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Menhir from Champ-Dolent , about 9.5 m high (near Dol-de-Bretagne , Ille-et-Vilaine)

Menhir is from the Breton borrowed name of a prehistoric, towering stone block, also known as menhir is known. In prehistoric archeology , the word refers to an elongated single stone ( Breton maen 'stone' , hir 'long' ) that was erected by humans in prehistoric times. The identification as a menhir can often only be verified through an excavation. Upright stones also served as boundary stones , resting stones , advertisements for quarries, modern memorial stones and garden ornaments, and as marking roads.


The term menhir was introduced into the archaeological literature of France and continental Europe through the publication Origines gauloises (1796) by La Tour d'Auvergne . According to Rowe, the word is also used in the Cornish language . Reinach refers to an essay by Stephen Williams from 1704, which reports on meini-gwyr in Cornwall. However, Camden already used the expressions mein-gwyr and maen-gwyr in his Britannia (1759) . Reinach speaks of a "neo-Celtic term". In Breton colloquial language, the word maen-hir describes every long stone, so the two upright stones in Gourin (Morbihan) are called maen-hir 'long stone' and er-maen-berr 'short stone'. Menhirs are usually referred to as peulvan (literally 'stone pillar') in Breton .

Attempts have been made to derive the name of the Saxon Irminsul as Hir-min-sul from Menhir, but this seems unlikely. Carl Schuchhardt still used Irminsul as a synonym for menhir in 1916.


The popular name Hinkelstein for a menhir, which can be found in the German-speaking area , developed in the Middle Ages . Eventually, the word giant nstein ( "Devil's Rock") is no longer properly understood and probably about Hühnerstein dialect to Hinkelstein modified ( Middle High German and is still partly in German dialects, "Hinkel" for chicken ). Menhirs also play a role under this name in the German translation of the Asterix comic series (Obelix carries and sells menhirs ), which increased the popularity of the term.


Marcel Baudoin defines a menhir as an elongated, unworked single stone that has been placed upright. He rejects orthostats , i.e. stones with a capstone, as menhir, as confusing. According to Baudoin, menhirs are to be separated from cromlechs , i.e. stone circles , and rows of stones , even if the boundaries can sometimes be fluid. He does not want to count the satellites of passage graves among the actual menhirs either. In the Concise Oxford dictionary of Archeology the term is referred to as slang; the authors prefer the term standing stone . Michel Toussaint and his co-authors classify processed and unprocessed stones as menhirs, but demand evidence that they were erected in prehistoric times. These include stone carvings and foundations.

Transport and installation

Menhirs - as well as the stones for rows of stones , cromlechs or dolmens  - were sometimes transported from a distance of several kilometers to their place of installation. Here, log rollers of approximately the same size and lever trees were probably used; in the case of Stonehenge , the use of wooden sleds is also envisaged. The megaliths were erected using larger branches and trunks and lowered into a prepared recess in the ground; this was then filled with wedge stones and soil and tamped down. It is a matter of dispute whether ropes or draft animals have already been used to transport or erect the menhirs . The first evidence of wagons and the use of oxen as draft animals comes from the Baden horizon (3500 to 2800 BC), while the first megalithic structures as early as the 5th millennium BC. Were erected.


The early great menhirs are mostly boulders made of granite that were formed and transported by glaciers during the Ice Age . They were partially smoothed by human hands, intentionally placed vertically and anchored in the ground. Mostly it was rocks such as quartzite , granite, gneiss , limestone and sandstone that were present in the vicinity of the respective installation site - the menhirs in Brittany are mostly made of granite, but in the south of France they are often made of badly weathered limestone. In addition to obelisk-like stone columns, there are also squat, pyramid-like and stele-like structures. The chronological classification of the smaller, mostly pointed and unworked menhirs is largely unclear.

