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Durham University

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Publication details

Scarre, Chris (2010). Megaliths, memory and the power of stones. In Monumental Questions: Prehistoric Megaliths, Mounds, and Enclosures. Calado, David, Baldia, Maximilian & Boulanger, Matthew Oxford: Archaeopress. 91-96.

Author(s) from Durham


The distinctive character of many of the stone slabs used in the construction of megalithic monuments in western Europe suggests that these slabs may have been intended to convey memories of the places from which they were taken. The appearance of the blocks (notably their shape, size, texture and colour) will have provided visual clues to the sources of origin. Some of the sources may have been recognised by the prehistoric builders as places of special power within the landscape, and the stones may have embodied those powers of place and their associations. Memories were also conveyed through the re-use of slabs taken from earlier monuments, a practice that has been documented at chambered tombs in Iberia, France and Britain. The visual clues provided by the megalithic slabs will, however, have been compromised by their inclusion within a covering mound or cairn, a feature that sparked 19th century antiquarian debate. These issues are discussed in the light of recent excavations at the Anta da Lajinha, a small megalithic tomb in inland Portugal north of the Tagus valley.


Proceedings of the XV world congress (Lisbon, 4-9 September 2006) = Actes du XV congrès mondial (Lisbonne, 4-9 septembre 2006).