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        Menhirs, Obelisks and Standing Stones: (Form and Function)

Dol-de-Breton. (


The 'wholesale' appearance of menhirs began in Neolithic Europe, at around 4,000 BC, the same time as the first Egyptian obelisks (See Nabta Playa). While the Egyptian obelisks were later carved with flattened faces, the European menhirs were shaped and smoothed so that with a few exceptions, the builders retained and even emphasised the natural qualities of the stones they used.

Although there are suggestions of astronomical significance at many of the larger menhirs, it by no way means that that this was true for all menhirs. There are several examples of prominent stones being border markers, although this is most likely to have been a secondary usage. For example, the stone at Champs Dolent, in France (right), defines the border between Brittany and Normandy, but is also part of an older (solar) landscape alignment including nearby Mont St. Michel.



   Egyptian Obelisks:

The largest recorded standing stones of all time were all Egyptian. The two ancient Egyptian capital's of Heliopolis and Karnak were marked by huge obelisks.


The Egyptian obsession with obelisk building led them to produce several of the largest standing stones from the ancient world.

The largest known Egyptian obelisk is the 'unfinished obelisk', which was left in-situ, attached to the living rock, following the discovery of a natural fissure in the rock. The stone was carved to 120-feet (36m) in length and would have weighed over 1000 tons when complete.

(More about the unfinished obelisk)



Most of the largest obelisks have been 'removed' from Egypt and now stand at other locations around the world. Of 28 ancient Egyptian obelisks discovered only 8 large ones remain in Egypt.

The Remaining Eight Egyptian Obelisks :

Location : Pharaoh : Details :
 Karnak temple, Thebes. Tuthmosis I 66-75ft  - (143-160 tons).
 Karnak temple, Thebes. Hatshepsut (fallen) 97ft  - (320-323 tons).
 Karnak temple, Thebes. Seti II 7m.
 Luxor temple, Luxor. Ramses II 82ft - (254 tons).
 Luxor Museum. Ramses II  
 Heliopolis, Cairo. Senusret I 20.4m - 20.75m (120 tons).
 Gezira Island, Cairo Ramses II 20.4m high. (120 tons).
 Cairo International Airport. Ramses II 16.97m high. (110 tons).


  The following obelisks were all once Egyptian. They are now located at significant sites around the world.

Location : Pharaoh : Details :
 Lateranense, Vatican city, Rome. Tuthmosis III / IV
32.18m high (weight - 330 tons)
(4m lost during 1587 restoration)
 Vaticano, St. Peters square, Rome. Nebkaure Amenemhat II ?? 25.5m high, 320 tons
 Flaminio, Piazza del Popolo, Rome.

Seti I - Ramses II

24m high, (235+ tons.)
 Solare, Piazza di Monteciterio, Rome. Psammetichus II 21.79m high, (230 tons)
 Square of Horses, Istanbul, Turkey. Tuthmosis III
19.6m high. (weight - 175 tons)
(Bottom 10.4m lost - orig: 380-400 tons)

 Place de Concorde, Paris. France.

Ramses II

23m (74ft) high (weight 227-250 tons)

 Cleopatra's needle, London. Tuthmosis III 20.87m (69ft)  high (weight 187+ tons)
 Cleopatra's needle, New York. Tuthmosis III 21m (70ft) high (weight 193+ tons)


Cleopatra's Needle, London. Place de Concorde, Paris. Cleopatra's needle, New York. Lateran Obelisk, Vatican City.




The obelisk at Heliopolis (On, Annu) in Egypt, represented the very epicentre of sun worship in early dynastic Egypt. Many of the most significant (3rd to 6th dynasty) pyramids were built so as to produce corner alignments with Heliopolis.

The obelisk at Heliopolis was erected by Sesostris I at around 2,433 BC (Brugsch). The orientation of the obelisk led Lockyer to suggest that Heliopolis may have been constructed over an older temple which was first used for observations of  Dubhe (Ursae Majoris). In which case 'the original foundation stone was laid about 5,100 BC' (2)

At 30� 04� N, 31� 30� E, Heliopolis is geodetically more accurately located than Giza. It is almost exactly 4� south and 5� west of Heliopolis (Baalbek - 34� 03� N, 36� 10� E), in Lebanon.

(More on this subject)




Karnak - The huge temple complex at Karnak was shown by Lockyer (2) to have a solar orientation (aligned to the summer solstice sunrise), which was marked out by several of the largest obelisks in Egyptian history.

The temple of Amon Ra at Karnak was considered the geodetic navel of of ancient Egypt. It is located exactly 2/7th's of the way from the Equator to the pole. Other ancient sites also appear to conform to this theory such as Delphi (3/7th's), and the Silbury/Avebury complex (5/7th's).

(More about Egyptian Geodesy)




Moving the Cleopatra's Needle to New York.