Most menhirs are between one and three meters high. The tallest specimens outside of Brittany are the

Special shapes

Menhirs can be decorated, some have crescent moons , snakes, spirals or tools in the form of symbols. Statue menhirs are stones with anthropomorphic representations.

Menhirs and field names

Field names were or are primarily used to give villagers spatial orientation. Since they also show ownership, a large number of the names are documented in documents, archives and cadastres and are often very old. A nice example of an old field name is the "Lange Stein" from Einselthum, Donnersbergkreis / Pfalz. It dates from 1071 and is probably one of the oldest mentions of a menhir mentioned in a document. Field names are often a good indicator of prehistoric and prehistoric sites. They form an important source for the reconstruction of early and high medieval settlement processes and they often provide the only indication that a cultural monument has gone out. Names like "Hünerstein", "Langer" or "Dicker Stein" can attest to the former existence of these stone marks.

Chronological order

Menhirs are often difficult to date as they are rarely associated with datable finds or findings. The Western European menhirs are usually assumed to date from the time of the great stone graves. In some cases, menhirs can be dated by carved representations, such as the menhir of sea wood , on which an ax of the Eschollbrücken type is depicted, but this only provides a terminus ante quem . Menhirs are also erected in Madagascar and Indonesia today. On Nias stones are set on the occasion of festivals and stand in front of the houses. According to Bonatz, this tradition is no older than 300 years.

With the help of the newly developed TCN dating (Terrestrial Cosmogenic Nuclides) it is now possible to determine how long a stone surface has been exposed to cosmic radiation. The method investigates when a surface was exposed (use of the production of cosmogenic nuclides) or when a surface was buried or buried (use of the decay of radioactive cosmogenic nuclides). The sampled objects must have been exposed to cosmic radiation at some point. The method can be used to determine periods between 100 and 5,000,000 years. However, the application as a dating method to archaeological objects such as worked stones is problematic in that raw materials may already have been exposed to cosmic rays and data on the history of the origin of the sampled object are usually missing.

Later treatment

The christianized menhir of Saint-Uzec with the Arma Christi

Marcel Baudoin differentiates between upright, buried, smashed and destroyed megaliths.

Some menhirs have been "Christianized" by means of crosses or other symbols (see Christianized megalithic monument ). Examples are B. the Fraubillenkreuz or the menhir of Saint-Uzec .

Zacharie Le Rouzic (1864-1939) referred to megaliths marked with crosses as Lech , another Breton word for menhir, but this has not caught on in research.

In the area of ​​the Gulf of Morbihan were around 4200-4000 BC. Several large menhirs overturned - probably by human hands. The large sections that resulted from the overturning were used as ceiling panels for dolmen ( Table des Marchand , Er Grah , Mané Rutual , Gavrinis ).


Menhirs are spread across all continents apart from Antarctica and Australia . Your European focus is in the West. From Scandinavia to Ireland , Great Britain , Belgium , Luxembourg , France , Germany , the Czech Republic and Switzerland , they are also found in the Mediterranean region from Portugal (the Menhir da Meada is the highest at around seven meters) to Italy , but hardly east of it in Europe .

The condition for the existence of menhirs is the presence of suitable natural stones or stones that can be worked with the means and methods of the respective time.



The majority of the menhirs registered in France are in Brittany, most in Carnac . The largest standing menhir is the menhir of Kerloas near Plouarzel , northwest of Brest in the Finistère department , with a height of around 9.5 m and a weight of around 150 t . The longest known menhir can also be found in Brittany, in the Morbihan department . It is the overturned and broken into four parts “ Grand Menhir Brisé” from Locmariaquer . Originally around 21 m high, its weight is estimated at around 280 t. It was made around 4500 BC. And probably between 4200 and 4000 BC. Overturned by human hands. It was one of a series of 19 menhirs that were broken and later used in the area to build dolmens . One of these menhirs with a total length of 14 m was found in three parts: as a chamber capstone of the nearby Cairns Table des marchands , a second in the nearby tumulus "Er Grah" (also called "Er Vingle") and the third as Capstone in the facility on the island of Gavrinis about four kilometers away .

