Chapter 2


The photographs in this chapter are not intended for individual study but to demonstrate by illustrations of many substantial monuments that are still standing after 5 or 6 thousand years, the extraordinary vigour, commitment and ability of the people of the Atlantic coastal culture in the Neolithic Age

Some of the illustrations will be duplicated and given more details in other chapters.

Chapter 2a

Dolmens and Round barrows covering stone chambers with passages.  These are characteristic features of the Atlantic coastal culture

Many of these structures have been excavated and reconstructed by archaeologists. Passage graves, as already mentioned, got their name because they often had human bones in them but the the contents were not like modern graves, left untouched.  Rather the ‘graves’ are likely to have been bone stores from which bones were removed from time to time for ritual purposes. A material link between stone platforms called excarnation platforms used to expose the bodies and passage graves is that the platforms have small bones and  teeth in the cracks, while these are absent from the passage graves.  Some passage graves are decorated with designs in relief. Living creatures in these designs are difficult to recognize except for a breasts and necklace motif on a French type of passage grave called allées couvertes, covered alleys, and representations of cattle on a Breton standing stone as already mentioned.


Photo 2a.1  Gavrinis  Brittany RJD

Photo2a.2   Merchants Table Brittany  RJD

Photo 2a.3   Luffang covered alley from the chamber.  No capstones have survived   PDD


Photo  2a.4        Crec’he Quille covered alley    PDD

Photo 2a.5  Er Grah Locmariaquer Brittany PDD


Photo 2a.6   Crocuno  Dolmen this is the chamber of a covered Alley  PDD

Photo 2a.7   Barnenez chambered cairn   NewPapllion

This cairn is dated at4800 BC, making it the oldest of its kind


Photo 2a.8   La Hougou Bie entrance to passage gave Jersey              JHD


Photo2a9   La Hougue Bie entrance from the chamber        JHD


Photo 2a.10  Kilclooney portal grave Ireland  RX-guru 


tomb with a view

Photo 2a.11   A small dolmen on a hillside near Login Pembrokeshire   HD


Photo 2.12 The author and his son Hugh in the chamber of Prajou covered alley, with two pairs of breasts in the background


Photo 2a.13 Prajou dolmen Trebeurden Brittany PDD  A very large dolmen 2m from base to the underside of the capstone



Photo 2a.14   Abercastle Dolmen  Rafaël Delaedt

pentre ifan

Photo 2a.15   Pentre Ifan South-West Wales                                  Linguistic Demographer

Unusually for south-west Wales this tall dolmen had a long barrow.

Lanyon Quoit

Photo 2a.16   Lanyon Quoit   Cornwall  Waterborough

Photo 2a.17   Maen Ceti Wales  Robin Leicester

lligwy dolmen

Photo 2a.18   Lligwy Dolmen   Anglesey   Kate Heath


Photo 2a.19  Bryn Celli Ddu Anglesey  Rhion  Pritchard


Photo 2a.20  Loughcrew  Ireland  William Whyte

Photo 2a.21  Carrowkeel                       John Sullivan


Photo2a. 22  Paulnabrone     Ireland       John Sullivan

BrownhillPhoto 2a.23  Brownshill Dolmen               Ireland                   Sarah777

At an estimated 100 tons the capstone is reputed to be the largest in Europe

West kennnet troxx
Photo 2a.24               West Kennet long barrow                          Troxx

 This barrow is 100m long and 2.5m high. The passage is 12m long. It shorter than many round barrows and high enough to walk in. It is in the Avebury riual landscape

The last is  included to show the contrast between the barrows outside the Atlantic coastal area with those within it.


Photo 2a.25  Klekkende Hoj passage grave  Isle of Mon  Denmark showing spread of megalithic culture to Denmark           Sandpiper


Chapter 2b

Stone Pillars and Stone Circles.  These are not entirely restricted to the megalithic coastal zone and some may not be neolithic but like the passage graves and dolmens they show the willingness of people with few resources to make a mark on the landscape still visible today.

