A B C D E F H I J K L M N O P R S T U V W
A series of standing stones set in a more or less straight line.
First section of a megalithic tomb, separate from the chamber, but with same width and height.
The study of astronomical practices amongst ancient societies.
Two parallel rows of standing stones leading to a ceremonial centre such as at Callanish.
Also tumulus. Round or long mound of earth generally covering a burial tomb. It can be of many different shapes and it is often surrounded by a ditch.
Distinctive and elegant pot with a rounded lower part narrowing to a neck. It is usually decorated with incised patterns. Beakers were often buried with the dead under round barrows. A particular culture (Beaker people) was associated with this kind of pottery. They first entered Britain around 2600 BC and they may have been the first metal-users in the British Isles.
Round tower-like drystone defensive structure, confined mainly to the North and West of Scotland, and dating back to the Iron Age. There are often galleries and cells within its walls.
Alloy of copper (dominant) and tin or lead.
In Britain the period from 2500-2000 to 750-500 BC, after the Neolithic and before the Iron Age, characterized by the use of bronze for the manufacture of tools and weapons.
The burial or funerary chamber is a stone or wooden construction greater than 2 x 1 m externally and 1 x 1 m internally: these measures distinguish it from the cist. The chamber usually contains collective graves, either inhumations or cremations; a single internment is much rarer.
Round or long mound of small stones, often covering a chamber (chambered cairn) or a burial. Sometimes the word is used for 'earth mound'.
Horizontal stone on top of chamber, passage or dolmen.
Substance found in all living material which gradually disappears from the moment life ceases. Its measurement enables any organic matter to be dated (radiocarbon dating).
Chamber tomb covered by a mound of stones.
Common form of tomb, comprising orthostats, sometimes with interstices filled with drystone walling, and a megalithic capstone over a burial chamber. It is often approached by a passage.
Small box-like square or rectangular grave. It is usually lined and covered with stone slabs.
Tombs found in the Inverness area. They are of two different plan-forms: 'passage-grave' (with a central circular burial chamber approached through the cairn by a low passage) and 'ring-cairn' (with no passageway to the central chamber). Both types are surrounded by a ring of stones.
Cairn with a forecourt of upright stones.
Internal subdivision of a burial chamber, usually obtained with stone slabs.
Beehive-shaped style of roofing formed by horizontal stones which overlap each other as they rise and are closed off at the top.
Three standing stones, one at the back, two at the sides like an unroofed sentry-box.
Lake dwelling, built on a small artificial island.
Burning of the dead, before burial or disposal. Ashes often placed in urns.
Cup shaped depression carved out from stone. Often grouped together, they are the result of a repeated ritual gesture of unknown significance.
A cupmark with one or more concentric rings carved around it. Its meaning is unknown.
Simple burial chamber with three or more uprights and one or more capstones. A dolmen is often the denuded core of a chambered cairn or mound.
Walling built without any cementing material. The stones are arranged carefully in courses, with many smaller stones filling the gaps between.
Gaelic for "fortified place". A small drystone fortification, usually dating to the Iron Age or later, and found mainly in western Scotland.
Underground storerooms for domestic settlements, used in Scotland from 800 BC to about AD 200. Also known as souterrains.
Setting of upright stones flanking the entrance to a chambered tomb.
One of two standing stones on either side of the prostrate stone in a recumbent stone circle. The flankers are often the tallest stones in the circle.
A hard glassy rock which flakes easily and can be worked to produce a sharp cutting edge. Used in prehistoric times for the manufacture of tools and weapons such as scrapers and arrowheads.
The space in front of the concave façade of certain monuments.
A small stone circle of four stones, sometimes set in a rectangle shape.
Late Neolithic earth enclosure consisting of a ditch and an external bank. It can be circular or oval in shape and sometimes it encloses a stone circle as at Ring of Brodgar (Orkney). A Class I henge has one single entrance; a Class II has two or more entrances.
Hilltop enclosure fortified by one or more ramparts and ditches. Many contain the outlines of huts and were probably defended villages.
Many megalithic long mounds present a concave façade with its two extremities ending in extensions known as horns (or wings). They define a partly enclosed space described as the forecourt, probably used for ceremonies commemorating the dead.
Burial of a dead body (as opposed to exposure or cremation). Position may be extended, flexed or crouched, prone, supine or on its side.
Final period of prehistory beginning around 500 BC and lasting into the early centuries of the first millennium AD. Iron superseded bronze as popular material for the manufacture of tools and weapons.
Black soft stone used for jewels in ancient times.
Ring of retaining stones against mound or cairn base.
A stone across the top of two uprights, often placed over an entrance.
"Great stone" from the Greek mega (large) and lithos (stone).
French word for a single standing stone.
Middle Stone Age, between Palaeolithic and Neolithic. From about 7000 to 4500 BC.
A group of minerals that crystallize in thin, flexible and easily separated layers.
Single stone block, monument or pillar. From the Greek monos (one) and lithos (stone).
Of either earth or stone pebbles, generally covering a burial chamber or deposit.
Period when settled farming superseded nomadic life, from around 4500 BC to 2200 BC.
Ancient alphabet, in which letters are formed of parallel lines which meet or cross a base-line. Possibly of Irish origin (2nd century AD).
Large stone or slab, set vertically in a structure often supporting the capstone of a dolmen.
Old Stone Age: it begins around 500.000 years ago and ends with the Mesolithic around 7000 BC.
Usually narrow and low gallery (sometimes with lateral chambers) leading to a broader burial chamber within a mound or a cairn. Façaded forecourt entrance common.
Stone slabs on passage and chamber floors. In a megalithic tomb paving stones superimposed on each other may indicate several phases of use.
Large stones forming the entrance to a structure, usually a tomb.
Measurement in ancient material of the Carbon-14 that enables it to be dated.
Large bank of earth or stones or both forming the defence of a fortified site such as a hillfort.
Recumbent stone circle
Unique Scottish and Irish circle with one large stone (the recumbent) lying horizontally between two uprights (the flankers).
A monument hollowed out of solid rock, and generally designed to take a collective burial. Rock-cut tombs are found in the Mediterranean basin. The only one in the British Isles is Dwarfie Stane on Hoy island (Orkney).
Norse alphabet dating from before the 2nd century AD.
Fine-grain rock altered after formation by heat or pressure or both so that it can be split into thin plates.
Arrangement of stones which does not fit into any megalithic categorie, such as Achavanich in the Highlands.
Fragment of pottery.
Flat comparatively thin dressed stone.
Underground or semi-subterranean storage chamber or gallery used in Scotland from 800 BC to about AD 200. Also known as earth-house.
Stone set vertically by man. Also called a menhir when single.
Ring which may not be circular, of spaced or contiguous standing stones.
Sometimes alignment. Line of regularly spaced standing stones.
From the Latin "tumba", meaning a burial stone, simple or monumental. Generally it is used in very broad terms to denote megalithic graves.
Latin for mound or barrow; generally covers a burial.
A pot used from about 2000 to 1000 BC to contain cremated human bones in burials.
Fusing together of stones by heat. Vitrification is still visible in some hillforts, for example Craig Phadrig (Highlands).
Scottish Iron Age circular stone house with internal walls radiating from the centre.
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