6.Megalithic civilization

               A megalith is a large stone which has been used to construct a structure or monument, either alone or together with other stones. Megalithic means structures made of such large stones, utilizing an interlocking system without the use of mortar or cement. The word megalith comes from the Ancient Greek megas meaning great, and lithos meaning stone. "Megalith" also denotes an item consisting of rock(s) hewn in definite shapes for special purposes. It has been used to describe buildings built by people from many parts of the world living in many different periods. A variety of large stones are seen as megaliths and the purpose of these megaliths have not been properly defined. Many of the megaliths could have served as some kind of religious monuments, some of them have been used for astronomical observation and many were used as tombs. The construction of these structures took place mainly in the Neolithic (though earlier Mesolithic examples are known) and continued into the Copper Age and Bronze Age. 

                  At a number of sites in eastern Turkey, large ceremonial complexes from the 9th millennium BC have been discovered. They belong to the incipient phases of agriculture and animal husbandry, from which the European (or Western) Neolithic would later develop. Large circular structures involving carved megalithic stones are a typical feature, e.g. at Nevali Cori and Gobekli Tepe. These structures are the most ancient megalithic structures known so far, it shows that the megalithic culture started from here and spread everywhere throughout the world. At Gobekli Tepe four stone circles have been excavated which have a diameter of 20 to 30 metres. The stones carry carved reliefs of boars, foxes, lions, birds, snakes and scorpions. Note that this megalithic culture origin centre is in accordance with Renfrew’s and Anatolian origin theory. 

European megaliths


                       The most common type of megalithic construction in Europe is the dolmen. Dolmen is a chamber constructed with upright stones (orthostats) with one or more large flat capstones forming a roof. Many of these, though by no means all, contain human remains, but it is generally believed that these dolmens were used as burial sites and it was their primary function. It is assumed that most dolmens were originally covered by earthen mounds. The second most common tomb type is the passage grave. It normally consists of a square, circular or cruciform chamber with a slabbed or corbelled roof, accessed by a long, straight passageway, with the whole structure covered by a circular mound of earth. Sometimes it is also surrounded by an external stone kerb. The third tomb type is a diverse group known as gallery graves. These are axially arranged chambers placed under elongated mounds. The Irish court tombs and British long barrows belong to this group. 

                      Another type of megalithic monument is the single standing stone, or menhir. Some of these are thought to have an astronomical function as a marker or foresight and in some areas long and complex alignments of such stones exist, for example at Carnac in Brittany. In parts of Britain and Ireland the best known type of megalithic construction is the stone circle, of which there are hundreds of examples, including Stonehenge, Avebury, Ring of Brodgar and Beltany. These too display evidence of astronomical alignments, both solar and lunar. Stonehenge, for example, is famous for its solstice alignment. Examples of stone circles are also found in the rest of Europe. They are normally assumed to be of later date than the tombs, straddling the Neolithic and the Bronze Age. 


                        Megalithic tombs are aboveground burial chambers, built of large stone slabs (megaliths) laid on edge and covered with earth or other, smaller stones. They are a type of chamber tomb, and the term is used to describe the structures built across Atlantic Europe, the Mediterranean and neighbouring regions, mostly during the Neolithic period, by Neolithic farming communities. They differ from the contemporary long barrows through their structural use of stone. There is a huge variety of megalithic tombs. The free-standing single chamber dolmens and portal dolmens found in Brittany, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, Sweden, Wales and elsewhere consist of a large flat stone supported by three, four or more standing stones. They were covered by a stone cairn or earth barrow. 

                         Examples with outer areas, not used for burial, are also known. The Court Cairns of south west Scotland and northern Ireland, the Severn-Cotswold tombs of south west England and the Transepted gallery graves of the Loire region in France share many internal features although the links between them are not yet fully understood. That they often have antechambers or forecourts is thought to imply a desire on the part of the builders to emphasise a special ritual or physical separation of the dead from the living. Megalithic tombs appear to have been used by communities for the long-term deposition of the remains of their dead and some seem to have undergone alteration and enlargement. The organisation and effort required to erect these large stones mean that the societies concerned must have placed great emphasis on the proper treatment of their dead. The ritual significance of the tombs is supported by the presence of megalithic art carved into the stones at some sites. Hearths and deposits of pottery and animal bone found by archaeologists around some tombs also implies some form of burial feast or sacrificial rites took place there. (wikipedia) 

