Megaliths by type
This gallery gives an overview of types of megaliths. For each type of megalith there is a description here and an example reference picture (when available).
This page is meant to help users typing images of megaliths. The categorization scheme 'Megaliths by type' is part of the Commons: Category scheme megaliths, and gives the Type documentation for Category: Megaliths.
- 1 Boundary stones
- 2 Cairns
- 3 Chamber tombs
- 4 Henges
- 5 Megalithic towers
- 6 Menhirs
- 7 Navetes
- 8 Obelisks
- 9 Pyramids
- 10 Polishing stones
- 11 Steles
- 12 Stone alignments
- 13 Stone circles
- 14 Rocking stones
- 15 Taules
- 16 Tumuli
A robust stone marker that identifies the start of a land boundary or the change in a boundary, especially a change in a direction of a boundary. Many are inscribed with relevant information such as the abbreviation of the boundary holder and often a date.
Known equivalents and/or sub-types: Boundary marker
|Example Boundary stone|
An artificial pile of stones, often in a conical form. Although not a megalithic structure itself, a cairn is included here because images of semi-exposed cairns may show megalithic chamber graves inside.
Known equivalents and/or sub-types: Càrn, Ducks, Duckies, Gromila, Harugâ, Heargas, Hörgar, Inukshuk, Kuml, Kümmel, Kummeli, Ovoo, Sea mark, Steinmann, Stenenman, Stupas.
An artificial pile of stones heaped over a burial chamber, often a megalithic tomb or a chamber made of wood. Their size can vary considerably.
Inside a cairn there can be a gallery grave, an entrance grave or a passage grave.
Known equivalents and/or sub-types: Carn, Clava cairn, Galgals, Karn.
|Example Chamber cairn|
A tomb for burial built from rocks.
Mosty were covered by cairns or earth barrows, but the term is also applied to tombs cut directly into rock and wooden-chambered tombs covered with earth barrows.
Chamber tombs are often distinguished by the layout of their chambers and entrances or the shape and material of the structure that covered them:
Known equivalents: Burial chamber, Chamber tumuli, Chambered cairns, Chambered long barrows, Corbelled tombs, Megalithic tombs.
Tomb containing a single chamber where the entrance area merges with the burial area itself, simply through a slight change in the alignment of the stone slab walls. Sometimes still covered with a round earth mound.
Known equivalents and/or sub-types: Antas, Dös, Dyss, Hunebedden, Hünengrab, Scillonian entrance graves, Stazzone, Undifferentiated passage graves.
A fully exposed entrance grave where the mound has been removed.
Known equivalents and/or sub-types: Cromlechs, Portal Dolmen, Quoit, Taol maen.
|Example Dolmen: An exposed entrance grave|
Tomb where there is no size difference between the burial chamber itself and the entrance passage. Two parallel walls of stone slabs were erected to form a corridor and covered with a line of capstones. The rectangular tomb was covered with an earth barrow or a cairn.
Known equivalents and/or sub-types: Allées couvertes, Court cairns, Court tombs, Galleriegräber, Giants' graves, Transepted gallery graves, Wedge-shaped gallery graves.
|Example Gallery grave|
A tomb where the burial chamber is reached along a distinct passage. Some variants have simple single chambers, while other may have sub-chambers leading off from the main burial chamber. A common layout of later monuments is cross shaped in plan. Passage tombs, especially later ones, are sometimes covered with a cairn of earth or rocks.
Known equivalents and/or sub-types: Allées couvertes, Passage tombs, Long barrows, Court cairns, Court tombs, Steinkisten, Cistvaen, Kistvaen, Tumbas de corridor.
|Example Passage grave|
A stone coffin in the form of a pit covered with earth and surrounded by stones.
Known equivalents and/or sub-types: Kistvaen, Gravkisten, Hällkista, Hellekisten, Stenkisten, Steinkiste
|Example Cist grave|
Architectural structure consisting of a nearly circular or oval-shaped flat area over 20 metres in diameter that is enclosed and delimited by a boundary earthwork that usually comprises a ditch with an external bank. The earthwork permits access to the interior by one, two, or four entrances. Internal components may include portal settings, timber circles, post rings, stone circles, four-stone settings, monoliths, standing posts, pits, coves, post alignments, stone alignments, burials, central mounds, and stakeholes.
