Dolmens..., menhirs..., standing stones....
Hummmm... What are we talking about here?
And are these ancient megaliths of any interest to tourists?
We say a resounding YES!
We love 'em and go looking for them every chance we get.
What about Neolithic burial mounds? Are these things different... or the same thing... or... what?
What does it all mean?
To those who study pre-history, they all are very specific types of monuments or structures.
For tourists, if you're like us, sites that contain any of these are great attractions if you like a little history mixed in with your travel.
And sometimes you can feel like you just stumbled on a bit of mystery and magic all on your own... we felt like that the first time we saw Avebury in England.
Monuments of Prehistory are dotted throughout Western Europe.
Travelers go to see the grand cities, the art, the museums, and sample the food and wine.
History is all around in the cathedrals, the castles and even Roman ruins in the far reaches of the Roman Empire.
But there are fascinating vestiges of the very early history of Europe scattered all over if you're looking for it... in the form of ancient megaliths.
But you have to be interested in this type of thing.
I remember traveling with our nieces when they were young, and having them pretend to sleep in the back seat so they wouldn't have to see another dolmen.
The experience did come in handy when they had to learn about dolmens in school.
So how do you know if you'll find them interesting? Read about them. See if they sound like something you'd like to see.
OK so maybe some of these aren't as interesting as others. What are some that we've learned about?
Stonehenge is a real tourist draw, everybody likes a visit that amazing stone circle.
There is also that great stone circle at Avebury we showed you above. While it gets many
visitors, it doesn't get as much press as Stonehenge. It's a true henge monument as is Stonehenge.
We think in some ways it is better, it's certainly larger. So maybe someplace like that with fewer crowds would appeal to you.
The alignments in Carnac, France are wonderful, but they don't get as much attention as either Stonehenge or Avebury.
We loved Carnac, and we can truthfully say, if you liked Stonehenge, you should plan a trip to Carnac... then stop in some of the little towns for crepes and cider or great seafood.
A dolmen in the middle of a field may not fire your imagination. It certainly bored our nieces in Ireland, but the fact that looking for one will get you off the beaten tourist path might send you searching for it.
We've found that looking for some of these can lead you to cute little villages that will never be written up in the guide books...
And one part of travel that we love is "discovering" places for ourselves.
If you want to sound like you know what you're talking about, what is the difference between a menhir and anything else?
Without getting too scientific, here are some definitions....
Burial mounds are a whole different category.
They have burial chambers inside, which may be dolmens, but burial mounds can also be just a mound of earth and stones raised over a grave site.
They can also be called barrows, as in the West Kennet Long Barrow near Stonehenge.
Enough of the definitions.
If you want scholarly works, there are plenty to be found.
If you want a little ancient history mixed in with your travels to spice things up, you might just find that it's fun to look for ancient megaliths.