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The Ancient Indigenous Architecture of Scythoid Big-Game Hunters

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Map 1. Types of human dwellings (after R. Biasutti)





Megalithic Cairns, Clochns, Brochs and Nuragi


  1. Evolution of human dwellings
  2. Types of huts and dwellings
  3. Architectural Taxonomy
  4. Lakeside Stilt-Dwelling with Crossed Poles



       Cliff-Dwellings and Burial Rock-Cut Caves

       Rectangular Longhouses Out of Straw and Mud

        Earth lodges and Subterranean Sancturaries

       Semidugout Zemlyankas of Lapponoid Cremators




        Tungusoid teepes, pile-huts and lake-dwellings

       Pelasgoid conical rondavel roundhouses

        Megara, palatial temples and columnal palaces

        Flat-roofed labyrinth architecture of Oriental farmers

        Rectangular wicker longhouses with thatched roofs

        Gotho-Frisian wurts, terps and half-timber longhouses

        Dome-shaped beehive huts

        Irregular multi-peaked marquee nomadic tents

        Epi-Aurignacian tepees and pile-dwellings

       Bascoid Cyclopean megalithic architecture

       Megalithic tombstones and tholoi graves

        Lapponoids lean-to and semidugout pit-house

        Turcoid dwellings and burials in rockcut caves



        Lakeland, marshland, lowland, grassland and desert ecosystems

        Multicellular labyrinths in arid subtropical lowland

        Tell-sites in oases of subtropical shrublands

        Multicellular labyrinths in arid subtropical lowland

        Tell-sites in oases of subtropical shrublands

        Oppidans: hillforts towering on high rock promontories

        Getic boroughs: villages in alluvial lowlands

        Palatial poleis and cultic spas in seaside harbours

        Straight streets and alleys of lake-dwellings



The Cultures of Beehive-Dwellings


The modern Siberian tribes combine temporary light summer tents with permanent winter dwellings. The Chukchee build a round tent (chum) with a low entrance that is similar to the Mongolian yurtas. Their earliest Palaeolithic prototypes can be examined in the Mousterian sites of the Ukraine (Molodova, Kostienki, Avdeevo, Dobranichevka, Mezin, Mezhirich, Judinovo) and south Siberia (Malta, Buret). These huts were built from large whale jawbones and crossed mammoth tusks covered with hides. They were low dome-shaped constructions of round design resembling anthills or beehives. The surrounding wreaths of stone served as low basement walls and helped to anchor the hides. In France they leant against rocks in caves or lay under cave overhangs (abri). The mammoth hunters used them either as portable summer tents or as permanent winter dwellings in caves.

The Mousterian design can be recognised easily according to round circular shapes, where the Aurignacian tradition preferred tall conic post-dwellings. The Mousterian mammoth-bone anthills gradually developed into the round Chukchee chum, while the latter type grew into the Tungus and North-American conic tepees. Palaeo-Siberian tribes build light overground chums but in winter they resorted to warmer subterranean dugouts or semidugouts of similar design. There were two entrances, one accessed from above through the upper hole open for smoke, whereas the other led along the horizontal line. The former was used by hunters in moments of danger, the latter was determined for womens everyday use. It ran from the central chamber through a longer corridor to a low entrance at the hill-slope over the waterside. The Eskimos cut such constructions into glaciers or built them from large blocks of frozen snow.

The typology of modern beehive-dwellings and dome-like habitations coincides with the cultural areas of the Bronze Age mound graves. Their types can be divided into several groups: (1) beehive-dwelling tradition in Africa (Khoisan pontok), (2) Berber tunnel-dwellings, (3) Aegean tholos tombs, (4) European rotundas, (5) Muslim copula-shaped mosques, (6) Scythian mazars or mausolea, (7) Siberian yarangas and chums. Related types may be found in Arnhem Land in Australia and in the construction of the Fuegan toldo tents in South America.

Hamites. The Sudanic beehive dwellings are common among the Fula, the Dinka and the Maasai, who are African pastoralists of remote Asiatic origin. Ethnologists assume that the beehive architecture domesticated in north-eastern Africa and then spread south by the Neolithic travels of the Khoisan pastoralists (Hrbek 1966: I, 157; Briggs 1955). The Khoisanids could naturally import beehive technology to the Kalahari desert but could not borrow from the Neolithic Hamitoids their Palaeo-Mongoloid physiognomy. The remains of Palaeo-Mongolian traits in the countenance of the Khoisan tribes must be of earlier date because their leaf-shape flake-tool tradition lasted almost 60,000 years. Archaeology suggests that the Mousterian leaf-shape complex may have survived in the Aterian, Nubian and the Stillbay culture for ages in its present distribution.

Tholoi. The earliest records of the beehive tholoi in the Near East come from the Neolithic sites Yarim Tepe of the Halaf Culture, Jericho A and Tepe Gauru. The pastoralist culture of Jericho A (8,000 BC) in Palestine built round domelike houses, mostly semidugouts with doors cut into the earth. These abodes were huddled to one another like cells in a honeycomb and formed many-room labyrinths. The site was surrounded by high ramparts and ditches cut into the rock. The central point was a wooden tower whose walls contained numerous remains of human sacrifices.

