Medway megaliths
The Medway megaliths or Medway tombs are names given to a group of Neolithic
The Neolithic Age, Era, or Period, or New Stone Age, was a period in the development of human technology, beginning about 9500 BC in some parts of the Middle East, and later in other parts of the world. It is traditionally considered as the last part of the Stone Age...

 chambered long barrow
Chambered long barrow
Chambered long barrows are a type of megalithic burial monument found in the British Isles in the Neolithic.Long barrows either contained wooden or stone burial structures beneath the barrow and the surviving megalithic stone in the latter means that they are the ones referred to by archaeologists...

s and other megalith
A megalith is a large stone that has been used to construct a structure or monument, either alone or together with other stones. Megalithic describes structures made of such large stones, utilizing an interlocking system without the use of mortar or cement.The word 'megalith' comes from the Ancient...

s located in the lower valley of the River Medway
River Medway
The River Medway, which is almost entirely in Kent, England, flows for from just inside the West Sussex border to the point where it enters the Thames Estuary....

 in the English
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 county of Kent
Kent is a county in southeast England, and is one of the home counties. It borders East Sussex, Surrey and Greater London and has a defined boundary with Essex in the middle of the Thames Estuary. The ceremonial county boundaries of Kent include the shire county of Kent and the unitary borough of...

. They are the only group of megaliths in eastern England and the only significant megalithic use of sarsen
Sarsen stones are sandstone blocks found in quantity in the United Kingdom on Salisbury Plain, the Marlborough Downs, in Kent, and in smaller quantities in Berkshire, Essex, Oxfordshire, Dorset and Hampshire...

 stone outside the prehistoric structures of Salisbury Plain
Salisbury Plain
Salisbury Plain is a chalk plateau in central southern England covering . It is part of the Southern England Chalk Formation and largely lies within the county of Wiltshire, with a little in Hampshire. The plain is famous for its rich archaeology, including Stonehenge, one of England's best known...

 and its surrounding downland
A downland is an area of open chalk hills. This term is especially used to describe the chalk countryside in southern England. Areas of downland are often referred to as Downs....


They primarily consist of:
  • The Coldrum Stones
    Coldrum Stones
    The Coldrum Stones are the remains of a Neolithic chambered long barrow near Trottiscliffe in the English county of Kent.The monument has been greatly affected by 19th century treasure hunters and chalk extraction but the kerb of 31 peristaliths largely survives, meaning that it is often mistaken...

     or Coldrum Longbarrow
  • Addington long barrow
    Addington long barrow
    Addington long barrow is a badly damaged Neolithic chambered long barrow near Addington in the English county of Kent. It is one of a group of monuments known as the Medway megaliths....

  • Chestnuts long barrow
    Chestnuts long barrow
    The Chestnuts long barrow is a Neolithic chambered long barrow near Addington in the English county of Kent. It is one of a group of monuments known as the Medway megaliths....

  • Kit's Coty House
    Kit's Coty House
    Kit's Coty House or Kit's Coty is the name of the remains of a Neolithic chambered long barrow on Blue Bell Hill near Aylesford in the English county of Kent. It is one of the Medway megaliths....

  • The Countless Stones
    Countless Stones
    The Countless Stones, also known as Little Kit's Coty House, is the name of the remains of a Neolithic chambered long barrow on Blue Bell Hill near Aylesford in the English county of Kent. The site is one of the Medway megaliths...

     or Little Kit's Coty House
  • The Coffin Stone
    Coffin Stone
    The Coffin Stone is a large sarsen stone at the foot of Blue Bell Hill near Aylesford in the English county of Kent.The stone is one of the Medway megaliths lying 400 m west of the Countless Stones . It is a rectangular stone lying flat and measuring 4.4 m long and 2.8 m wide...

Numerous other nearby scatters of large stones such as Smythe's Megalith
Smythe's Megalith
Smythe's Megalith or the Warren Farm Chamber is the name given to a now lost Neolithic tomb on Blue Bell Hill north of Maidstone in the English county of Kent. The site was probably one of the Medway megaliths, it was around 300 metres NNE of the White Horse Stone on the edge of Westfield...