At the same time other menhirs were overturned, among them (La Tremblais) and the menhir called Scalehir from Kermaillard near Arzon on the Rhuys peninsula . When it was erected again in 1985, engravings were found on the underside that some authors interpret as depicting a mother goddess. In 2006 archaeologists discovered around 50 menhirs near Belz (Morbihan) . The stones were erected about 7000 years ago and overturned about three millennia later for unknown reasons. Only a few were used as a quarry in the Middle Ages. They rested for about 4000 years in a layer of sediment that protected them from wind and weather and stored valuable clues about their history.

Other significant menhirs:

Western France

In the Vendée department (e.g. in the vicinity of Avrillé ) there are numerous menhirs, including the 7.2 m high menhir of Bourg-Jardin.

South France

The chalk plateau des Cham des Bondons lies near Mont Lozère in the northeast of the small town of Florac in the Cevennes National Park . Scattered across the area are more than 150 menhirs carved from granite , although their height rarely exceeds 5 m.

Lorraine, Vosges and Alsace

There are numerous menhirs in Lorraine , Alsace and Vosges :

United Kingdom


The menhir is called 'Callán', 'Dallán' or 'Liagán' (from Lingam ) in Irish . In Ireland, heights of less than one to seven meters are known, with large specimens being the absolute exception. The seven meter high menhir of Punchestown , County Kildare has a small stone box at its base . In the center of the nearby Longstone Rath , the menhir also stands next to a stone box. Both are Bronze Age and the findings from Longstone Rath indicate the Early Bronze Age . Cremated remains was at the base of menhirs of Drumnahare, in County Down ( Northern Ireland discovered). In Carrownacaw, also in County Down, the excavation showed that a circular trench about six meters in diameter ran around a menhir about three meters high. Traces of corpse fire , a fragment of pottery and some flint were found in the trench fill , while other flints including cross-edged arrowheads were found near the base of the stone. The excavation at Ballycroghan, the third menhir in County Down, revealed a stone box about two 2m by 1m located 2.5m from the base of the stone. The excavation around a menhir near Newgrange , County Meath , revealed several flints, some of which were worked.

But not all menhirs mark burials. It is believed that some served as landmarks while others could mark ancient roads, as in the case of a row of stones near Lough Gur , in County Limerick , although it is unclear which came first. It is clear, however, that menhirs were sacred in character, as evidenced by their presence in ancient ceremonial places such as the Magh Adhair inauguration site near Ennis in County Clare and the Lia Fail in Tara . Certainly ornamented stones from the Early Iron Age (with decorations in the Latène style ) in Turoe , Counties Galway , Castlestrange, Counties Roscommon and Killycluggin, Counties Cavan , were undoubtedly cult stones. This category also fall perforated bricks .


Hellig Kvinde at Listed

In North Jutland , by Tømmerby Fjord, there is the burial ground of Højstrup-Mark with 37 small burial mounds and two small ships , between which there are 75 up to 1.20 m high building stones (from 125 stones).

There are said to have been more than 1,000 building blocks on Bornholm , today there are around 250. In Louisenlund there are 70 stones up to 2.5 meters high, in Gryet near Nexø Sogn there are 67 stones. At Listed there is a small group of building stones on a low cairn ( Röse - a ship-shaped cairn grave from the Nordic Bronze and Iron Ages ), which bears the name Hellig Kvinde .


The majority of menhirs in Germany are between one and four meters high. The Gollenstein in Saarland is larger at 6.6 m. Some menhirs were prepared, others, mostly boulders , remained unworked. Some, such as the menhir from Langeneichstädt in Saxony-Anhalt found in a megalithic grave or the menhir from Weilheim , were decorated with incisions and reliefs.

