The works of prehistoric architecture are predominantly made up of monoliths, dolmans, tumuli and lake dwellings and cover those structures that were built during the Paleolithic, Mesolithic, and Neolithic periods, including the Ice Age and Bronze Age. Most of the structures built at the time were made of clay and stone and featured circles of vertical stones or monoliths as well as horizontal stone slabs. Here is a list of 25 unbelievable examples of prehistoric architecture:
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Stonehenge in Columbia, 3000 – 2000 BC
Stonehenge in Amesbury, United Kingdom is an ancient monolith that reveals the science and skill of the Neolithic civilization. Considered as one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world today, the Stonehenge in UK is a ring of standing stones set within earthworks. According to archaeologists, the monument was built sometime between 3000 and 2000 BC.
El Infiernito in Colombia, c. 2200 BC
A prehistoric Muisca site in Colombia, El Infiernito is composed of several earthworks that surround a setting of upright standing stones otherwise known as menhirs. It is believed that the site used to be a center of religious ceremonies and spiritual purification rites during the pre-Columbian era. Its name means “little hell.”
Newgrange in Ireland, 3200 BC
Built in 3200 BC during the Neolithic period, Newgrange is a prehistoric monument located in County Meth, Ireland and is around one kilometer north of River Boyne. It is a large circular mound with a stone passageway and chambers inside. Considered as the most popular monument within the Neolithic Brú na Bóinne complex, it shares many similarities with other Neolithic constructions in Western Europe.
Maeshowe in Scotland, 2800 BC
Also known as Maes Howe, Maeshowe is another Neolithic chambered cairn and passage grave located in Mainland, Orkney, Scotland. Built in 2800 BC, it is a significant example of Neolithic craftsmanship and is, according to archaeologist Stuart Piggott, “a superlative monument that by its originality of execution is lifted out of its class into a unique position.”
Bryn Celli Ddu in Welsh Island, c. 3000 BC
A prehistoric site on the Welsh Island of Anglesey in Llanddaniel Fab, Bryn Celli Ddu is an ancient monument that means “the mound in the dark grove.” It was a stone circle and henge that stood at the site during the Neolithic period, but the original structure was plundered in 1699.
Dolmens of North Caucasus in Russia and Abkhazia, 25000 – 10000 BC
Known to represent a unique type of prehistoric architecture, the Dolmens of North Caucasus were built between 25,000 and 10,000 BC with precisely dressed large stone blocks. These dolmens lie throughout the Caucasus Mountains, including the Abkhazia. They are represented by rectangular structures made of stone slabs or cut in rocks with holes in their façade.
Callanish Stones in Scotland, 2900 – 2600 BC
Situated near the village of Callanish on the west coast of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, Callanish Stones were built between 2900 and 2600 BC and are characterized by 13 primary stones forming a circle about 13 meters in diameter, with a long approach avenue of stones to the north and shorter stone rows to the east, south and west.
Silbury Hill in Wiltshire, 2490 – 2340 BC
Located near Avebury in the English county of Wiltshire, Silbury Hill is a prehistoric artificial chalk mound that forms part of the Stonehenge. It is part of the complex of Neolithic monuments around Avebury and is similar to the size of smaller Egyptian pyramids of the Giza Necropolis. It stands 40 meters and is composed mainly of chalk and clay excavated from its surrounding areas.
Carnac Stones in France, 4500 – 3300 BC
Erected between 4500 and 3300 BC, the Carnac Stones are a dense collection of over three thousand standing stones around the French village of Carnac. Some archaeologists claim that the stones were intentionally aligned astronomically to create an observatory or calendar system. It is known today as the largest standing stones collection in the world.
The Unfinished Obelisk of Aswan Egypt, c. 1550 – 1292 BC
The unfinished Obelisk of Aswan Egypt stands 137 feet (42 meters) tall and weighs 1200 tons. Had it been finished, this obelisk would have been a single piece of rock that stood taller than a ten-story building. It lies in the ancient quarries near Aswan.
Cueva De Menga Complex in Spain, 3790 – 3730 BC
The Cueva De Menga Complex is famous throughout the world for being one of the largest Neolithic dolmens in Europe. The main chamber of the complex is composed of five capstones supported by three squared pillars, cut into the stones that make up the floor. It is remarkable for the regularity of its outline and perfect porch.