The site Khirokhitia (from 5,750 to 5,610 BC) on Cyprus brought evidence of beehive houses with low entrances, circular roofs and round walls. Most beehive houses were about 10 metres in diameter and had small courtyards enclosed by walls. They were huddled in groups of smaller families suggesting the inner hierarchy of relations. They could serve as abodes for the living as well as funeral architecture for the dead. There were heavy stones on some skeletons to prevent them from escaping. Their pottery may be classified as a kind of Asymmetric Ware, some low ornithomorphic bowls with comb incisions resembled the Uralic goose-shaped types with handles, spouts and asymmetric peaks (Mongait 1973: 219).

Pontok. The beehive houses with their dome constructions, formed by vertical and horizontal laths, were common to the Dinka, Madi, Musangane, Maasai, Musgu, Khoisan and Kafirs (Table 9). The Galla had low domed huts strewn with straw and concentrated in throngs. The Shilluk, Nuer, Lango, Barea, Atvot, Lua, Jikani have similar huts though their beehive morphology is a little bit spoiled by pointed roofs. The round conic shapes (huts called tikul in Ethiopia) betray an older adstratum of Aurignacian fishermens post-dwellings typical of the eastern coasts of Africa. The Nuer villages, separated by twenty-mile rings of pastures, contain from 50 to 400 inhabitants (Evans-Pritchard 1985: 102; Africa 1963, I: 165ff.).

The main area of beehive architecture is found among the cattle-breeders of South Africa. The Khoisan pontok is a construction with a very low entrance, made of intertwined boughs and mud. Owing to the low entrance, it can be entered only by creeping on all fours. The beehive patterns are characteristic of the Khoisan, Bechuana and Kafir tribes, who live in round huts built of boughs and straw. The eastern Zulu and Kafir tribes build conic huts rondavels on post constructions. They resemble the patterns of Tungus conic post-dwellings tepees but lack crossed poles at the top. Pointed conic huts are spread along migration corridors of Epi-Levalloisian fishermen, while round beehives are common in savannahs occupied by big-game hunters.

Most settlements with beehive architecture in South Africa are organised into family clusters according to the principles of patriarchal subordination. Every warrior is subordinated to his older brothers and uncles. His hut is surrounded by a cluster of smaller beehive premises belonging to his wives. Any new person born or wedded to the father of the family was supposed to build her own beehive annex that could serve also as her abode after death. Among the Khoisans the dead were buried under a heap of stones, wrapped into a hide. Every passer-by was obliged to add a boulder to the heap as a mark of piety. This practice explains why some graves grew into big stone mounds.

Kraal. The pastoralists in South Africa live in villages fortified by outer corrals that the Dutch called the kraal. Their aim is to hinder cattle from going astray and to provide protection against assaults from outside. The Khoisans call it as and make it from logs, boughs and stones. The gateway is very narrow, it allows just one calf to pass through. Besides, there is an inner corral functioning as a secret meeting-place for men. It serves as a sanctuary for the local cult and a parliament for the council of elders. Women and children have no access to it. The Kafir call it isibajou, the Bechuana kotla and the Manganya near Lake Nyasa baolo. Both fences are circular in form and the inner circle often consists of stone seats in a circle (Vlach 1911: 295).

Honeycombs. In West Sudan the beehive-dwellings are reported from the Fula, Ashanti, Musgu, Dahome (Schlette 1958: tab. 11a-c; Frobenius 1933: map 34, fig. 178-180). The Fula are pastoralists but the Bosso beehive-dwellers are mostly fishermen. The Ashanti attach beehives to the south suburbs of villages, in Timbuktu the beehives encircle square houses on both longitudinal sides (Graft-Johnson 1955: fig. 7). The Fula live in cupola-shaped houses sudu arranged into circular settlements. Their beehive-dwellings form large groups of 10-30 huts, called sare, interrelated by a network of mutual entrances, passages, doors and staircases (Kandert 1984: 143). A low entrance leads to an antechamber and this to the main hut, the fathers room. His room leads to his first wifes room and the oldest daughters room. The priority of the first wife is not threatened by new outer annexes built for younger wives. The hierarchy of huts descends further to the houses belonging to younger daughters and sons. Similar subordination rules in the hierarchy of premises from communal council houses to kitchens and storehouses. Such cellular honeycombs mirror the inner social hierarchy of large patriarchal families with many wives, dependents and slaves.

Table 1. Conic and round beehive-dwellings in Africa

Tunnel-dwellings. One side branch of beehive-dwellers developed a special tradition of tunnel-dwellings. These were typical of many megalithic cultures and may have arisen as a compromise with oblong quadrangular huts. Tunnel-dwellings were very common among the Berbers, Maasais, Khoisans and Toda people in India. The Tuaregs constructed tunnel tents from camel hides. The Somono fishermen in Niger covered such constructions with mats (Frobenius 1933: 224). The Berber winter dwellings were cellars dug into a hillock or a mound. A narrow passage led into a circular hall that branched crosswise into side-cells. Its cross branching resembled passage graves and rock-cut graves in Europe. In America tunnel-shaped huts were characteristic of the Huron tribes. The Polynesian tunnel-dwellings were long boat-like communal huts.