The dating of many German menhirs is also unclear. Significant finds are rarely found in their surroundings, which is why little can be said about their former function. An exception is the 2.3 m high sacrificial stone from Melzingen in Lower Saxony, which lies flat on a field, but originally, as archaeological excavations have shown, was vertical. In the immediate vicinity, the soil has up to ten times higher phosphate levels , which may result from past organic offerings. In addition, prehistorians found two stone axes and a bronze hatchet in addition to numerous pieces of flint.

Individual stones and stone settings of different sizes can be found in Germany from Saarland to Hesse , Saxony-Anhalt to Rhineland-Palatinate . About 50 menhirs are still detectable in the Palatinate. The most striking are: “The long stone from Mittelbrunn”, “the long stone from Einselthum”, “the long stone from Freinsheim”, “the long stone from Stahlberg” and “the menhir from Otterberg”.

Menhir at Benzingerode

The menhirs from Benzingerode ( Harz district ), the “ Lange Stein ” from Seehausen ( Börde district ), the “bacon side” from Aschersleben and the “ Hünstein ” near Nohra ( Nordhausen district ) were found near Bronze Age structures. Menhirs were also found at some burial mounds, for example at Nebra and Poserna ( Burgenlandkreis ) as well as at Leuna ( Saalekreis ) and Halle-Dölau (“ Stone Virgin ”). The Rothenschirmbach menhir is part of a grave complex because it covered an earth grave. The menhir from Langenstein near Kirchhain in Central Hesse was built into the church wall. It is 4.75 m (formerly over 6 m) high and weighs about ten tons. An example of a Christianized menhir is the Fraubillenkreuz on the Ferschweiler plateau in the Eifel.

German menhirs:


Over a hundred menhirs are known in Switzerland. They are mostly in French-speaking western Switzerland in the area of the Jura lakes in the cantons of Neuchâtel ( menhirs of Béroche , menhir Bonvillars , menhirs of Corcelles ) and Vaud ( Alignment of Clendy ). But around 40 rows of stones and 9 stone circles are also known in the Freiamt and Knonaueramt area .



In addition to simple menhirs ( Curru Tundu , Sa Perda Longa ) and protoanthropomorphs ( Cara Bassa and Cardixeddu , Pranu Muteddu ), there are mainly statue menhirs on the island . In Sardinia a further processed form prehistoric Menhire is as Baityloi designated (ital. Betili). Sites include:

Batyl of Pischinainus

By tooth friezes (crenellated formations) and recesses above the entrances it is proven that they also stood as a group of three above the portal of giant graves ( Madau ) and rock graves of the younger generation (for example Campu Luntanu ). In Tamuli there are six batyls next to the remains of several giant graves . Some authors see this as evidence of a pantheon of three male and three female deities.

Iberian Peninsula

Most of the menhirs on the Iberian Peninsula are found in Portugal , especially the Algarve and Alentejo regions .

There are menhirs in Spain too, including statue menhirs : the menhir Ilso de Lodos in Guriezo and the menhir El Cabezudo in Cantabria , the Lapa of Gargantáns in the Moraña and the Canto Hicado in Ortigosa de Cameros in the Rioja are known .

The phallic menhirs are an Iberian specialty . In Spain you can find them in the Museum of Vilvestre , in the Reserva Arqueológica Menhires del Valle de Tafí in El Mollar and in Ufones near Zamora . In Portugal it is the Menhir da Oliveirinha and the Menhir do Outeiro .


Menhirs in art and literature

The menhirs became popular through the comics about Asterix the Gauls by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo . Asterix's friend Obelix is a producer and supplier of menhirs. Menhirstones are predominantly Neolithic , but Iron Age examples - often fluted  - are also known in Brittany . The connection between Gauls and megalithic monuments goes back to the antiquarians of the 18th century.

Paul Celan wrote a poem called Le Menhir . It first appeared in 1963 in the volume of poems Die Niemandsrose .

