Pyramid structures of the world (some of these dates are debatable). The traditional pyramid is half of an octahedron, the same geometry as the cavities formed in a tetrahedral array, making them the shape of the resonating cavities within the fabric of spacetime itself.
A megalith is a large stone that has been used to construct a structure or monument, either alone or together with other stones. The word “megalithic” describes structures made of such large stones, utilizing an interlocking system without the use of mortar or cement, as well as representing periods of prehistory characterised by such constructions. For later periods the term monolith, with an overlapping meaning, is more likely to be used.
The word “megalith” comes from the Ancient Greek “μέγας” (megas) meaning “great” and “λίθος” (lithos) meaning “stone.” Megalith also denotes an item consisting of rock(s) hewn in definite shapes for special purposes. It has been used to describe buildings built by people from many parts of the world living in many different periods.
A variety of large stones are seen as megaliths, with the most widely known megaliths not being sepulchral. The construction of these structures took place mainly in the Neolithic (though earlier Mesolithic examples are known) and continued into the Chalcolithic and Bronze Age.
At a number of sites in eastern Turkey, large ceremonial complexes from the 9th millennium BC have been discovered. They belong to the incipient phases of agriculture and animal husbandry. Large circular structures involving carved megalithic orthostats are a typical feature, e.g. at Nevali Cori and Göbekli Tepe. As well as human figures, the stones carry a variety of carved reliefs depicting boars, foxes, lions, birds, snakes and scorpions.
Akhundov (2007) recently uncovered pre-Kura-Araxes/Late Chalcolithic materials from the settlement of Boyuk Kesik and the kurgan necropolis of Soyuq Bulaq in northwestern Azerbaijan, and Makharadze (2007) has also excavated a pre-Kura-Araxes kurgan, Kavtiskhevi, in central Georgia.
Materials recovered from both these recent excavations can be related to remains from the metal-working Late Chalcolithic site of Leilatepe on the Karabakh steppe near Agdam (Narimanov et al. 2007) and from the earliest level at the multi-period site of Berikldeebi in Kvemo Kartli (Glonti and Dzavakhishvili 1987). They reveal the presence of early 4th millennium raised burial mounds or kurgans in the southern Caucasus.
Similarly, on the basis of her survey work in eastern Anatolia north of the Oriental Taurus mountains, C. Marro (2007)likens chafffaced wares collected at Hanago in the Sürmeli Plain and Astepe and Colpan in the eastern Lake Van district in northeastern Turkey with those found at the sites mentioned above and relates these to similar wares (Amuq E/F) found south of the Taurus Mountains in northern Mesopotamia
The Leyla-Tepe culture is a culture of archaeological interest from the Chalcolithic era. Its population was distributed on the southern slopes of the Central Caucasus (modern Azerbaijan, Agdam District), from 4350 until 4000 B.C.
The Leyla-Tepe culture includes a settlement in the lower layer of the settlements Poilu I, Poilu II, Boyuk-Kesik I and Boyuk-Kesik II. They apparently buried their dead in ceramic vessels. Similar amphora burials in the South Caucasus are found in the Western Georgian Jar-Burial Culture. The culture has also been linked to the north Ubaid period monuments, in particular, with the settlements in the Eastern Anatolia Region (Arslan-tepe, Coruchu-tepe, Tepechik, etc.).
The settlement is of a typical Western-Asian variety, with the dwellings packed closely together and made of mud bricks with smoke outlets. It has been suggested that the Leyla-Tepe were the founders of the Maykop culture. An expedition to Syria by the Russian Academy of Sciences revealed the similarity of the Maykop and Leyla-Tepe artifacts with those found recently while excavating the ancient city of Tel Khazneh I, from the 4th millennium BC.
Archaeological excavations in the early 1980s at the old Leylatapa residential area in the Garadagh region of Azerbaijan revealed novel traces of the Eneolithic Period. It was later discovered that the architectural findings (ironware, infant graves in clay pots, earthenware prepared using potter’s wheel and other features) significantly differ from the archaeological complexes of the same period in the South Caucasus. From these findings, a new archaeological culture (the Leylatapa) was discovered.
Research indicates that this culture was genetically connected with the Ubeid and Uruk cultures, which were archaeological complexes in Northern Mesopotamia that date to the first half of the 4th millennium BC. It has been determined that the Leylatapa residential area was built by ancient tribes migrating from the Northern Mesopotamia to the South Caucasus during the Eneolithic Period.