Fogous. Some tribes in northwest Africa combined overground oval huts with subterranean winter dwellings. These Erdhuser, fogous, dugouts or souterrains preserved the circular pattern of summer beehive huts. Such fogous with clusters of adjacent chambers have a characteristic map of distribution in Africa from Mali to Gibraltar (Frobenius 1933: map 29). A large circular central hall was usually extended by subterranean passages into adjacent chambers. The central hall had two accesses: one leading through a horizontal corridor for women and the second in the ceiling that served as a chimney. It was also used as an entrance for grown-up men who used it on ceremonial occasions or in emergency cases.

The architecture of fogous in northwest Africa seems to suggest that the local Aterian and Capsian tradition was independent of the Hamitic and Khoisan beehive dwellers in eastern and southern Africa. It is impossible to prove an uninterrupted continuation but there are striking parallels to the subterranean beehive dwellings common in the Megalith cultures of western Europe. Its builders were probably subdued by the Fula and other Hamitic conquerors who came as colonists from the east. The Fula established themselves as a royal caste, while the Bussangsi or Gunsi cellar-dwellers live in their nearest neighbourhood as a caste of slaves. They may belong to the southernmost promontories of the European passage graves.

Subterranean beehive houses were common in Scotland until the end of the 19th century but in the heartland of Eurasia they were superseded by more advances forms. Civilised societies developed the Cyclopean beehive houses (tholoi) into monuments of megalithic architecture. We may only speculate that their hybrid remains found continuation in the Muslim mosque, Scythian and Roman mausolea as well as the early Christian rotundas. A more reliable criterion can be found in megalithic monuments that spread from the Scythian starting-point to the Dekkan Mountains in India (3,000 BC) and eastward as far as Polynesia. Another migration corridor led from Mongolia to Alaska and farther southward as far as the Fuego Islands (11,500 BC).

The beehive architecture preserved its original style only at the farthest ends of the world, in South Africa, America and Australia. In Southeast Asia beehives are rare, and so is the Mousterian stonework technology. Few reliable Mousterian digs come from the isle of Timor in the valley of river Gasi-Liu (Guber 1966: 29). The beehives are presently common only to the Bhil and Urulan in South India (Buschan 1923: II, 540). These tribes may be related to the Ghond cattle-breeders and the builders of megalith monuments in the Dekkan Mountains (3000 BC). They also popped up in the Andaman Islands and in Australia they became relatively widespread.

One of the earliest cultures in Australia applied domelike dwellings made of boughs and twigs. In the end of the last century they were 160 cm in height and 3 metres in diameter. They served for large families of as many as twelve people. In Kimberley in North Australia the beehives are accompanied by cave-paintings with binocular motifs and palm prints (Elkin 1956; Jelnek 1972: 519). Their descendants may be sought in the Aranda using the leaf-shape lance tjatta. Another related group of beehive-dwellers that practice mummification in Queensland.

Yurta. Palaeo-Siberian beehive-dwellings are important as a starting-point of Amerindian colonisations. In Siberia the Eskimo, Itelman, Chukchee, Nivx, Aleuts and Youkaghirs build yurtas similar to the Khoisans beehive-dwellings. The Soyots called such round tents yarənga, while the modern Koryaks call them yayungi. The inner framework is made of crooked boughs or large whale jawbones so as to form a domed cage. The construction is overlaid with hides, skins, straw or grass, while the access is ensured by a subterranean tunnel (Schlette 1958: 102ff.). The original idea of low entrances was to save heat inside the tent.

Almost all pastoralists in Asia divided their life between summer camps with portable tents and winter camps with fortification and earth-houses. The Buryats build permanent hexangular or octangular log-cabins (buxək) with vertical walls and a flat conical roof and summer yurtas of similar shape. The roof has a central hole over the hearth for rising smoke, against the door facing the south there is a wooden platform with idols of gods and vessels for milk and wine offerings. The northern part was occupied by the bed, the western part had a mother floor (əxəugə) for ritual things. The Chukchee and Koryaks build semispherical yarangas from deer fells (Levin 1956: 231).

Valkaran. The Amour Nivxs built subterranean earth lodges 1.5 metre deep with spherical wooden constructions covered by earth. They were accessed from rectangular antechambers. The coastal Chukchee and Greenlanders built subterranean whalebone huts (valkaran) whose inner frame was formed by whales jawbones and ribs (Levin 1956: 913). Similar varieties are reported from Neolithic finds.