Annette von Droste-Hülshoff wrote the poem Der Hünenstein . It was published in 1844 along with other poems in the Haidebilder cycle .

Siegmar von Schultze-Galléra was inspired by the Menhir von Krosigk, now installed in Halle (Saale) next to the State Museum , to his art fairy tale about the Schön-Annchen-Stein ( Schön Ännchen von Gottgau , 1914), which he had visited regularly at the site since 1885 .

See also


Web links

Commons : Menhir  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Menhir  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
  • Eichfelder: Menhirs. In: Private website, 2003, accessed January 20, 2019.
  • Johannes Kroth: Menhirs in Germany. In: Private website, 2019, accessed January 20, 2019.

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d Salomon Reinach : Terminology of the monuments mégalithiques. In: Revue archéologique . Troisième Série 22, 1893, p. 41.
  2. a b Michel Toussaint, Stéphane Pirson, Christian Frébutte, François Valotteau: Critères d'identification des menhirs dans la Préhistoire belgo-luxembourgeoise. In: Bulletin de la Société préhistorique française. Volume 102, No. 3, 2005, p. 599.
  3. Seán P. Ó'Ríardáin: Antiquities of the Irish countryside . University paperbacks No. 94, 1942. Reprinted, Fourth Edition 1974, London, Methuen, p. 81.
  4. Catherine Bertho-Lavenir: Pourquoi ces menhirs? Les métamorphoses du mythe celtique. In: Ethnology française. nouvelle series 28/3, Astérix. Un mythe et ses figures, p. 306.
  5. ^ Toni-Maree Rowe: Cornwall in Prehistory. Stroud, Tempus 2005, p. 155.
  6. Reinach: Terminologie des monuments mégalithiques ; P. 36.
  7. De ce qui précède, il faut retenir que dolmen, comme menhir, est un terme demi-savant, dont la forme néo-celtique ne doit pas être alléguée comme un argument dans la controverse pendante sur l'ethnographie des constructeurs de dolmens. Salomon Reinach: Terminology of the monuments mégalithiques ; P. 37.
  8. Menhir. In: Johannes Hoops (Ed.): Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde. Volume 3: K-Ro. Verlag von Karl J. Trübner, Leipzig 1915–1916, p. 214.
  9. Duden editorial team : Hinkelstein. Retrieved July 6, 2019.
  10. a b c Marcel Baudoin: De la signification des menhirs. Report fait au nom de la Société Préhistorique de France . In: Bulletin de la Société préhistorique française. Volume 1, No. 4, 1904, p. 123.
  11. my translation, summer 2015; "  Ce sont des pierres isolées, assez allongées, n'ayant subin presqu'aucune preparation, qu'on a jadis plantées en terre.  »
  12. a b c Marcel Baudoin: De la signification des menhirs. Report fait au nom de la Société Préhistorique de France. In: Bulletin de la Société préhistorique française. Volume 1, No. 4, 1904, p. 124.
  13. Marcel Baudoin: De la signification des menhirs. Report fait au nom de la Société Préhistorique de France. In: Bulletin de la Société préhistorique française. Volume 1, No. 4, 1904, p. 125.
  14. Tim Darvill (Ed.): Concise Oxford dictionary of Archeology. Keyword “menhir”. 2nd Edition. Oxford University Press, Oxford 2008, ISBN 978-0-19-953404-3 .
  15. ^ Michel Toussaint, Stéphane Pirson, Christian Frébutte, François Valotteau: Critères d'identification des menhirs dans la Préhistoire belgo-luxembourgeoise. In: Bulletin de la Société préhistorique française. Volume 102, No. 3, 2005, pp. 599–606.
