Skip to Content


Broad terminology that can relate to almost any ancient stone. Mainly referring to very large stone. I.e. Stonehenge is referred to as a 'megalithic structure', although not every stone within its construction could be regarded as large (or 'mega') enough in proportion to warrant the term. The word 'Megalith' probably derives from Greek; 'megas' meaning great, and 'lithos' meaning stone.

These are 'table top' designs that comprise a very large, horizontally placed capstone supported by 2 (generally 3) or more large upright stones. Many of these intriguing constructions were covered with earth mixed up with small stones/pebbles. Mainstream archaeologists can refer to them as 'chambered tombs', as in many cases human remains have been found within them. Alternatively, shrines and places of initiation could have been their original function. The Cornish name for them is 'Quoit', derived from legendary giants playing the game of 'Quoits' (a game of throwing objects a certain distance to come close, or in this case, land on a target). Dolmens can have two inner chambers, these types are generally referred to as Portal Chambers or Portal Dolmens, and are presumed the oldest type.

Cromlech, Portal Chamber, Portal Tomb, Altar Tomb, Portal Dolmens, Chambered Tombs

A ring of placed stones, mostly ovoid in shape but can also be perfectly circular. Their circumference vary considerably, i.e. Avebury Stone Circle is the largest in the world with a circumference of three quarters of a mile / Duloe Stone Circle in Cornwall has a circumference of approx 36 feet. They can often include a central stone; which is generally not within the circle's exacting central location. These central stones can also be a latter or earlier addition. Most stone circles have an entrance which can represent their orientation; normally in relation to planets and stars. They sometimes co-exist with other circles in close proximity, they can be joined onto stone rows and they can comprise a henge; circular or ovoid ditch surrounded by a bank of earth.

Ancient placed/standing stones which vary in size considerably. They are placed mostly alone but can be in pairs separated by a certain distance. The name appears to derive from Brittonic language; 'Men' (or maen) meaning stone, and 'hir' meaning tall (or long), thus the other popular name for them as 'longstones'.

Longstone, Standing Stone, Monolith, Orthostat, Lith

A stack (or pile) of stones used as landmarks, burial monuments, places for ceremony, astronomy, to locate buried items, hunting, defense, and many other things. The word possibly derives from Scottish Gaelic; c'arn. They vary dramatically in size; from delicately balanced small structures to entire artificial hills and everything in-between. They can sometimes be painted or otherwise decorated; potentially for increased visibility.

Often referred to as 'Alignments'. These can stretch for miles and miles or just a few hundred yards. They tend not to go in a straight line, but their direction is thought to be relative. They can be a singular line (one after the other) or an avenue; with the stones running in parallel with one another. They tend to, but not always, join up with stone circles or large stones (menhirs).

A mound of earth and stone that can be known as a barrow, long barrow, or burial mound; as they are commonly built above several burials. In certain instances, a Cairn (stack of stones) could likely have been a tumulus before its earth was removed. The word 'Tumulus' is Latin for 'mound' or 'small hill'.

These appear as long, raised earth mounds; typically constructed from earth and stone. They are generally between 20-70m in length and can sometimes have a stone chamber at one end. Their internal architecture has a diverse range. Human remains have often been found within these structures, so they can be referred to as tombs.

A coffin-like box made of stone. They can be found on their own or in close proximity to other cists. Human remains, jewelery and ornaments have often been found within these structures.

Earth (as well as small stones/pebbles) mounds that have a doorway-like stone entrance that leads to one or more underground chambers. There can also be sub-chambers leading off from their main chambers. Their entrances are often aligned so as sunlight shines directly through their passage at certain times of the year; often the winter solstice sunrise or the sunset on the equinox.