith - France

Menhir Megalith – France

Some of the more unconventional theories about why these megalithic structures appear all around the world involve the idea that they were built over ‘ley lines’. Ley lines are straight lines which appear to connect many mystical locations and significant spiritual structures like the Megaliths. The concept of ley lines is considered ‘fringe science’, especially since these lines are suppose to be lines of significant ‘spiritual energy’. Nonetheless, the study and fascination with possible ley lines is very popular. Some think the major Megaliths were built to somehow mark and harness the power of ley lines.

Some people also think that the engineering it took to build the megaliths was beyond what we think we know of the capabilities of the world’s ancient people. For this reason, it is sometimes proposed that the megaliths were built with assistance from alien beings who visited humanity in the past, or, that ancient humans were much more technologically advanced than we give them credit. Some think that, possibly, the survivors of the lost City of Atlantis brought technological know-how to other cultures and began the building of megaliths for reasons we don’t understand.

Menhir Megalith - Portugal

Menhir Megalith – Portugal

Researchers such as Graham Hancock, a popular author on ancient mysteries, argue that the presence of megalithic structures around the world suggests the existence of a highly advanced, worldwide culture that was wiped out in a cataclysmic event, leaving only their masterful engineering behind as evidence. This theory is intriguing since dolmens world wide can be so remarkably similar, and, that Megaliths world wide seemed to have been erected within for several thousand years, then construction simply stops. Also the construction of such massive structures around the world would imply a shared, seemingly advanced understanding of engineering.

Myths, Legends, and Reports of Paranormal Activity

Many myths and legends surround the megalithic structures of the world. Some ancient people believed that the megaliths of their homelands were put up by giants, or by other powerful beings or gods that dominated their cultural mythology. What’s interesting is that almost all the myths and legends involve the same scenario: Superior beings/people once walked the earth and built these megalithic structures for various reasons.

The belief that there is something ‘special’ about Megaliths has been reinforced over the centuries by stories of paranormal activity at numerous megalithic sites. Because Stonehenge happens to be one of most popular and visited Megalith, it has the distinction of having the greatest number of paranormal activity reports.

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Megaliths, and especially those which are located directly along important ley lines, are thought to be areas where the walls between the spiritual and physical planes become much thinner, making it easier to communicate with spirits; tap into spiritual power; and even be a means to peek into the past and/or future. Stories of encountering spirits, feeling a strange energy in the air, and even becoming healed of certain physical ailments are not uncommon from people who have visited megalithic sites. Another curious phenomenon is the oft-reported sightings of UFOs around the world’s megaliths.

There is no consensus about what these strange happenings mean and why they seem to occur with greater frequency at megalithic sites. Those who have been witness to, or experienced, what seem to be paranormal events can’t shake the feeling that the Megaliths are a mystery much deeper than we know or suspect. The megalithic mysteries are likely to be something we all will puzzle over for a long time to come. No one has as yet has any solid answers as to who built them or why (or how). The only agreement is that they are somehow rooted in spiritual/religious origins.

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Also note: Images above link to further information on Megaliths at particular locations. Just so you know.