Wigwam. After arrival in North America (11,500 BC) the beehive-dwellers spread their seats along the western coasts as far as Peru and Patagonia. A side branch of their colonists separated in the Plains. In the Prairies they developed their specific fluted leaf-shaped projectiles known in the Clovis and Folsom culture. Their descendants became Algonquin buffalo-hunters who built snakelike mounds known as Mound Effigies. The Algonquin tent wigwam was a round domelike construction made of intertwined boughs. In the Prairies and the Plains Indians it was covered with hides, in southern areas it was covered also by mats (Bernatzik 1962: 772). In Middle and South America their Quechua and Aymara relatives built beehive tholos-graves called chullpas.

Toldo. The Alakaluf Indians in South Chile built the beehive hut toldo by intertwining a copula from rods and boughs covered with hides or rags (Jelinek 1972: 273). Their style exhibited irregular shapes of four-pitched marquees and was common to the Tehuelche llama-breeders. It was reminiscent of tents erected by Tibetans, Sarmatians, Arabs and Bedouins. These ethnic groups differed from tholos-builders also in weapons. They applied leaf-shaped or stemmed projectiles in contrast to lanceolate spearheads.

Cliff-dwellings. Some Palaeo-Algonquin tribes continued to live in caves or under rock overhangs. Beehive cells huddled under cliffs were common to the ancient Incas. A surprising complex of beehive constructions in multi-cellular honeycombs was discovered under cliff-overhangs in the culture of Colorado cliff-dwellings. A typical honeycomb settlement was found at Mesa Verde in the Colorado Canyon in the southwest of North America. Its builders may be identified with the Folsom people, who produced fluted flake-shape projectiles excavated at the Lindenmeier site in east Colorado. Another complex of cliff-dwelling was discovered along the river Rio Grande del Norte. The honeycomb cliff-dwellings contained mens houses for communal and ritual meetings. The Indians called these large round buildings kivas, while the Spaniard referred to them as estufas (Stingl 1966: 36).


Extract from Pavel Blek: Prehistoric Dialects II. Prague 2004, p. 389395


The Architecture of Mound Graves and Megalith Buildings


The Mousterians were cave men seeking shelter in caves but in summertime they made round huts of beehive design. In the Ukrainian sites Molodova and Mezhirich they built temporary shelters from mammoth bones and covered them with hides weighed down by heavy stones (Chernysh 1959: 48ff.). Their Mesolithic descendants can be sought in big-game hunters with round beehive-dwellings set on a stone basement. In the Bronze Age they began to breed cattle and build permanent stonewalled settlements on inaccessible rocks and hills. Their dead were buried under large heaps of stones and in stonewalled subterranean chambers from big blocks of stone that archaeologist denote as megaliths (Greek megalos large, lithos stone). Rocks and large megalith stones retained importance in their building arts up to the Middle Ages, when their fortified abodes began tower on rocks as castles surrounded by bastions.

Table 2. Cyclopean megalith architecture


The funeral architecture of Megalith constructions imitates the design of temporary beehive dwellings used in everyday nomadic life. Its earliest patterns were preserved in South Africa. The Kafir, Zulu, Bechuana and Khoisans (Vlach 1911: I, 293-306) bury their dead under heaps of stones and make beehive huts (pontok) from straw and clay. The inner construction is built of boughs set on a circular wreath of stones and covered with straw. Circular wreaths of stones form hearths in their huts, inner courtyards and fences (isibajou) as well as outer corrals and pens for cattle (kraal). Their Rozwi relatives in Great Zimwabwe were able to develop this primitive architecture into royal palaces enclosed by huge medieval castles. In the 15th century they subdued neighbouring tribes in six provinces and united them into the empire of Monomotapa. Their kings lived in large fortified stonewalled castles surrounded by high bastions.

The transition from small beehive huts to large megalith buildings was a question of cultural progress and military power. The first beehive dwellings in Neolithic Europe were due to the Sesklo and Dimini culture in Greece and the Khirokitia settlement in Cyprus. In the Iron Age their prototypes developed into the Mycenaean tholos buildings of domelike shape. Their Combed Ware with asymmetric bird-shaped snouts made archaeologists suspect that their builders arrived from the north Balkan area (Mongait 1973: 216). Their cultural patterns correspond to Scythian and Sarmatian nomadic invaders, who made frequent raids and conquered peasant communities in Greece. When they reigned over thousands of slaves, they could force them to collective labours on building megalith monuments of amazing grandeur. The ancient Greeks described them as a mythic race of one-eyed giants called Cyclopes.

Cyclopean walls in Greece developed a specific technique of dry walling without mortar. Large blocks of stone with a neatly cut surface were piled up on one another as high as a cupola-shaped ceiling. Most megalith monuments could build oval arcs and round ceilings thanks to the discovery of corbelled vaults. Wedge-shaped stones were compressed by their weight into round arcs, domes and cupolas. Larger ceilings were overlaid by long stone slabs. The Iberian and Scottish megalith constructions used double walls filled with earth. The broch buildings in Britain were high castles applying the method of building towers from two stone layers filled with clay. The outer wall was receding to the centre, while the inner exhibited a cylindrical shape. In the Bronze Age most fortifications Europe were baked into monoliths by burning the inner lining out of clay and wood. The inside wooden construction was covered with stones, earth and clay and then kindled up, burnt and baked into one hard block.

