Medway megaliths

From Academic Kids

The Medway megaliths or Medway tombs are names given to a group of Neolithic chambered long barrows and other megaliths located in the lower valley of the River Medway in the English county of Kent. They are the only group of megaliths in eastern England.

Missing image
Kit's Coty.

They primarily consist of:

Numerous other nearby scatters of large stones such as Smythe's Megalith, the sarsens at Great Tottington and Cossington, the Blue Bell Hill Dolmen and the White Horse Stones may represent the remains of similar, now destroyed monuments. The Victoria County History for Kent also records a standing stone at Cobham which may have been an outlying example, now lost.

Other collections of sarsens in the area, such as the group east of Harvel, are today considered to be natural or to be the result of eighteenth and nineteenth century farmers clearing thier fields of large stones and placing them together out of the way.

The tombs are all located between Maidstone and Rochester and are thought to represent a prehistoric ritual landscape unique to the south east of England. In 1999, archaeological work in the vicinity of Kit's Coty uncovered a Neolithic long house further emphasising the area's significance during the period. It has been suggested that an avenue of stones or a cursus crossed the valley linking Kit's Coty with the Coldrum Stones. Numerous prehistoric artefacts have been found in the area since the eighteenth century.

It is unclear whether the megaliths are part of the continental European tradition or are closer to the Severn Cotswold types found much further west on Salisbury Plain. That they have been damaged and not extensively excavated under professional conditions makes analysis difficult. Stuart Piggott considered them to be of Dutch descent whilst Glyn Daniel thought they were Scandinavian. No convincing parallels have been drawn with any of these monument types however.

All those that survive well enough to be surveyed are broadly orientated east-west with chambers at the eastern end. The burial chambers themselves were all rectangular and around 2m by 4m in plan. They may have been divided up into compartments with further stones and their barrows surrounded with stone kerbs. An earth mound was then placed over the chamber, in at least one case with material excavated from flanking ditches.

Both inhumations and cremations are represented and it is likely that they served as communal mausolea during the third and fourth millennia BC. However, in common with other examples of megalithic architecture they probably also served a purpose for the living, as territorial markers and gathering places.

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