Other structures 

                      Associated with the megalithic constructions across Europe there are often large earthworks of various designs like ditches and banks, broad terraces, circular enclosures known as henges, and frequently artificial mounds such as Silbury Hill in England. Sometimes, as at Glastonbury Tor in England, it is suggested that a natural hill has been artificially sculpted to form a maze or spiral pattern in the turf. Spirals were evidently an important motif for the megalith builders, and have been found carved into megalithic structures all over Europe, along with other symbols such as lozenges, eye-patterns, zigzags in various configurations, and cup and ring marks. Whilst clearly not a written script in the modern sense of the term, these symbols are considered to have conveyed meaning to their creators, and are remarkably consistent across the whole of Western Europe.

Spread of megalithic architecture in Europe

 Megalithic architecture - spread

                     In Western Europe and the Mediterranean, megaliths are generally constructions erected during the Neolithic or Stone Age and Copper Age (4500-1500 BC). Perhaps the most famous megalithic structure is Stonehenge in England, although many others are known throughout the world. In France, the tallest megalithic stone is found at Carnac in Brittany provice in France. The stone has been deliberately knocked down and has broken into three pieces by the later day religious zealots. The spread of megalithic sites shown in the map reveals an important fact. Note that the earliest spread of megalithic culture (around the year 4800-3000 BC) are in the islands of Malta, Corsica and regions around Marseilles, Brittany, Cornwall, Wales, Southern Ireland and Northern Denmark. This spread along the coast of Western Europe show that this megalithic culture was spread by maritime civilisations and had spread far and wide. It is likely that this megalithic culture started in the Anatolian high lands and spread to the coasts of Anatolia and Lebanon in the initial stage and later had spread all over the coastal areas of Mediterranean seas and Atlantic coast. Extrapolation of this fact to some more extent shows the possibility that the megalithic monuments at Meso America (Mexico and other countries of Middle America) also could be the work of Neolithic farmers from European coastal area. 

Middle Eastern megaliths 

                         Dolmens and standing stones have been found in large areas of the Middle East starting at the Turkish border in the north of Syria close to Aleppo, southwards down to Yemen. They can be encountered in northern Lebanon, southern Syria Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. The most concentrated occurrence of dolmen in particular is in a large area on both sides of the Great Rift Valley, with greater predominance on the eastern side. They occur first and foremost on the Golan Heights, Haran and in Jordan which probably has the largest concentration of dolmen in the Middle East. In Saudi Arabia only very few dolmen have been identified so far in the Hejaz. They seem to re-emerge in Yemen in small numbers and thus could indicate a continuous tradition related to those of Somalia and Ethiopia. The standing stone has a very ancient tradition in the Middle East, dating back from Mesopotamian times. Although not always 'megalithic' in the true sense, they occur throughout the Orient, and can reach 5 meters or more in some cases (such as Ader in Jordan). This phenomenon can also be traced through many passages from the Old Testament, such as those related to Jacob, the grandson of Abraham, who poured oil over a stone which he erected after his famous dream in which angels climbed to heaven (Genesis 28:10-22). Jacob also put up stones at other occasions, whereas Moses erected twelve pillars symbolizing the tribes of Israel. The tradition of venerating (standing) stones continued in Nabataean times and is e.g. reflected in the Islamic rituals surrounding the Kabala and nearby pillars. Related phenomena, such as cup holes, rock-cut tombs and circles also occur in the Middle East. (wikipedia) 

Analysis and evaluation 

                              Megaliths were used for a variety of purposes. The purpose of megaliths ranged from serving as boundary markers of territory, to a reminder of past events, to being part of the society's religion. Common motifs including crooks and axes seem to be symbols of political power, much like the crook was a symbol of Egyptian pharaohs. Amongst the indigenous peoples of India, Malaysia, Polynesia, North Africa, North America, and South America, the worship of these stones, or the use of these stones to symbolize a spirit or deity, is a possibility. In the early 20th century, some scholars believed that all megaliths belonged to one global "Megalithic culture"(hyper diffusionism, e. g. 'the Manchester school', by Grafton Elliot Smith and William James Perry), but this has not been accepted by archaeologists because of dating problems. But general distribution and similarities of this megalith culture shows a common origin and shared cultural values and the oldest civilized society and it is in conformity with Renfrew model. 