The new high dating of the Maikop culture essentially signifies that there is no chronological hiatus separating the collapse of the Chalcolithic Balkan centre of metallurgical production and the appearance of Maikop and the sudden explosion of Caucasian metallurgical production and use of arsenical copper/bronzes.
More than forty calibrated radiocarbon dates on Maikop and related materials now support this high chronology; and the revised dating for the Maikop culture means that the earliest kurgans occur in the northwestern and southern Caucasus and precede by several centuries those of the Pit-Grave (Yamnaya) cultures of the western Eurasian steppes (cf. Chernykh and Orlovskaya 2004a and b).
The calibrated radiocarbon dates suggest that the Maikop ‘culture’ seems to have had a formative influence on steppe kurgan burial rituals and what now appears to be the later development of the Pit-Grave (Yamnaya) culture on the Eurasian steppes (Chernykh and Orlovskaya 2004a: 97).
In other words, sometime around the middle of the 4th millennium BCE or slightly subsequent to the initial appearance of the Maikop culture of the NW Caucasus, settlements containing proto-Kura-Araxes or early Kura-Araxes materials first appear across a broad area that stretches from the Caspian littoral of the northeastern Caucasus in the north to the Erzurum region of the Anatolian Plateau in the west.
For simplicity’s sake these roughly simultaneous developments across this broad area will be considered as representing the beginnings of the Early Bronze Age or the initial stages of development of the KuraAraxes/Early Transcaucasian culture.
The ‘homeland’ (itself a very problematic concept) of the Kura-Araxes culture-historical community is difficult to pinpoint precisely, a fact that may suggest that there is no single well-demarcated area of origin, but multiple interacting areas including northeastern Anatolia as far as the Erzurum area, the catchment area drained by the Upper Middle Kura and Araxes Rivers in Transcaucasia and the Caspian corridor and adjacent mountainous regions of northeastern Azerbaijan and southeastern Daghestan.
While broadly (and somewhat imprecisely) defined, these regions constitute on present evidence the original core area out of which the Kura-Araxes ‘culture-historical community’ emerged.
Kura-Araxes materials found in other areas are primarily intrusive in the local sequences. Indeed, many, but not all, sites in the Malatya area along the Upper Euphrates drainage of eastern Anatolia (e.g., Norsun-tepe, Arslantepe) and western Iran (e.g., Yanik Tepe, Godin Tepe) exhibit – albeit with some overlap – a relatively sharp break in material remains, including new forms of architecture and domestic dwellings, and such changes support the interpretation of a subsequent spread or dispersal from this broadly defined core area in the north to the southwest and southeast.
The archaeological record seems to document a movement of peoples north to south across a very extensive part of the Ancient Near East from the end of the 4th to the first half of the 3rd millennium BCE. Although migrations are notoriously difficult to document on archaeological evidence, these materials constitute one of the best examples of prehistoric movements of peoples available for the Early Bronze Age.
Kurgan is the Russian word (of Tatar (Turkic) origin) for tumulus, a type of burial mound or barrow, heaped over a burial chamber, often of wood. These are mounds of earth and stones raised over a grave or graves. Originating with its use in Soviet archaeology, the word is now widely used for tumuli in the context of Eastern European and Central Asian archaeology.
The earliest kurgans appeared in the 4th millennium BC in the Caucasus, and are associated with the Indo-Europeans. Kurgans were built in the Eneolithic, Bronze, Iron, Antiquity and Middle Ages, with old traditions still active in Southern Siberia and Central Asia.
Kurgan cultures are divided archeologically into different sub-cultures, such as Timber Grave, Pit Grave, Scythian, Sarmatian, Hunnish and Kuman-Kipchak. A plethora of placenames that include the word “kurgan” appear from Lake Baikal to the Black Sea.
Ziggurats were huge religious monuments built in the ancient Mesopotamian valley and western Iranian plateau, having the form of a terraced step pyramid of successively receding stories or levels. There are 32 ziggurats known at, and near, Mesopotamia. Twenty-eight of them are in Iraq, and four of them are in Iran.
Notable Ziggurats include the Great Ziggurat of Ur near Nasiriyah, Iraq, the Ziggurat of Aqar Quf near Baghdad, Iraq, Chogha Zanbil in Khūzestān, Iran, the most recent to be discovered – Sialk near Kashan, Iran and others. Ziggurats were built by the Sumerians, Babylonians, Elamites and Assyrians as monuments to local religions. The probable predecessors of the ziggurat were temples supported on raised platforms or terraces that date from the Ubaid period during the fourth millennium BC, and the latest Mesopotamian ziggurats date from the 6th century BC.
