Networks of visible landmarks

Networks of visible landmarks

The location and orientation of megalithic monuments has been chosen very carefully by their builders. The orientation towards celestial constellations has been subject of many discussions and interpretations (see Archaeoastronomy). However, monuments were placed so that they correspond to other features either in the landscape or other man made structures. They present visible landmarks embedded in a spatial context forming megalithic landscapes.

Knocknarea mountain with the massive cairn Miosgán Meadhbha (also called Maeve’s Cairn) on the summit, in the foreground is tomb 7 of the Carrowmore complex.

County Sligo in the North of Ireland possesses approximately one hundred megalithic passage tomb sites. Many of the tombs are positioned on higher grounds so that they produce a prominent signature in the skyline. At the center is the Carrowmore complex, a large group with about 30 surviving megalithic monuments on the Coolera Peninsula, built in the 4th millennium BC. From here many other tombs are visible in the surrounding hills. The Knocknarea mountain in the west of the Cúil Irra peninsula with the massive cairn Miosgán Meadhbha (also called Maeve’s Cairn) on the summit represents a focus point in the area.

The Ballygawley mountains as seen from Carrowmore are lined with megalithic tombs visible by eye in the skyline.

The Knocknarea mountain with Miosgán Meadhbha on top can be even seen from the Carrowkeel site more than 20km to the South.

Knocknarea and Miosgán Meadhbha seen from Carrowkeel site, 20km South.


Renfrew [1] argues that Neolithic societies became under population stress and began to mark their territories with megalithic monuments as territorial markers.

However, examples like the Irish sites described above demonstrates that megalithic monuments provided a linking element for Neolithic communities.


[1] A. C. Renfrew, “Megaliths, territories and popluations,” in Acculturation and continuity in atlantic europe: papers presented at the 4th atlantic colloquiem, 1976.
author = {A.C. Renfrew},
booktitle = {Acculturation and Continuity in Atlantic Europe: Papers presented at the 4th Atlantic Colloquiem},
editor = {S.J. De Laet},
owner = {ograu},
series = {Dissertationes Archaeologicae Gandenses},
timestamp = {2010.05.08},
title = {Megaliths, territories and popluations},
volume = {XVI},
year = {1976}