Tholos. The Greek Cyclopes were described as one-eyed giants tending their herds out at grass in the mountains. Their transient beehive tents designed for nomadic life grew gradually into large circular stone tombs called tholoi. Tholos was a domelike construction with a low entrance corridor called dromos. It could serve as a communal town-hall towering above the ground level but most of its applications were subterranean chamber graves for individual or collective burials. Burial mounds were built on a hilltop and their underground chamber was accessible by the long horizontal corridor dromos. A typical tholos is represented by the Atreus Treasury (1500 to 1200 BC) in Mycenae. It is 13 metres high, 14.6 metres in diameter and its dromos corridor, cut horizontally into the hill-slope, is 30 metres long. Similar tholos graves have been excavated at Argos, Pylos and Iolkos in Thessaly.

Yet the ancient Greeks applied the term tholos also in reference to the central town-hall in Athens (-5th c.) and other communal houses of Mycenaean design. The term referred to a large variety of Cyclopean architecture pursuing circular patterns. Domelike graves, town-halls and royal palaces were surrounded by circular courtyards, circular central squares (agora) and circular bastions. Such complexes of Cyclopean buildings were reported as most abundant from Thrace, Thessaly, Messenia, Mycenae and Crete. Remarkable Cyclopean monuments were found also at Orchomenos, Vafia, Faria, Heraia and Pylos (Snodgrass 1971). The people who built them may be deciphered as the Thracian Myssians (Mssoi), Mycenaeans and probably also the Pre-Greek Messeneans of Nestors kin at Pylos.

Agora. The Mycenaean hilltops with outer ramparts had an inner courtyard (agora), a meeting-place for public gatherings and a marshalling yard for troops of warriors. In Athens the agora served also as a marketplace and its dominant building was a tholos serving as a town-hall for magistrates and the council of elders. These public spaces consisted of circular wreaths of stones used as seats for elders. The Troyans and the Phaiaks are believed to have sat on large stones positioned in a circle (Od. VIII, 1-16). The Thracian archaeological site Sarmizegetusa in Dacia consisted of three concentric circles of vertical piers. The outer circle served as a ring of seats for elders. This site contained also stone alleys enclosing two rectangular sanctuaries (Hoddinott 1981: 151-3, Daicoviciu 1972: 207ff.).

Acropolis. The Cyclopean Megalith buildings were usually situated on fortified hills encircled by high ramparts and bastions. Such a fortified acropolis is known from the Mycenaean castle accessed through the Lion Gate (15th century BC). The Acropolis of Athens was occupied by several temples whose visitors had to pass through a monumental gate called Propylai. Similar fortified sites are reported from Orchomenos (14th century BC), Tiryns (-860), Thorikos, Kakovates, Marathon, Valpheio in Laconia and Perati in Attica (Buchholz 197?: 42). Thessaly knows several places called Moschochorion, where chorion stands for castle and Moschoi is a hint at their Myssian rulers. In Asia Minor such castles are called moseyn, probably in allusion to the same Cyclopean caste of warriors, who lived in the same type of fortified settlements as the Moschoi and Mossynokoi (Bouzek 1978: 81).

Table 3. Megalithic tombstones and tholoi graves

Mausolea. The Greek, Thracian and Anatolian Cyclopes had distant relatives in the Scythians. The Scythian tribes Massagetai, Apasiakoi and Xorazmii built similar constructions but called them maussoleia. These were quadrangular buildings with a central dome-shaped chamber. The tombs were reserved for high sovereigns, whose corpses were mummified in coffins. Herodot reports that mummification and embalmment was a common practice in Scythia. In the Middle Ages Muslims replaced them by mazars (> Uzbek mozor), tombs of Muslim saints. The Greeks were familiar with the Maussōleion built in Halikarnassos for the king Maussōlos after 354 BC.

Megalith people. In the 4th millennium BC the rocky mountainous parts of western Europe were colonised by a group of megalith builders favouring stonewalled monument. The archaeologists call them also round-headed bowmen in reference to their brachycephalic skulls and military arts applying bows and arrows. Their descent has to be identified to Berber Imazhigen skilled in building copular cairns. The earlier enquiries assumed that they had first appeared in Almeria about 3,200 BC and a few centuries later they landed on Cornwall to rummage Britain as far as east Scotland. Another stream of their colonists was supposed to continue northward as far as Scandinavia (Daniel 1958; Piggott 1954). However, newer studies prove that in Scandinavia there had been megalith tombs without bronze weapons as early as 3,800 BC and their first appearance should be dated to 4,000 BC (Bray, Trump 1982: 189, 249). Their builders may be identified as the Basques, Picts, Scots and Scandinavians. Such attributions sound fantastic but Geoffrey of Monmouth derived Picts and Scots from Scythian colonists (Hist. Brit. IV, 17). He also mentioned a people of Basclenses who had resided in the Orkney Islands but had arrived from the Basque country in Spain (Hist. Brit. III, 12).