At 280 tonnes and 20m,as long as a cricket pitch, the first picture may be of the largest shaped stone erected in Europe.  It was set up before 4000 BC and was last recorded standing by a French naval officer in the 16th century AD.  It broke into four pieces when it fell.

Photo 2b.1  The Great Broken Menhir   PDD
Photo 2b.2   Kermario stone rows  Carnac Brittany     PDD
 Kerlescan_CarnacPhoto 2b.3  Kerlescan stone rows Carnac Brittany          Mirabella
Photo 2b.4  Merry Maidens   Cornwall                    Waterborough
 Grey wethers
Photo 2b.5  Grey Wethers    Devon                         Herby talk thyme
 castle rigg
Photo 2b.6  Castlerigg stone circle  Cumbria                  Rob  Bendall
 devil's arrows
Photo 2b.7 The Devil’s Arrows   Yorkshire    Me677
Photo 2b.8  Aqhorties recumbent stone circle   Scotland     Bill McKelvie
Photo 2b.9 Callanish  Outer Hebrides                  Marta Gutowska
 Comet stone
Photo 2b.10   The Comet Stone with Ring of Brodgar in the distance   Orkney        Otter


Dol menhir

Photo 2b. 11   Dol Menhir Brittany  Nearly 9m  Richard Mudhar


Photo 2b.12  Giant of Manio   Brittany PDDMerrivale

Photo 2b.13   Merrivale stone rows Devon     Herbythyme

Down Tor old

Photo 2b.14   Down Tor   circle and stone rows    Devon               Herby talk thyme

Maen Llia

Photo 2b.15   Maen Llia Wales Immanual Gial

harald stones

Photo 2b.16  Harold’s Stones                      Phillip Halling

Long meg and her daughters

Photo 2b.17   Long Meg and her daughters    Simon Ledingham

Holland stine

Photo 2b.18  Holland House standing Stone   Orkney     Peter Ward


Chapter 2c

Banked enclosures of the Neolithic and some decorated stones etc

The banked enclosures described here are either henges, which are enclosures surrounded by a ditch and bank with one or two entrances, or cursuses, which are parallel banks up to 100 m apart and up to 10 km long.  The henges usually have the bank outside the ditch and are often round, some times true circles. The small ones such as Stonehenge contain little or no signs of eating. Large henges have food waste and broken pottery in them and may have houses, as at Durrington Walls.

King Arthur'sroundtable-

Photo 2c.1  King Arthur’s Round Table   Cumbria    Visit Cumbria  Simon Ledingham

This image is introduced to show what a henge looked like not because of the name, which is recent.  The diameter is 90m and there was a originally a second entrance opposite the one now visible .

Henges and cursuses are, like stone circles, almost entirely restricted to Britain. Henges may contain stone circles, some with a common centre. Every aspect of henges can be found in Hengeworld by Mike Pitts with many plans.

The name Stonehenge is derived from the Anglo-Saxon name, which  means  ‘hanging stones’ for the lintels.  Most of this category of monument turned out to have the bank outside the ditch, showing they were not defensive.  Stonehenge is one of the few with the bank inside the ditch.  The most stunning example of a henge is at Avebury, where the original ditch was 6m deep and the bank would have been correspondingly tall (for the present ditch and bank see the first two illustrations in Avebury in Chapter 3).


Photo 2c.2   Priddy Rings Somerset     Author C.H.Bothamley

The henges are about 160m in diameter and like Stonehenge have the bank inside the ditch.  A date from one ring suggests they were made about the same time as the ditch and bank of Stonehenge .

durrinton wallsPhoto 2c.3   Durrington Walls     near Stonehenge                                            Midnightblueowl

This henge, 3km from Stonehenge, has a diameter of 520m. Recent excavations have shown that it may have enclosed a village of approximately1000 houses, where the builders of Sarsen Stonehenge lived.  These houses were of a similar pattern to those in Orkney but built of wood, not stone. The plan of a house and the arrangement of furniture at Skara Brae is identical in many ways with one at Stonehenge. There is evidence of feasting, including large amounts of neolithic pottery called Grooved Ware, which is common in Orkney and other places but almost absent at Stonehenge itself.

