Lecture 8. European Megalithic Tradition

created by:

Mark Jarzombek

from the module:

First Societies

The first four centers of agriculture were Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Indus region, and China. These places expanded outward from a clear center. Different is the story of Europe, where the agro-pastoral revolution arrived after expanding westward and northward from Mesopotamia, starting 5,500 BCE and reaching Ireland around 4,000 BCE. There were two main tracks, one overland through Romania and Germany, and one along the coasts of the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. The latter produced a remarkable architectural legacy in the form of an assortment of different monuments made of large stones; thus the moniker megalithic. However, it was not just stones that were important, but also the sacred landscapes where people met to dance, socialize, remember the dead, and have feasts. This lecture covers the different types of architecture that were produced during this period. Today only a small fraction of these structures remains, many having fallen victim to urban expansion, farming, and road construction. The highlights of the lecture are Newgrange and Stonehenge. Newgrange was a spectacular engineering feat, a clock with one hand, so to speak; it was at the center of a vast sacred landscape that must have attracted people not only from Ireland for its – probably annual – ritual and ceremonial events. Stonehenge was an equally complex place that served as a key festival site between 3,000 and 2,000 BCE. This lecture does not cover developments in central and continental Europe. For that material please consult Architecture of First Societies: A Global Perspective.

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