 (also called the Warren Farm chamber), the sarsens at Great Tottington
Great Tottington
Great Tottington is a moated manor farm near Maidstone in the English county of Kent. It is also the site of a spring, around which are scattered numerous sarsen stones which may be the remains of a Neolithic monument and part of the Medway megaliths. Further stones lie around the farmyard...

 and Cossington
Cossington, Kent
Cossington is a small farm settlement on Blue Bell Hill north of Maidstone in the English county of Kent.It is the site of a spring and also the site of a now lost group of sarsen stones thought to possibly be the remains of a Neolithic chambered long barrow and one of the Medway megaliths...

, the Blue Bell Hill Dolmen and the White Horse Stone
White Horse Stone
The Upper and Lower White Horse Stones are names given to two sarsen megaliths on Blue Bell Hill near Aylesford in the English county of Kent. They are generally considered to be fragmentary examples of the Neolithic chamber tomb group known as the Medway megaliths...

s may represent the remains of similar, now destroyed monuments. The Victoria County History
Victoria County History
The Victoria History of the Counties of England, commonly known as the Victoria County History or the VCH, is an English history project which began in 1899 and was dedicated to Queen Victoria with the aim of creating an encyclopaedic history of each of the historic counties of...

 for Kent also records a standing stone at Cobham
Cobham, Kent
Cobham is a village and civil parish in the Gravesham District of Kent, England. It is located south of Watling Street, the old road from Dover to London, six miles south-east of Gravesend. The hamlet of Sole Street lies within the parish, which covers an area of 1,240 ha and has a population of...

 which may have been an outlying example but which is located on heavily-wooded private land and has never been investigated in the modern era.

Several other collections of sarsens in the area, such as a group east of Harvel
Harvel is a village in the civil parish of Meopham in the west of the English county of Kent. It is sited on the southern edge of the North Downs, and forms part of the AONB for that area....

 and those in the fields around the Coldrum monument, are today considered to be natural or to be the result of eighteenth and nineteenth century farmers clearing their fields of large stones and placing them together out of the way. Local sarsen was also exploited as a building material for millennia, as attested by the fabric of the church at Addington
Addington, Kent
Addington is a village in the English county of Kent close to the M20 motorway between Wrotham Heath and West Malling. It was known as Eddintune in the Domesday Book. The meaning of Addington is Æddi's estate...

. A phase of destruction in the thirteenth century, indicated by pottery finds may have been to plunder the tombs for building material. Alternatively the need for agricultural land, treasure hunting or religiously-inspired damage may account for the monuments' poor state. A second phase of destruction in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, using fire and gunpowder to break the stone for building caused further damage.

The tombs are all located on the south-facing lower slopes of the North Downs
North Downs
The North Downs are a ridge of chalk hills in south east England that stretch from Farnham in Surrey to the White Cliffs of Dover in Kent. The North Downs lie within two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty , the Surrey Hills and the Kent Downs...

. One group is concentrated between Maidstone
Maidstone is the county town of Kent, England, south-east of London. The River Medway runs through the centre of the town linking Maidstone to Rochester and the Thames Estuary. Historically, the river was a source and route for much of the town's trade. Maidstone was the centre of the agricultural...

 and Rochester on the eastern side of the Medway and another between Snodland
Snodland is a small town in the county of Kent, England, located on the River Medway between Rochester and Maidstone. It has a population of about 12,000 people....

 and Wrotham
Wrotham is a village situated on the Pilgrims' Way in Kent, at the foot of the North Downs. It is located one mile north of Borough Green and approximately five miles east of Sevenoaks. It is within the junction of the M20 and M26 motorways....

 to the west of the river. Those on the eastern side are closely clustered and would have been intervisible when they were built.