The round-headed bowmen spread their Megalith buildings along their migration routes from Africa to Spain, Brittany and the British Isles. Arthur Evans and Siret derived passage graves from the Mycenaean and Cretan tholoi and associated their origin with the Mycenaean Cyclopean architecture. Other archaeologists refuse a direct link to Greece and the Hgelgrber of central Europe because their Iberian descent looks more probable (Daniel 1958: 75, 129; Davidson 1951). Some authors seek their cradle in North Africa because the bell-beaker pottery bore clear resemblance to the Tassian culture in Egypt (4,200 BC). Both cultures were remarkable for slim bell-shaped pottery covered by horizontal belts of fine triangular, fir-tree patterns. The Tassian people represented a highly esteemed upper caste that compelled slaves to build royal pyramids with embalmed and mummified burials. When their remote relatives arrived in Britain and buried their dead in megalith monuments, they were accompanied by a short race of slaves forced to building labours. A proof of their existence can be seen in urns with their cremated ashes placed in common pits on the outer periphery of henges.

Cairn. The travels of the Megalith people from Cornwall to Wales, Ireland and Scotland are lined by large heaps of stones reminiscent of the Greek beehive mounds tholoi. These cairns or carns changed in size, some were mounds exposed to denudation, some were heaps of stones on small burials and some may betray old dolmens fallen in ruins. Their subterranean chambers were dry-walled circular rooms with corbelled vaults containing from five to fifty burials. Visitors could enter them through a low entrance, a horizontal corridor or an antechamber that led to three, five or even seven smaller chambers (Childe 1942: 52). The smaller types look like burials of common people, while the larger ones must have sheltered remains of higher dignitaries. In Britain they did not exceed the size of a small mound but in the Spanish sites Los Millares, Palmella and Alcala their size could challenge the splendour of Egyptian pyramids. Between Tunisia and Sicily is an island Pantelleria with sese cairns (plural sesi) with as many as 11 burial chambers.

The cairns were closely associated with hut-circles (Dartmoor, Trowlesworthy, Standon), whose original form could be guessed from the beehive houses in Scotland and Arran. They were inhabited by ancestors of modern Scots from the Bronze Age till the beginning of the 19th century. Such subterranean abodes in the north served for the living but looked liked typical funeral barrows in the south. These dwellings were subterranean constructions protruding above the ground level only as a complex system of low molehills arching up and down like waves. Their clusters formed small villages composed of members of large clans. Higher molehills belonged to patriarchs, lower adjacent molehills were occupied by their dependents. One subterranean beehive abode was inhabited from the Bronze Age until the last century (the last one was recorded in 1823). The souterrain dwellings similar to molehills in Skara Brae could have similar roofs but their walls had a quadrangular ground-plan.

Broch. A higher stage of development was reached, when the megalith people began to reign over small chieftaincies and their sovereigns sought protection in fortified castles called brochs or raths. A typical broch was a large circular castle, a semiconical building with double walls, round chambers and circular courtyards. No less than 425 brochs of diameter from 25 to 35 ft. are still traceable in Scotland. They have been preserved best in the Shetlands, Orkneys, Outer Hebrides, Caithness and Skye (Childe 1942: 264; 1935: 217). In south Scotland they were reconstructed and rebuilt into medieval castles.

Rath. Another type of hut-circles may be seen in the pounds, described as circular enclosures surrounded by stonewalls containing from 3 to 20 hut-circles. They are reported mostly from Cornwall (Rough Tor, Grimspound) and served as family farmsteads or sanctuaries. The Irish have special terms rath, cashel or cahel for hut-circles and fortified settlements of such design. Most of them are circular castles with subterranean chambers or a souterrain fogou (Skara Brae). They were encompassed by numerous ditches, fosses and ramparts protecting them against possible assails from without. The rath at Cush in Limerick was occupied from 500 to 1,100 AD.

Cromlech. The stone circles in Avebury are often called cromlechs in allusion to the Breton words crom crooked and lech stone. In Stonehenge they contained the Altar Stone, the Trilithon Horseshoe and an avenue which provided an access from outside. Their original purpose was probably to serve as an agora for communal and ceremonial meetings. In their area secret sodalities and councils of elders held their gatherings, seated in a circle at the Round Table like the king Arthurs thanes.

Henge. The Megalith people built their agoras and sanctuaries in the form of a henge. This was a circular structure surrounded by an earth wall. Their oldest specimens found at Avebury I and II were unfossed stone circles without peripheral ditches (Childe 1942: 107). Stonehenge and Woodhenge were the best-known solar sanctuaries enclosed by several concentric circles of stone piers and several ditches. Stonehenge implied henges made of large stones, while Woodhenge indicated a common use of wooden constructions.

