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.
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
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
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
Photo 2a.15 Pentre Ifan South-West Wales Linguistic Demographer
Unusually for south-west Wales this tall dolmen had a long barrow.
Photo 2a.16 Lanyon Quoit Cornwall Waterborough
Photo 2a.17 Maen Ceti Wales Robin Leicester
Photo 2a.18 Lligwy Dolmen Anglesey Kate Heath
Photo 2a.19 Bryn Celli Ddu Anglesey Rhion Pritchard
Photo 2a.20 Loughcrew Ireland William Whyte
Photo2a. 22 Paulnabrone Ireland John Sullivan
At an estimated 100 tons the capstone is reputed to be the largest in Europe
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
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. 11 Dol Menhir Brittany Nearly 9m Richard Mudhar
Photo 2b.13 Merrivale stone rows Devon Herbythyme
Photo 2b.14 Down Tor circle and stone rows Devon Herby talk thyme
Photo 2b.15 Maen Llia Wales Immanual Gial
Photo 2b.16 Harold’s Stones Phillip Halling
Photo 2b.17 Long Meg and her daughters Simon Ledingham
Photo 2b.18 Holland House standing Stone Orkney Peter Ward
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.
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 .
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.
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.
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.
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.
Photo 2c.10 One of the long barrows associated with the Dorset Cursus Jim Champion
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.
Photo 2c.12 Grimes Graves showing bottom of shaft with entrances to galleries Ashley Dace
Photo 2c.13 Cup marked Stone Pipers Crag Addingham West Yorks. Roy W. Lambert
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
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.