They 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
Neolithic long house
The Neolithic long house was a long, narrow timber dwelling built by the first farmers in Europe beginning at least as early as the period 5000 to 6000 BC. This type of architecture represents the largest free-standing structure in the world in its era...

 further emphasising the area's significance during the period. It has been suggested that an avenue
Avenue (archaeology)
British Archaeologists refine the general archaeological use of avenue to denote a long, parallel-sided strip of land, measuring up to about 30m in width, open at either end and with edges marked by stone or timber alignments and/or a low earth bank and ditch...

 of stones and a cursus
thumb|right|250px|[[Stonehenge Cursus]], Wiltshirethumb|right|250px|[[Dorset Cursus]] terminal on Thickthorn Down, DorsetCursus was a name given by early British archaeologists such as William Stukeley to the large parallel lengths of banks with external ditches which they thought were early Roman...

 crossed the valley linking the Kit's Coty side with the Coldrum Stones side. Numerous prehistoric artefact
Artifact (archaeology)
An artifact or artefact is "something made or given shape by man, such as a tool or a work of art, esp an object of archaeological interest"...

s have been found in the area since the eighteenth century and later, Bronze Age
Bronze Age
The Bronze Age is a period characterized by the use of copper and its alloy bronze as the chief hard materials in the manufacture of some implements and weapons. Chronologically, it stands between the Stone Age and Iron Age...

 round barrow
Round barrow
Round barrows are one of the most common types of archaeological monuments. Although concentrated in Europe they are found in many parts of the world because of their simple construction and universal purpose....

s also overlook the valley.

It is unclear whether the megaliths are part of the continental European tradition or are closer to the 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
Glyn Daniel
Glyn Edmund Daniel was a Welsh scientist and archaeologist whose academic career at Cambridge University specialised in the European Neolithic period. He edited the academic journal Antiquity from 1958–1985...

 thought they exhibited Scandinavian influences and OGS Crawford saw parallels with the Severn Cotswold
Severn-Cotswold tomb
Severn-Cotswold is a name given to a type of Megalithic chamber tomb built by Neolithic peoples in Wales and South West England around 3500 BC.-Description:...

 tradition in western England. No convincing parallels have been drawn with any of these monument types however.

All those that survive well enough to be surveyed are broadly oriented east-west with stone chambers at the eastern end of earth mounds around 70m long in surviving examples. The burial chambers themselves were all rectangular and around 2m by 4m in plan. They may have been divided up into compartments and paved with further stones and their barrow
A tumulus is a mound of earth and stones raised over a grave or graves. Tumuli are also known as barrows, burial mounds, Hügelgrab or kurgans, and can be found throughout much of the world. A tumulus composed largely or entirely of stones is usually referred to as a cairn...

s surrounded with stone kerb
Megalithic architectural elements
This article describes several characteristic architectural elements typical of European megalithic structures.-Forecourt:In archaeology, a forecourt is the name given to the area in front of certain types of chamber tomb...

s. The long earth mound that originally covered each chamber used material excavated from parallel flanking ditches in at least one instance The tomb entrances would have been sealed by a portal stone with a façade
A facade or façade is generally one exterior side of a building, usually, but not always, the front. The word comes from the French language, literally meaning "frontage" or "face"....

 erected alongside. The gaps between the façade uprights were infilled with smaller stones.

Both inhumations and cremations are represented and it is likely that they served as communal mausolea
A mausoleum is an external free-standing building constructed as a monument enclosing the interment space or burial chamber of a deceased person or persons. A monument without the interment is a cenotaph. A mausoleum may be considered a type of tomb or the tomb may be considered to be within the...

 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. Unlike the tombs of Wessex there is little evidence for earlier activity such as causewayed enclosure
Causewayed enclosure
A causewayed enclosure is a type of large prehistoric earthwork common to the early Neolithic in Europe. More than 100 examples are recorded in France and 70 in England, while further sites are known in Scandinavia, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Ireland and Slovakia.The term "causewayed enclosure" is...

s but there are plenty of later prehistoric and even Roman ceremonial sites in the vicinity of the megaliths.

External links

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