Talayots. British megalith buildings had many close parallels in France, Italy and Spain. In Sardinia there appeared a local Megalith tradition of building towers called nuraghi. Most of them are dated from 1,500 to 238 BC. Their tunnel-like roofs seem to suggest a Berber influence. The same conic tunnel shape was peculiar to talayots (Naveta des Tudons) found on Menorca. The builders of huge mounds at Los Millares can be identified with the Basques, an ancient people who still indulge in stonework, stone-vaulting and stonewalled bridges.

In the British Isles, France and Scandinavia we find a large variety of megalith constructions of mixed origin. After arriving in North Europe, the Megalith People absorbed many local autochthonous populations and changed their lifestyle by assimilative influences. There were several types and local groups, long barrows with an inner timberwork structure, pear-shaped barrows and horned barrows. Special varieties have been identified in the Clyde-Carlingford group and the Boyne group (Childe 1942; Daniel 1958; Piggott 1954). In the British Isles it is common to draw a clear difference between the long cists and gallery graves of the Clyde-Carlingford group (north-east Ireland, Galway) and a complex of the Severn-Cotswold group in South Wales. Special subtypes are seen in the wedge-shaped cairns (Paris cists), horned cairns, court cairns, heel-shaped cairns and the Medway cairns (Childe 1942: 47-8).

Such secondary cultural hybrids have to be derived from several primary archetypes. Their classification presupposes analysing various types of chamber graves into a few original pure forms:

(A1) round barrows of cupola shape for collective burials (Greek tholos, German Kuppelgrber, French dolmens à couloir, Danish dyss, plural dysser).

(A2) entrance graves have a side entrance not exceeding the circular ground- plan, e.g. Scilly-Tramore graves from Cornwall (Bray, Trump 1982: 84).

(A3) passage graves, round domelike barrows of pear-shaped design with a long passage approaching the round inner chamber from the waterside (British passage graves, Dutch hunebed Huns bed, Danish dyss, German Ganggrber, Riesenhuser, giants houses, Swedish Jttestugor).

(B) gallery graves (French alle couverte, galleries couvertes, Sardinian domus de janas house of fairies) associated with the Seine-Oise-Marne group of rock-cut graves.

(C) shaft-and-chamber graves derived from shaft graves and catacomb pit burials (Italian tombe a fossa, Catalonian fossa graves) accompanied by alignments of stone rows and standing menhirs. At the foot of a deep pit there is a side niche or larger chamber for burials and offerings.

(D1) long barrows (Clyde-Carlingford culture, Windmill Hill culture), long quadrangular tombs with long-headed skeletons).

(D2) cist graves in boxes composed from stone slabs were typical of the TRB culture (German Trichterbecherkultur, Danish Tragtbaegerkulturen, French la civilisation des gobelets à entonnoir).

(E) barrows with cremations in the Wessex culture.

These types of chamber graves must correspond to different ethnic groups and populations. Types A1-13 represent round barrows with brachycephalous roundheads while D1-D2 correspond to long barrows with dolichocephalous longheads. The latter belonged to the tall longheaded people of Nordic race that had prevailed in northern Europe since the early Neolithic times. Their people practiced burials in cists, and after meeting the Beaker Folk, they began to cover them with long barrows. Their opposition gave rise to J. Thurnams traditional saying in British archaeology, long barrows - long heads, round barrows - round heads. The long-headed people with long barrows were Europids speaking an early form of Indo-European, while round-headed bowmen may be identified with the Scots speaking a Q-Celtic language with the labialised sound kw- similar to Basque. Their descendants assimilated to Indo-Europeans but Basque has preserved much of its Berber character.

The megalithic cists of Western Europe represent a mixed phenomenon composed of two heterogeneous components. Their culture was influenced by long-term contacts with the Megalith People who taught the Trichterbecherkultur to build mounds from big slabs of stone and slate. The Trichterbechervolk built groby skrzynkowe in Poland, box graves with face urns on the Vistula as well as groby pytowe (slab graves) in Podolye and Pokutye. Similar types are evidenced in groby podpytowe (graves without boxes but covered by slabs), groby deskowe at Uwile near Gusiatyn and groby bryowe at Rakowkta.

Other heterogeneous layers are concealed in the gallery graves and barrow with cremated human ashes. The latter may be attributed to short round-headed Celts with cremation burials referred to as cultures of cinerary urns. The former seem to be associated with rock-cut caves used in the Seine-Oise-Marne culture for burying the dead. Their builders were lake-dwellers who mixed fishing with agriculture and built alignments of standing stones called stelae and menhirs. They were probably erected by the Eburones and other autochthonous population of Palaeo-Iberian stock (Irish, Cymri, Hiberni). In England to any standing menhir there is a local ghost story attached, which tells how a beloved pair or a family were turned into stones. The mound cultures of America even shaped some menhirs into human figures.

The megalith peoples should be divided into (a) spherolithic cultures with circular buildings, tholoi and beehives that may be attributed to the Bascoids, (b) conolithic cultures with conical tepees, post-dwellings and pyramids (Turcoids, Pelasgoids), (c) tetralithic cultures with long barrows, cist burials and long quadrangular houses (the Campignian shell-gatherers, Trichter-bechervolk, Danubian peasants), (d) monolithic cultures with stelae, shaft burials and lake-dwellings which were built by Aurignacian tribes, (e) pyrolithic cultures with cremations and urnfields due to the short-sized Celts.