In 1879, His Excellency Ch�rif Pacha, the Governor of Alexandria, gave a 71-foot obelisk known as Cleopatra's Needle to the United States Government, to be elected in the city of New York. Funding for its transportation was provided by William H. Vanderbilt, to whom this book was dedicated. What follows is a greatly simplified rendition of how this 244-ton obelisk was moved, in over a hundred stages, over a two-year period and at a cost of approximately $100,000. Before it could be moved, it was "staged" with scaffolding to protect the hieroglyphs, while its foundation was unearthed. It was then hoisted onto a mechanical contraction that turned it 90 degrees, parallel with the ground.

It was then moved horizontally, much like pyramid stone, right onto a boat - A steamer with a hole cut through its hull.



Menhir Facts:

Menhirs and standing stones in Europe were placed into the ground, which means that they are obviously considerably longer than they appear.

It is reasonable to include an extra 20% in length below the ground.

An attempt to straighten the two stones called 'The Cove' at Avebury in 2003, revealed the fact that one of the stones, which stands 14ft (4.4m), above the ground, also exists at least 7ft (2.2m) below the ground (reaching a possible 10ft /3m deep). The weight of the stone is now calculated at around 100 tons.

Refs: Daily Telegraph News (8 April 2003); The Scotsman (17 April 2003), The Guardian (18 April 2003)



   French Menhirs:

Although the largest known French menhir (Le Grand Menhir Bris�) in Morbihan, has now fallen, France still possesses several of the largest standing menhirs in the world, a tribute to the builders skill and determination.

The largest upright menhir in France today is the Kerloas menhir, which stands at 9.5m.


The Tallest Menhirs in France:

Menhirs are found in all countries which abound in megalithic structures. In France over 1600 isolated examples have been recorded, of which about the half, and by far the most remarkable, are within the five departments which constitute Brittany. Over the rest of France they are generally small, and not to be compared in size to those of Brittany. At Lochmariaquer, Morbihan, is the largest menhir in the world. It was in the form of a smooth-sided Obelisk, but now lies on the ground broken into four fragments, the aggregate length of which amounts to 20.50 metres (about 67 ft.). It was made of granite foreign to the neighbourhood, and its weight, according to the most recent calculations, amounted to 347,53 1 kilogrammes, or 342 tons (L'Homme, 188 5, p. 1 93). The next largest menhir is at Plesidy (Cotes-du-Nord)), measuring about 37 ft. in height. Then follows a list of sixty-seven gradually diminishing to 16 ft. in height of which the first ten (all above 26 ft.) are in Brittany. As regards form these menhirs vary greatly. Some are cylindrical, as the well-known Pierre de champ-Dolent at Dol (height 30 ft.), and that of Cadiou in Finistere (28 ft.); while that of Penmarch (26 ft.) takes the shape of a partially expanded fan. A menhir of quartz at Medreac (Ille-et-Vilaine) stands 162 ft. high in the form of a rectangular pillar 'indubitablement taille'. (3)


Name and Location Height (m) Height (ft)
 Le Grand Menhir Bris� (Morbihan) - (Fallen) 20.50 67.30
 Pl�sidy (C�tes du Nord) 11.12 36.50
 Kerloas (Plouarzel, Finist�re). (Top chipped off - currently only 9.5m)
11.05 36.25
 Louargat (C�tes du Nord) 10.30 33.80
 K�rien (C�tes du Nord) 9.63 31.60
 Dol (Ille-et-Vilaine) at Champ-Dolent 9.30 30.50
 P�dernec (C�tes du Nord) 8.50 27.90
 Glomel (C�tes du Nord) 8.50 27.90
 Tr�gon (C�tes du Nord) 8.50 27.90
 Sca�r (Finist�re) 8.33 27.30
 Pleucadeuc (Morbihan) at la Grande-Brousse. 8.00 26.25
 Tr�gunc (Finist�re) 8.00 26.25
 B�gard (C�tes du Nord) 7.50 24.60
 Carnihuel (C�tes du Nord) 7.50 24.60

(Taken from an 1885 survey by Gabriel de Mortillet). (3)


Other French Menhirs:

Name of Menhir: Height (m):
 Grande Menhir de Counozouls. 8.9
 Kergadiou (Brittany) - (Two menhirs, one fallen) 8.75
 Menhir du Men Marz. (Two menhirs, one fallen)


 Menhir du Saint Duzac (St Uzec). 8.10


Le Grande Menhir Bris�

At over 20m high this was once the largest standing stone in Europe, but archaeology has now shown it to be the last extant stone of a stone-alignment, with another 18 other pits still visible in a row leading towards Le Grand Menhir (see below). It is believed for several reasons, that the structure was once used as a lunar back-sight, involving other prominent sites in the area. and would have once been able to accurately measure the moons 18.6 year cycle.

The missing stones: The original monument was constructed at around 4,000BC. It was destroyed around a thousand years later and the stones were re-used for new constructions in the area. It is suspected that the cap-stones for the Table-des-Marchands, Gavr'inis and Er-Lannic tumulii are all parts of one of the original menhirs from the construction.