                            On the Anatolian peninsula, there are several sites where one can find the biggest specimens of these artificial mounds throughout the world. Three of these sites are especially important. Bin Tepeler (and other Lydian mounds is Menisa province, East of Izmir city), Phrygian mounds in Gordium (Central Anatolia), and the famous Commagene tumulus on the Mount Nemrut (South-eastern Anatolia). The most important site is called "Bin Tepeler" (a thousand mounds in Turkish) and it is in the northwest of Salihli district of Manisa province. The site is very close to the southern shoreline of Lake Marmara (Lake Gyges or Gygaea). Bin Tepeler is a Lydian necropolis which dates back to 7th and 6th centuries B.C. These mounds are called "the pyramids of Anatolia" as there is even a giant specimen among them which attains 355 meters in diameter, 1115 meters in perimeter and 69 meters of height. 

                             According to the accounts drawn up by Herodotus, this giant tumulus belongs to the famous Lydian King Alyattes II who ruled between 619–560 B.C. There is also another mound belonging to King Gyges. The Gyges mound was excavated but the burial chamber hasn't been found yet. In this site, there are 75 tumuli dating back to Lydian period which belong to the nobility. A large number of smaller artificial mounds can also be observed in the site. 

                            Gordium is the capital of the Phrygian Kingdom. Its ruins are in the immediate vicinity of Polati district of the Turkish capital Ankara. In this site, there are approximately 80-90 tumuli which date back to Phrygian, Persian and Hellenistic periods. Only 35 tumuli were excavated so far. The mounds had been built between 8th century B.C. and 3rd or 2nd century B.C. The biggest tumulus in the site is believed to belong to the famous Phrygian King Midas. This mound had been excavated in 1957 and several bronze artefacts were collected from the wooden burial chamber. 

                         The Mount Nemrut is 86 km in the east of Adiyaman province of Turkey. The mountain has, at its peak, 3050 meters of height above the sea level. A tumulus which dates back to the 1st century B.C. is situated at the peak of the mountain. This artificial mound has 150 meters of diameter and a height of 50 meters which was originally 55 meters. It belongs to the King Antiochus I Theos of Commagene who ruled between 69–40 B.C. The most interesting thing about the tumulus is that it is made of broken stone pieces which render the excavation attempts almost impossible. The tumulus is surrounded by ceremonial terraces in the east, west and north. The east and west terraces have tremendous statues (reaching 8 to 10 meters of height) and bas reliefs of gods and goddesses from the Commagene pantheon where divine figures used to embody the Persian and Roman perceptions together. 

Catal Huyuk 

                         Catal Huyuk (Catal is Turkish for "fork", Huyuk for "mound") was a large Neolithic and copper age settlement in southern Anatolia, c 7500-5700 BCE. It is the largest and best preserved Neolithic site found to date. Catal Huyuk is located overlooking wheat fields in the Konya Plain, southeast of the present-day city of Konya (ancient Iconium) in Turkey, approximately 140 km from the twin-coned volcano of Hasan Dag. The eastern settlement forms a mound which would have risen about 20 m (66 ft) above the plain at the time of the latest Neolithic occupation. The prehistoric mound settlements were abandoned before the Bronze Age. A channel of the Carsamba River once flowed between the two mounds, and the settlement was built on alluvial clay which may have been favourable for early agriculture. (Wikipedia) 

                         First discovered in 1961, the Catal Huyuk site was brought to worldwide attention by James Mellaart's excavations between 1961 and 1965, which revealed this section of Anatolia as a centre of advanced culture in the Neolithic period. Mellaart was banned from Turkey for his involvement in the Dorak affair in which he published drawings of supposedly important Bronze Age artefacts that later went missing. After this scandal, the site lay idle until 1993, when investigations began under the leadership of Ian Hodder then at the University of Cambridge. These investigations are among the most ambitious excavation projects currently in progress.

                              In addition to extensive use of archaeological, psychological and artistic interpretations of the symbolism of the wall paintings have also been employed. The entire settlement of Catal Huyuk was composed of domestic buildings; the site has no obvious public buildings. While some of the larger buildings contain rather ornate wall murals, the purpose of such rooms remains unclear. 
The population of the eastern mound has been estimated at up to 10,000 people, but population totals likely varied over the community’s history. An average population of 5,000 to 8,000 is a reasonable estimate. The inhabitants lived in mud-brick houses which were crammed together in an agglutinative manner. No footpaths or streets were used between the dwellings, which were clustered in a honeycomb-like maze. Most were accessed by holes in the ceiling, which were reached by interior and exterior ladders and stairs. Thus, their rooftops were their streets. The ceiling openings also served as the only source of ventilation, letting in fresh air and allowing smoke from open hearths and ovens to escape.