Hgelgrber. The western megalith graves neighboured on their poorer relatives in the Middle Danube area that built lower mound-graves with an inner wooden construction. Some authors derive this Hgelgrberkultur from the tholos tomb architecture that flourished in Mycenae about 1,600 BC. Then between 1,500 and 1,400 BC groups of Thracian nomadic herdsmen carried its art from the Balkans to central Europe and farther westward to the Rhineland. Their invasion is reflected in the spread of the Otomani, Wietenberg and Gava cultures, contaminated a lot with that of the Urnfielders. Then it made its way through South Bohemia and Switzerland to the Rhine. It is often referred to as the Middle Danube culture including the Fulda-Werra group, East Hessen complex, the Middle Rhine group and the Lneburg variety (Filip 1966: 514ff.). The western promontories can be seen in the Rhine complex (the Hagenau, Middle Rhine, Lower Rhine, Lneburg, East Hessen groups) and the Alsatian complex. Important centres include the Wrtemberg group, the South-Bohemian mound graves and the Carpathian group.

The bearers of the Hgelgrberkultur may be identified with the Thracian Bēssi, who built fortified hill-forts in the Carpathians and called their hills Beskyds. Their origins may be traced back to the Sesklo-Dimini cattle-breeders, who built hill-forts with circular walls on higher rocks and hills. They kept herds of the bos taurus and reared domestic pigs. They buried their dead in large mounds from 4 to 18 meters high. The inner wooden framework was covered by earth and rimmed by stone wreaths (Filip 1948: 190-1).

Kurgan. The Bronze Ages colonisations of mound graves may be traced easily in the distribution of hill-fort settlements and fortified castles. As brave warriors making regular raids on peaceful peasant communities, they had to protect their families in unassailable castles. Their natural heartland was in the steppes of Central Asia abounding in kurgan cultures. The first kurgans made appearance in the Kuban and the Maikop culture in the 4th millennium BC. Their inner core was formed by a wooden chamber with a wheel-cart, weapons and offerings. Siberian mound grave cultures seemed to stem from the Serovo culture (5,200 BC) situated near Lake Baikal. Their builders carried megalith stone architecture as a latent germ with their tents. The germ could wither away for centuries but germinate into astounding lofty pyramids if a local chieftain had captured a great number of slaves for their construction.

About 3,000 BC there appeared a complex of megalith buildings in South India. The original burial patterns of its builders can be deduced easily from the present-day Khasi. Their cemeteries are farther away from the village. They are divided into sections belonging to different clans. A mawlynti and a mawkyet consist of three rows of standing stones covered with horizontal stones in the shape of a table. Mawbynnas and mawnams are larger tombs for relatives made out of 3, 5, 7, 9 or 11 standing stones and several table-stones. The standing stones symbolise men, the lying stones women. In a mawnam the middle standing stone represents the father, while the neighbouring stones stand for brothers and nephews. A lying stone may symbolise the memory of the fathers grandmother (Camerling 1928: 223ff.). Khasis after depositing the bones in the tribal ossuary sacrifice a cock. Then a small bamboo ladder with three rungs is set up to enable the spirit to climb into the tomb. When they carry the bones to the ossuary, if a stream must be crossed, they make a rough bridge of branches of trees and grass, and lay a train of leaves to guide the spirit to the cairn (Crooke 1926: 228). The souls buried in a proper way may seek a paradise in the Creators house where they may chew betel forever, while others are bound to transform into birds and insects. It is only the Creator whom the Khasi worship, while other deities are deemed to be malicious. The latter are supplied with offerings to avert their evil will and misdeeds (Majumdar 1961: 148; Schlenther 1960: 28).

Chullpa. After arriving in the New World the Megalith People could erect such patent examples of monumental architecture in Peru but its germs became stunted in humble conditions when exposed to the severe climate of Canada and Patagonia. In Peru and Ecuador they built up astounding monuments of the Andean civilisations. Their clansmen Incas, Aymaras, Quechuas and Chibchas formed under their rule class-divided societies dominated by the royal caste of the Misca people. The Aymaras built stone tombs called chullpas that contained mummies with head deformations. The Incas resembled the Colorado Cliff-Dwellers in building beehive houses under rock overhangs. Their dwellings were round oval houses with thatched roofs. The Uru and the Chipaya constructed round oval houses and buried their dead in stonewalled tombs chullpas. The royal families of these tribes practised endogamy, mummification and human sacrifices. They engaged in fishing, breeding lamas and travelling on balsa rafts (Steward 1948: II, 552-578).


Extract from Pavel Blek: Prehistoric Dialects II. Prague 2004, p. 395406



2 H. A. Bernartzik: Die neue grosse Vlkerkunde. Wien Prag 1962. **********************