Menhir Merrivale | Dartmoor | UK | D700
17sec., f/13, 28mm, ISO 100, ND 3.0
Menhirs are single tall upright stones which are generally considered to be part of the component of a cermonial complex that also contains stone rows and stone circles. There are occasionally found in apparent isolation. Being visible from afar the may have both a practical and symbolic role. Serving as territorial markers, way markers or it could be that they were memorials set up at points where passers by could see them.
Practically nothing is known of the social organization or religious beliefs of the people who erected the menhirs. There is not even any trace of these people’s language; however we do know that they buried their dead and had the skills to grow cereal, farm and make pottery, stone tools and jewelry. Identifying their uses remains speculation. However, it is likely that many uses involved fertility rites and seasonal cycles. Until recently, menhirs were associated with the Beaker people, who inhabited Europe during the European late Neolithic and early Bronze Age —later third millennium BC. However, recent research into the age of megaliths in Brittany strongly suggests a far older origin, perhaps back to six to seven thousand years ago.
During the Middle Ages, standing stones were believed to have been built by the giants who inhabited the earth before the biblical flood. Many of the megaliths were destroyed or defaced by early Christians, but it is estimated that some 50,000 megaliths once stood in Northern Europe, where almost 10,000 now remain.