MaumburyPhoto 2c.4   Maumbury Rings   Dorset                         Chris McKenna

The bank is about 85m in diameter and there is an entrance to the north-east. It was created by digging 45 pits 10m deep. These contained remains of deer and humans  and neolithic grooved ware.  They were deliberately refilled,  Later it was used as a Roman amphitheatre with the banks extended with material from the centre.


Photo 2c.5   Thornborough Henges     North Yorks       Tony Newbould

The three joined henges running roughly north-west/south-east are part of a ritual landscape. The approximate diameter of each is 275m. The centre henge overlies a cursus over 1.6 km long going north-east/south-west that was the earliest part of the complex which includes 3 other henges, burial mounds and mortuary enclosures. The banks of large boulders had been covered with white gypsum crystals.

Arbor low

Photo 2c.6   Arbor Low   Derbyshire    Michael Allen

The mound in the foreground is a later Bronze Age barrow. The large stones inside the henge all lie flat. It is not known whether that was always so.  The bank and ditch are an oval of about 85x75m enclosing a platform 52x40m. The ditch was hewn from the solid limestone, providing material for the bank.


Photo2c.7  The Bull Ring      Derbyshire                           Dave Dunford

This henge of about 75 m diameter has two entrances. It has been badly damaged by quarrying.  Originally it contained a ring of stones and near to it is a large barrow still 2.4m high to the south-west.  The distribution of the stones and the presence of a barrow are similar to Arbor Low.

Dorste cursus

Photo 2c.8   Dorset Cursus showing route across Wyke Down                            Jim Champion

This pair of cursuses end to end of about 3300 BC has parallel banks. Together they are about10km long and 100m or more wide. The ends are blocked with transverse banks and some of them are associated with long barrows. The purpose of cursuses is unknown. The only other monuments that sprawl across the landscape  are the stone rows of Carnac. There the similarity ends except they are both neolithic.

dorset cursu from roadPhoto 2c.9   Dorset Cursus looking south-west from B3081 on Cranbourne Chase                                                                 Jim Champion

log barrow at Dorset cursus

Photo 2c.10    One of the long barrows associated with the Dorset Cursus                                                              Jim Champion

Grimes graves

Photo 2c.11   Grimes Graves flint mines Norfolk               Ron Strutt

The mines occupy an area of nearly 40 hectares. At least 360 craters mark the position of shafts dug in the Neolithic to mine flints. Some of the deeper pits have up to four galleries 9m long.   There are over 400 shafts, the deepest being 14m.  The spoil was packed into used up galleries to avoid destabilizing other mines nearby.   The mines started in the Neolithic and continued much later, even into the Iron Age, because metal cutting tools were not so cheap or easily accessible.  There are other flint mines in Suffolk, Devon and Wales.

Grimes graves pitpng

Photo 2c.12   Grimes Graves showing bottom of shaft with entrances to galleries   Ashley Dace

cup marked stone

Photo 2c.13   Cup marked Stone Pipers Crag Addingham West Yorks. Roy W. Lambert

cup and ring mark on long meg

Photo 2 c.14  Cup and ring mark on Long Meg   Cumbria    Swpmre

This is on the side of Long Meg facing the stone circle. For Long Meg and her daughters see 2b.16 above

Minolta DSC

Photo 2c 15   Cup and ring marks    Argyll  Scotland                      Chris Hawkes

Cupmarks and concentric rings are common along the Atlantic coast and occur elsewhere in Europe and beyond but their symbolism has been lost.  In Yorkshire some are found in swastika-like patterns but more often their distribution on a rock seems to be random. Sometimes a cup in the centre of rings is drained by a straight channel called a gutter, which in one instance at Hunterheugh may have been used on a sloping slab to direct rainwater to other similar patterns lower down. On the other hand the gutter illustrated here on Long Meg is on a vertical surface.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>