Megaliths are the most visible remnants of a European past that otherwise seems unimaginably remote. These massive stone structures, dating back more than 6,000 years, have never failed to capture the imagination of those who encounter them—from the Neolithic farmers who first conceived them to modern archaeologists now shedding light on the origins and purposes of these formidable monuments.
Every age interprets megaliths in its own way. In the Middle Ages they were seen as the work of Greek giants. The antiquarians of the 18th and 19th centuries assumed they had been erected by invading forces of Romans, Goths, or Huns.
It was a British antiquarian, Algernon Herbert, who in 1849 used the term megalith for the first time, derived from the Greek words megas, large, and lithos, stone. In the 20th century, as archaeology and scientific techniques developed, it was possible to shed light on at least some of the mysteries surrounding these silent stone titans.