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I am glad to present some of the most fascinating pictures of European megalithic monuments. Contrary to the common meaning, there are many megaliths outside of the “classical megalithic countries” such as UK and France. You’ll find more than 400 photos of megaliths from various countries in the Gallery. Also, I would like to thank all the people who gave me feedback and material - both photos and descriptions of less well-known megaliths. Without their contributions these pages would never have come into existence.

  Everything Returns Endlessly
The circular view of the ancients

When the summit of snow-white Kilimanjaro was reached in 1889 by Hans Mayer, a German professor of geology, the African natives living in the plains surrounding the peak could not understand why the ”white people” want to climb up the heighs. To reach, to speed up, to develop, to go for it - many positive valued terms of our culture could be optically described as an arrow from here and now towards the unknown, to the future, to another place. We see life as a motion from one point to the next.

This is a relatively new view. In all nature-based cultures the return plays an immensely important role. The need is taken for granted that everything comes back to the roots after a phase of flowering and vice versa. The same for man:  birth and life are only a half of the journey, the death and the traveling from death towards a re-birth are the other part. There is no alternative in the ancestor’s mind to the view of the world traveling in a circle. The idea of the eternal return is substantial for the understanding of the ancient cultures, particularly the megalithic one.

There are many megalithic tombs built so that the rising or the setting Sun can be seen through the entrance. The rays of Sun, traveling through the corridor, usually touch the last vertical stone slab in the back part of the chamber. This happens twice a year, in the (rare) case of orientation towards winter or summer solstice only one time (as for example in New Grange, Ireland).

I don’t thing there could be a greater symbol of return: as the Sun returns to the chamber every year, the dead return from the other world through the mother’s womb (which the megalithic chambers are reminiscent of) to the Earth.

Usually, the orientation of the tombs (and the stone circles) is understood as having a calendar function. However, many of the tombs are NOT oriented exactly towards astronomically significant points as for example winter solstice sunrise. Maybe the megaliths have had less calendaric than symbolical function. I like the idea of some local festivals at the time the Sun (or the Moon...) reaches a particular point on horizon of a local importance.

Similarly the stone circles. There were many theories about the genuine astronomical observations. Naturally, there ARE astronomical connections but maybe the main purpose was... the celebration of the circle. In this context we also can consider ancient ring dances and stone mazes which are both probably older than we thing. We can see - the idea of the connection between men, Earth and sky and was very popular in the ancient times. Maybe, this is a part of the fascination that the old stones spreads til today.

Sincerely ..... yours Jan Bily

The Megalithic Column will be continued (return! ;-)

 

The revolving sky and the cycle of the year - both are symbolic for the circular view of ancient cultures.

 

The double spiral - here carved on the big slab at New Grange - is also a “coming & going” symbol.

 

The Mother Earth womb. (Tumulus de Kercado, South Brittony)

 

Are the stone circles (here the Dromberg SC) astronomical observatories or simply sky-oriented symbols for “eternal returning”?

 

Many megalithic stone carvings show concentric circles. This may be understood as a symbol for re-turning cycles similary to the annual rings of the trees.

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 All photos ©1996 - 2000 by Jan Bily, excepting those particulary noted.
With many thanks to Martina Hensler for translating and revising most of the pages.
Last update 10.3.2001