The location, and  size of the other missing stones are a matter of speculation but there are several likely candidates in the immediate surrounding countryside. The several phases of construction at Carnac offering the tantalising possibility that (some of) these other stones may be the missing ones from the original Morbihan monument.

(More about the Lochmariaquer menhirs)


The Kergadiou Menhirs:

The Spectacular Kergadiou Menhirs (8.75m and 11m)

The Kergadiou menhirs were inter-visible with the Kerloas menhir, the ocean and several other menhirs in the vicinity, The extreme height and proximity to the ocean of many of the Brittany menhirs makes it possible that these particular examples may have been erected with navigation in mind. It is interesting to note that the same cannot be said of the opposite English coastline, even though tradition claims an English origin for the stones, suggesting a connection in the distant past.

(More about the Kergadiou Menhirs)


Other Menhirs in Brittany.

Lannouoluarn menhir, brittany.

Llanoulouarn 4m (left), Coulnandre 3m (right)



Menhir Facts:

It was common practice with large European menhirs\standing-stones to shape the bottom end of the stone into a 'keel' as seen in the photo (right), of Le Grand Menhir Bris� in France.

Features such as this are a tribute to the advanced understanding of engineering possessed by the megalithic builders.

(Prehistoric Construction Techniques)



   British Standing-stones:

The British landscape still possesses several hundreds of standing-stones. They have been the cause of much study and have been associated with ley-lines, astronomy, geometry and territorial markers, although it is probable that many of the larger stones have been re-used for different purposes since they were first placed.



The Rudstone Monument  - At 7.8m high, this is the largest standing-stone in England. The Rudstone complex includes several important prehistoric landscape features such as Cursus' and beacon hills, both landscape features traditionally associated with astronomy.

(More about the Rudstone complex)


The Devils Arrows. (



The 'Devil's Arrows' - Three standing-stones with grooves carved into the tops and sides. The stones are almost aligned, but not quite, reminiscent of the many 'triple-circles' in UK showing the same layout. Having said they are not perfectly aligned, they are orientated towards the nearby Thornborough complex (three henges) on the Ur-Swale plateau, several miles north. The Thornborough complex also includes a Cursus and the region claims at least six of the largest henges in England.

(More about the Devil's Arrows)




Clach-an-Trushal - The largest standing stone in Scotland. At over 6m tall this stone has no historical context, although it is believed that there may have once been other structures at the site.

(More about Clach-an-Trushal)






   Portuguese Menhirs:

There are several large menhirs still standing in Portugal, including the largest in all Iberia at just over 7m.

Menmhir da Meada, castelo de Vide, Portugal.


Menhir da Meada: The tallest menhir in Portugal and all Iberia. This stone is just over 7 metres tall and is situated near Castelo de Vide, along with over 50 other megalithic remains.

(More about the Menhir da Meada)





The 'Rochoso menhirs': Originally four columns and part of an unknown monument, these two slender stone pillars are all that remain today.

(More about Rochoso)




Almendres Menhir: This stone is believed to have been a solstice marker in relation to the nearby Almendres stone circle, one of Portugal's prehistoric gems. It is located in the Evora region of Portugal, which as well as having an astronomical significance, has been continuously occupied for 20,000 years.

(More about Almendres)

(More about the Evora complex)



The Monsaraz menhirs:

There are several substantial menhirs in the vicinity of Monsaraz, most noticeably those at Xarez, Outeiro and Bulhao, although several others are recorded in the same region.

Xarez cromeleque and menhir.

The Xarez menhir is unique as it stands in the centre of the Cromeleque da Xarez, which was relocated from its original location 5km south to its current position beside Monsaraz itself following the construction of the nearby dam in 2002. The cromeleque da Xarez has been suggested as being part of a 50km lunar alignment (corridor of incidence), which includes other noticeable sites such as Almendres and Zambujeiro.

(More about the Xarez Alignment)


Not far North of Monsaraz are the Outeiro and Bulhao menhirs. The Outeiro menhir is the second tallest in Portugal and the heavily decorated. The Bulhao menhir is one of the oldest recognised structures in the region.

(More about prehistoric Portugal)




   Menhir Gallery:

Other menhirs, obelisks and standing-stones from around the world.



The Tallest Menhir in Germany.

The Gollenstein (Golden stone). Height 7.6m high.

Broken and re-erected.






The tallest Menhir in Switzerland.

Menhir d'essertes Auborange - Height 5.6m (25 tons)





The 'Rough Guide' to ancient sites from around the world.



1). A. Service & J. Bradbery. Megaliths and their Mysteries. 1979. Macmillan.
2). J. N. Lockyer. The Dawn of Astronomy. 1964, M.I.T Press.
3) J. Fergusson. Rude Stone Monuments.


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