Although not a megalithic structure, a henge is includes here because images of henges frequently show megaliths inside.
Known equivalents and/or sub-types: Causewayed enclosures
The main type of megalithic edifice found in Sardinia. The typical nuraghe is situated in a panoramic spot and has the shape of a truncated conical tower resembling a beehive. Some nuraghes are more than 20 metres in height.
Known equivalents and/or sub-types: Nuraghes, Shardana
Round or elliptical towers with sepulchral chambers in them, built of rough blocks of lava, located on the Italian island Pantelleria. There are fifty-seven of them. The largest is an ellipse of about 18 by 20 meter, but most of the sesi have a diameter of only 6 to 7.5 meter.
Known equivalents and/or sub-types: -
Megaliths on the islands of Minorca and Majorca (Balearic Islands, Spain). There are at least 274 of them. These monuments pre-date the taulas, which are usually found nearby.
Known equivalents and/or sub-types: Talayots
Corsican Bronze Age towers sited on the lower slopes of the mountains overlooking the coastline of Corsica. The torri appear to be miniature versions of the contemporaneous nuraghi found on Sardinia. Sometimes they are made of reused menhirs.
Known equivalents and/or sub-types: Torréen
A menhir is a large upright standing stone. Menhirs may be found singly as monoliths, or as part of a group of similar stones. Their size can vary considerably; but their shape is generally uneven and squared, often tapering towards the top.
Known equivalents and/or sub-types: Standing stones, Orthostats, Monoliths, Liths.
"Navetes" is the plural of "naveta". A naveta is a megalithic chamber tomb unique to the Balearic island of Minorca. It has two vertical and two corbelled walls giving it the form of an unpturned boat which is where the name comes from.
Known equivalents and/or sub-types:
A tall, narrow, four-sided, tapering monument which ends in a pyramidal top. Ancient obelisks were made of a single piece of stone (a monolith); however, most modern obelisks are made of individual stones, and can even have interior spaces.
Known equivalents and/or sub-types: -
A pirimidal stone structure.
Known equivalents and/or sub-types: -
Rock with polishing marks.
Known equivalents and/or sub-types: Polissoirs
|Example Polishing stone|
A stone slab, generally taller than it is wide, decorated with inscribed symbols and/or drawings carved in relief (bas-relief, sunken-relief, high-relief, etc.), or painted onto the slab. An archaeological grave or commemorative stone from an ancient culture.
Known equivalents and/or sub-types: Breton Iron Age steles, steles discoidales, Kurgan stelae, Balbal
A linear arrangement of upright, parallel megalithic standing stones set at intervals along a common axis or series of axes. Rows may be individual or grouped, and three or more stones alined can constitute a stone row.
Known equivalents and/or sub-types: Stone rows, Avenue
|Example Stone alignment|
Not always precisely circular or even elliptic purposely erected standing stones, or a setting of four stones laid on an arc of a circle. The number of stones can vary between roughly 4 and 60]. The circle often contain burial pits or chambers or other megaliths.
Known equivalents and/or sub-types: Cromlech, Recumbent stone circles
|Example Stone circle|
Large stone that is so finely balanced that the application of just a small force causes it to rock. Some are man-made megaliths, but others are natural, often left by glaciers.
Known equivalents and/or sub-types: Judgement stones, Logan stones, Logans, Clach-bràth.
|Example Rocking stone|
"Taules" is the plural of "taula". A taula is a T-shaped stone monument found on the Balearic island of Minorca. Taulas can be up to 3.7 metres high and consist of a vertical pillar (a monolith or several smaller stones on top of each other) with a horizontal stone lying on it. A U-shaped wall often encloses the structure.
Known equivalents and/or sub-types: Taules megalítiques, Taulas
"Tumuli" is the plural of the word "tumulus". It is a burial mound or barrow, heaped over a cremation, burial or burial chamber, often a megalithic tomb or a chamber made of wood. Their size can vary considerably. Tumulus is a more international term, while burial mound is the general term used more often in English-speaking nations. Barrow is a more specific archaeological term for a prehistoric burial mound. Although not a megalithic structure itself, a tumulus is included here because images of semi-exposed tumuli frequently show megalithic gallery graves, entrance graves or passage graves inside.
Known equivalents and/or sub-types: Burial mounds, Barrows, Bell barrows, Round barrows, Long barrows, Kopiec, Kurgans, Kurhan, Kofun