  16. Mamoun Fansa , Stefan Burmeister (ed.): Wheel and car: the origin of an innovation. Wagons in the Middle East and Europe. Catalog handbook for the exhibition, Oldenburg, State Museum for Nature and Humans, March 27 – July 11, 2004 (= supplement to Archaeological Information from Northwest Germany. No. 40). Zabern, Mainz 2004, ISBN 3-8053-3322-6 , p. ??.
  17. ^ Punchestown - The Long Stone. The Megalithic Portal
  18. Sara Champion: Menhir . Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press.
  19. Tim Kerig: A statue menhir depicting an ax of the Eschollbrücken type? To an enigmatic stone monument from Gelnhausen-Meerholz (Mainz-Kinzig district) . In: Prehistoric Journal , Volume 85. 2010, pp. 59–78
  20. Gerhard Baer, Brigitta Hauser-Schäublin , Annemarie Seiler-Baldinger, Christian Kaufmann, Urs Ramseyer, Susanne Haas, Marie-Louise Nabholz-Kartaschoff, Renée Boser-Sarivaxévanis, Theo Gantner: Cultures Crafts Art: Art, Artisanat et Société World Cultures, Arts and Crafts. Springer-Verlag, Berlin 1997, ISBN 3-0348-7716-1 . P. 144.
  21. Dominik Bonatz: Change in a megalithic culture in the 20th century (Nias / Indonesia). In: Anthropos. No. 96/1, 2001, pp. 105-118.
  22. Dominik Bonatz: Change in a megalithic culture in the 20th century (Nias / Indonesia). In: Anthropos. No. 96/1, 2001, p. 109.
  23. a b c Naki Akçar, Susan Ivy-Ochs, Christian Schlühter: Application of in-situ produced terrestrial cosmogenic nuclides to archeology: A schematic review / application of in-situ produced, terrestrial cosmogenic nuclides in archeology: A schematic overview , recent progress in Quaternary dating methods, Ice Age and Present - Quaternary Science Journal, pages 226-238, E. Schweizerbart´sche Verlagsbuchhandlung (Nägele and Obermiller) - Stuttgart, 2008, (PDF file)
  24. O. Cichocky: On the dating of Erdststall - Part 2. In: Der Erdstall 44, 2018, p. 97.
  25. ^ Zacharie Le Rouzic: Les Monuments Mégalithiques de Carnac et de Locmariaquer: Leur destination. Leur âge. L. Geisler, 1901, p. 11.
  26. ^ France: Menhir find thrills archaeologists. In: Spiegel online. August 2, 2006.
  27. ^ Pierre-Roland Giot: Prehistory in Brittany: Menhirs and dolmens. 1992, ISBN 2-85543-076-3 .
  28. Martin Kuckenburg: Places of worship and sacrificial sites in Germany - From the Stone Age to the Middle Ages. Theiss, Stuttgart, ISBN 978-3-8062-2076-6 , p. 34.
  29. Paul Steiner: Stones as ancient cult symbols in the Trier region. In: Trierischer Volksfreund . No. 55, year 1930, Trier City Archives.
  30. ^ Rainer Pauli: Sardinia. 7th edition. Ostfildern 1990, p. 234: "Pope Gregory I wrote in 594 AD about the Sardinians in the Barbagia :" (Dum enim) Barbaricini omnes ut insensata animalia vivant, Deum verum nesciant, ligna autem et lapides adorent ". They live like soulless animals, know nothing about God and worship stones and woods (menhirs and idols). "
  31. Catherine Bertho-Lavenir: Pourquoi ces menhirs? Les métamorphoses du mythe celtique. In: Ethnology française. nouvelle series 28/3. Astérix, Un mythe et ses figures , pp. 303-311.
  32. Le Menhir. In: Anne-Maria Sturm: The concept of involution as a paradigm of interpretation in Paul Celan's collection of poems "Die Niemandsrose". Master's thesis 2008, ISBN 978-3-640-37698-8 , p. 58.
  33. Paul Celan: The No Man's Rose . Tübingen edition. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1996, ISBN 3-518-40738-4 .