The megalith period of European history is commonly thought to have occurred about five thousand years ago. Not much is known of this culture, or even the reason why they erected their structures of standing stones across the continent, particularly in the British isles. But their monuments remain, massive upright stones which hold various legends as the civilizations that have come after them try to interpret their existence through the lens of their own beliefs.
What’s more, these stones, famous across the British isles, may have given rise to other ancient works of art, thousands of years later.
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Smaller stone monuments, or stele, exist in every culture and civilization on Earth (even today, we like obelisks and gravestones). It’s little wonder, then, that the Picts who lived in Great Britain during the post-Roman period—thousands of years later—might have married the ancient yet familiar tradition of standing stones to their own Chritianized beliefs in other to create their own monumental stone sculptures, what are today called Pictish stones.
This video depicts an ancient Pictish stone on which you can just barely make out carvings which mark its origin and style. The symbols that can still be identified on this stone are the characteristic ancient cross of Insular (post Roman Christian British) art of this period, as well as the snakelike symbol often classified as an adder.
These stones were often set up much the way today’s gravestones are, to mark burials, and the symbols on them are thought to indicate various family lineages or tribes. Some are lavishly decorated, though the wear and tear of 1300 years can leave few remnants behind, as seen in the example in the video.