Ggantija Malta in Gozo, 3600 – 2500 BC
This prehistoric structure is a complex of two megalithic temples on the Maltese island of Gozo. Constructed around 3600 BC, the Ggantija Malta in Gozo is the second oldest religious structures ever found in history, just behind Gobekli Tepe. It was built at a time when metal tools were not available yet to the natives of the Maltese islands.
The Olmec Heads in Mexico, 1500 – 1000 BC
A collection of seventeen colossal heads carved from stone, the Olmec Heads date from 1500 to 1000 BC and weigh between six and fifty tons. Located in Mexico, every head is carved with a unique headdress, leading historians to believe that the structure was meant to represent powerful Olmec rulers. The Olmec Heads serve as an evidence of advanced African civilization during the prehistoric times.
Yonaguni Monument in Japan, 1000 – 1 BC
Known today as one of the oldest structures on Earth, the Yonaguni Monument in Japan is a group of strange formations characterized by flat parallel edges, right angles, sharp edges, pillars and columns. It was discovered in 1989 lying below the waters off Yonaguni Jima. Controversy exists however as to it’s nature. Some say this is merely a natural formation while others argue that it is indeed a sunken human construction.
Gobekli Tepe in Turkey, 10000 – 9000 BC
Considered to be the oldest religious structure ever found on earth, Gobekli Tepe was erected between 10,000 and 9,000 B.C. and contains stone structures and stone pillars featuring carvings of different predatory animals. Most of its stone pillars weigh 20 tons and are dated to a time when humans were thought to be hunter-gatherers. This structure was built before the advent of agriculture, religion, written language, pottery, and use of simple stone tools.
Maumbury Rings in England, 2400 BC
A Neolithic henge located in the south of Dorchester town in Dorset, England, the Maumbury Rings is a large circular earthwork that is 85 meters in diameter and has a single bank and internal ditch. The ring was created by digging a series of funnel-shaped shafts 10 meters deep. This structure was built during the neolithic period.
Temple at Tarxien in Malta, 3100 BC
Known for its rich and intricate stonework, the Temple of Tarxien was built in 3100 BC and is the most elaborately decorated of all the temples located in Malta. It features three pairs of apses instead of just two, and includes depictions of domestic animals carved in relief, altars and screens decorated with spiral designs and patterns.
Kit’s Coty House in England, 10200 – 8800 BC
Kit’s Coty House is one of the Medway megaliths that were built in the vicinity of the River Medway during the Neolithic period. This Neolithic chambered long barrow is located on Blue Bell Hill near Aylesford in the English county of Kent and stands near five other surviving chambered long barrows.
Nuraghe in Sardinia, 1900 – 730 BC
A prehistoric monument located near Islii, Sardinia, Nuraghe features round towers with sloping sides and have heights that are generally equal to the widths of their bases. Historians say that it resembles the talyots of Majorca and Minorca.
Pict House in Scotland 6820 – 6660 BC
Known as one of the top destinations for Megaliths and prehistory worldwide, Pict’s House in Pierowall, Orkney is one of the prehistoric dwellings in Scotland, consisting of subterranean chambers and convergent stoned walls. This structure is often described as a small enclosure of earth & stones.
Cairn of Gavrinis in France, c. 3500 BC
The Cairn of Gavrinis is a megalithic monument that is notable worldwide for its abundance of megalithic art in the European Neolithic. It was constructed in 3500 BC and is composed of mass of stones internally structured by a series of walls. This monument is considered as one of the best examples of Neolithic dry stone architecture.
Ring of Brodgar in Scotland, 2500 – 2000 BC
A Neolithic henge and stone circle on the mainland Orkney, the Ring of Brodgar stands on a small isthmus between the Locks of Stenness and Harray and is considered as the northernmost example of circle henges in Britain. It is believed to have been erected between 2500 and 2000 BC.
Cerne Abbas Giant in England, 4000 – 2000 BC
Located in the West County of England, Cerne Abbas Giant is described as a huge outline sculpted in to the chalk hillside above the village of Cerne Abbas. Its form represents a naked, club-wielding giant.
Cahokia Mounds in Mississippi, 1500 BC
Located near the Mississippi River, Cahokia Mounds are large, man made, earthen mounds that date back between 600 and 1400 CE.
Standing Stones of Stenness, 3000 BC
The Standing Stones of Stenness is another Neolithic monument located on the mainland of Orkney, Scotland. It forms part of the Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site and features stones that come in thin slabs.