                             Houses had plaster interiors characterized by squared off timber ladders or steep stairs, usually placed on the south wall of the room, as were cooking hearths and ovens. Each main room served as an area for cooking and daily activities. The main rooms contained raised platforms that may have been used for a range of domestic activities. All interior walls and platforms were plastered to a smooth finish. Ancillary rooms were used as storage, and were accessed through low entry openings from main rooms. All rooms were kept scrupulously clean. Archaeologists identified very little trash or rubbish within the buildings, but found that trash heaps outside the ruins contain sewage and food waste as well as significant amounts of wood ash. In good weather, many daily activities may also have taken place on the rooftops, which conceivably formed an open air plaza. In later periods, large communal ovens appear to have been built on these rooftops. Over time, houses were renewed by partial demolition and rebuilding on a foundation of rubble—which was how the mound became built up. Up to eighteen levels of settlement have been uncovered. (Wikipedia) 

                         The people of Catal Huyuk buried their dead within the village. Human remains have been found in pits beneath the floors, and especially beneath hearths, the platforms within the main rooms and under the beds. The bodies were tightly flexed before burial, and were often placed in baskets or wrapped in reed mats. Disarticulated bones in some graves suggest that bodies may have been exposed in the open air for a time before the bones were gathered and buried. In some cases, graves were disturbed and the individual’s head removed from the skeleton. These heads may have been used in ritual, as some were found in other areas of the community. Some skulls were plastered and painted with ochre to recreate human-like faces, a custom more characteristic of Neolithic sites in Syria and at Neolithic Jericho than at sites closer by. 

                           Vivid murals and figurines are found throughout the settlement, on interior and exterior walls. Distinctive clay figurines of women have been found in the upper levels of the site. Although no identifiable temples have been found, the graves, murals, and figurines suggest that the people of Catal Huyuk had a religion that was rich in symbol. Rooms with concentrations of these items may have been shrines or public meeting areas. Predominant images include men with erect phalluses, hunting scenes, red images of the now extinct aurochs (wild cattle) and stags, and vultures swooping down on headless figures. Relief figures are carved out of the walls, such as the depiction of lionesses facing one another. 

                          In upper levels of the site, it becomes apparent that the people of Catal Huyuk were gaining skills in agriculture and the domestication of animals. Female figurines have been found within bins used for storage of cereals such as wheat and barley that are presumed to be a deity protecting the grain. Peas were also grown, and almonds, pistachios, and fruit were harvested from trees in the surrounding hills. Sheep were domesticated and evidence suggests the beginning of cattle domestication as well. However, hunting continued to be a major source of meat for the community. The making of pottery and the construction of obsidian tools were major industries. Obsidian tools were probably both used and traded for items such as Mediterranean Sea shells and flint from Syria. A striking feature of Catal Huyuk is its female figurines. Mellaart, the original excavator, argued that these well-formed, carefully made figurines, carved and moulded from marble, blue and brown limestone, schist, calcite, basalt, alabaster, and clay, represented a female deity of the Great Goddess type. Although a male deity existed as well, statues of a female deity far outnumber those of the male deity. (Wikipedia) 

Critical evaluation of Catal huyuk 

                       The above given narration of Catal Huyuk is the traditional explanation, but leaves some peculiar unacceptable interpretations for the buildings. Note for example the interpretation that no footpaths or streets were found and most of the houses were accessed through holes in the ceilings of the rooms. Is it possible to live in such a house ? This interpretation is wrong and misleading. The correct explanation is that they were rooms built for burial purpose and dead persons were buried in rooms constructed for their comfortable living in their after life. But archaelogists are mistakenly identifying them as living quarters. The same interpretation is being offered for Indus sites also which are being elabourted in the later portion of this book. But the earliest existing example is Catal Hayuk, which was constructed around 9000 BC, which is much earlier than the period assigned to Indus culture, which is around 3000 to 1500 BC. In all probability, the Catal Hayuk is precursor to Indus site and most probably this Catal Hayuk culture had spread to IndusValley through Sumeria and Iran.