Ziggurats were built by the Sumerians, Babylonians, Elamites, Akkadians, and Assyrians for local religions. Each ziggurat was part of a temple complex which included other buildings. The precursors of the ziggurat were raised platforms that date from the Ubaid period during the fourth millennium BC.
The earliest ziggurats began near the end of the Early Dynastic Period, a period that began after a cultural break with the preceding Jemdet Nasr period that has been radio-carbon dated to about 2900 BC at the beginning of the Early Dynastic I Period. No inscriptions have yet been found verifying any names of kings that can be associated with the Early Dynastic I period.
Built in receding tiers upon a rectangular, oval, or square platform, the ziggurat was a pyramidal structure with a flat top. Sun-baked bricks made up the core of the ziggurat with facings of fired bricks on the outside. The facings were often glazed in different colors and may have had astrological significance. Kings sometimes had their names engraved on these glazed bricks.
One of the best-preserved ziggurats is Chogha Zanbil in western Iran. The Sialk ziggurat, in Kashan, Iran, is the oldest known ziggurat, dating to the early 3rd millennium BC. Ziggurat designs ranged from simple bases upon which a temple sat, to marvels of mathematics and construction which spanned several terraced stories and were topped with a temple.
The earliest Egyptian pyramids were step pyramids. The Pyramid of Djoser (or Zoser), or step pyramid (kbhw-ntrw in Egyptian) is an archeological remain in the Saqqara necropolis, Egypt, northwest of the city of Memphis. It was built during the 27th century BC for the burial of Pharaoh Djoser of the Third Dynasty of Egypt by the architect Imhotep, his vizier.
This structure, the Pyramid of Djoser, was composed of a series of six successively smaller mastabas (an earlier form of tomb), one on top of another. Later pharaohs, including Sekhemkhet and Khaba, built similar structures, known as the Buried Pyramid and the Layer Pyramid, respectively.
In the Fourth Dynasty of Egypt, the Egyptians began to build “true pyramids” with smooth sides. The earliest of these pyramids, located at Meidum, began as a step pyramid built for Sneferu. Sneferu later made other pyramids, the Bent Pyramid and Red Pyramid at Dahshur, which were the first true pyramids to be built as such from the beginning. With this innovation, the age of Egyptian stepped pyramids came to an end.
A step pyramid exists in the archaeological site of Monte d’Accoddi, in Sardinia, dating to the 4th millennium BC.: “a trapezoidal platform on an artificial mound, reached by a sloped causeway. At one time a rectangular structure sat atop the platform … the platform dates from the Copper Age (c. 2700–2000 BC), with some minor subsequent activity in the Early Bronze Age (c. 2000–1600 BC). Near the mound are several standing stones, and a large limestone slab, now at the foot of the mound, may have served as an altar.”
As well as menhirs, stone tables, and stone statues Austronesian megalithic culture in Indonesia also featured earth and stone step pyramid structure, referred to as Punden Berundak. These structures have been found in Pangguyangan, Cisolok and Gunung Padang, West Java, the latter of which is the biggest Megalithic Site in Southeast Asia. The construction of stone pyramids was based on the native belief that mountains and other high places are the abode of the spirit of the ancestors, or hyangs.
The step pyramid is the basic design of the 8th or 9th century Borobudur Buddhist monument in Central Java. However the later temples built in Java were influenced by Indian Hindu architecture, as displayed by the towering spires of Prambanan temple. In the 15th century, Java, during the late Majapahit period, saw the revival of Austronesian indigenous elements as displayed by Sukuh temple that somewhat resembles a Mesoamerican pyramid.
The most prolific builders of these step pyramids were the pre-Columbian civilizations. The remains of step pyramids can be found throughout the Mayan cities of the Yucatán, as well as in Aztec and Toltec architecture. In many of these cases, successive layers of pyramids were built on top of the pre-existing structures, with which the pyramids expanded in size on a cyclical basis. This is true of the Great Pyramid of Cholula and of the Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan. Step pyramids were also a part of South American architecture, such as that of the Moche and the Chavín culture.
There are a number of earthwork step pyramids within North America. Often associated with mounds and other mortuary complexes across the Eastern Woodlands (concentrated in the North American Southeast), step pyramids were constructed as ceremonial centres by the Mississippian cultures (900-1500CE), and are regarded as a facet of the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex.
The largest earthen work step pyramid of this type in North America is Monk’s Mound, located in present-day Cahokia, Illinois. With the base of the structure exceeding 16 acres Monks Mound is also one of the largest pyramids by area in the world (after La Danta and Great Pyramid of Cholula).