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Senegambian Stone Circles

The incredible Senegambian Stone Circles


Throughout human history, mankind has been passionate about building impressive monuments. Very often, this is achieved by building something that is the largest, highest, longest, most expensive, etc. in the world. Nevertheless, some less imposing monuments, rarely given the same attention, are also of great architectural and technological achievement. Take the Senegambian Stone Circles, for instance. On average, the stones forming these circles are 2m in height and weigh up to 7 tons each. Although these are not massive structures like those of Stonehenge in England or the Great Pyramids of Egypt, the incredible feature of the Senegambian Stone Circles is that there are more than 1000 of them spread over an area that is 100 km wide and 350 km in length. Now, this is a truly remarkable achievement.

A Senegmbian Stone Circle at Wassu

A Senegmbian Stone Circle at Wassu. Photo source: Wikimedia.     

The Senegambian Stone Circles can be found in West Africa, in the modern countries of Gambia and Senegal. Of the 1000 stone circles, 93 of them have been inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. These include the Sine Ngayène complex in Senegal, as well as the Wanar, Wassu and Kerbatch complexes in Gambia. Apart from these stone circles, the sites also contain numerous tumuli and burial mounds.  According to the material obtained from the archaeological excavations of some of these features, the stone circles have been dated to between the 3 rd century B.C. and the 16 th century A.D. This suggests that the stone circles were built gradually over a long period of time, which perhaps reflects a tradition that was kept for almost two millennia. 

To construct these stone circles, the ancient builders were first required to identify suitable lateritic outcrops for the carving of the stones. Although this stone is common in the region, great knowledge of the local geology was required to find the best laterite. Having found the suitable laterite, one would then have to cut and extract the stone from the quarry. This was no easy feat as the stones needed to be extracted in one piece. At quarry sites, monoliths that were broken in the course of extraction were of no value and were left there. These broken monoliths show traces of microscopic cracks which may have caused them to fragment while being extracted. Therefore, great skill was required when cutting and extracting these stones. Finally, the extracted monoliths were transported and erected at various sites along the River Gambia. This final process suggests that there was a social organisation in place that was able to mobilise the manpower required for this task. Imagine this process being repeated for tens of thousands of monoliths, and you get a sense of the massive scale of the Senegambian Stone Circles.

Some of the Senegambian Stone Circles

Some of the Senegambian Stone Circles like within and around villages. Photo source.

The function of these stone circles, however, remains a mystery to us. It has been suggested that they had a funerary function. In some of the excavations, mass burials were discovered, in which bodies were haphazardly thrown into graves. This suggests that either an epidemic killed a large number of the region’s inhabitants or possibly that it was some kind of sacrifice. By contrast, it is claimed that Islamic writers recorded that these stone circles were built around the burial mounds of kings and chiefs, following the royal burial custom of the ancient empire of Ghana. When Islam was introduced into the region in the 11 th century, devout Muslims were also buried in the same way, and these stone circles became sacred places. Therefore, these stone circles may have had various functions. What is certain is that more research is needed in order to better understand their function. 

The Senegambian Stone Circles may not be as well-known as the more imposing monuments of mankind. Nevertheless, I think it challenges our perception of what we consider great monuments. While we often imagine architectural feats to be one huge building looming over the landscape, the sheer number of stone circles scattered around the Senegambian landscape is a building achievement that is as impressive, if not more impressive, than some of the most famous ancient buildings on the planet.

Featured image: Siné Ngayenne "La Tombe du Roi". Photo source.

By Ḏḥwty


Gambia Information Site, 2014. Stone Circles of Wassu. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 14 May 2014].

Nijii, 2012. Stone circles of the Gambia. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 14 May 2014].

Saliu, Y., 2012. Gambia: World Heritage Sites of the Gambia - Wassu and Kerbatch Stone Circles. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 14 May 2014].

UNESCO, 2014. Stone Circles of Senegambia. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 14 May 2014].



Pete Wagner's picture

From the article, “The function of these stone circles, however, remains a mystery to us. It has been suggested that they had a funerary function. In some of the excavations, mass burials were discovered, in which bodies were haphazardly thrown into graves. This suggests that either an epidemic killed a large number of the region’s inhabitants or possibly that it was some kind of sacrifice."

Really?  If one were to stumble upon a recent big building collapse, with dead bodies strewn about in the rumble, would we think the above?  No.  So, is then the above more plausibly explained as a building collapse?  Which would then clear up part of the ‘mystery’: I.e., those stone pillars held up a big roof (big wood timbers), that’s no longer there.  But then how to explain the demise of the culture that built and lived in it? Probably wiped by the same cataclysm that doomed Atlantis (Richat Structure) to the North.

Nobody gets paid to tell the truth.


Maybe they were clearing the rocks to make way for farming? Sometimes it's the simple common sense solution that's the correct one.

Great comment Constance

What for instance could be easily explored, would be to find the resonance frequences of stones in ancient stone work. This will probably prove that only highly resonating stones have been used, and that they tune in on the same frequenses. If the higher resonance frequences would be blasted toward one such stone, it will eventually crack. they were probably able to trim those stones with very little effort.

Massive ancient stones moved by sound
Beyond Egypt, in ancient Israel, the Old Testament book of First Kings 6:7, records that in the building of Solomon's Temple, "Only blocks of undressed stone from the quarry were used; no hammer or ax or any iron tool whatsoever was heard in the house while it was being built." This feat was accomplished, the Talmudic traditions recount, with the use of a stone called the Shamir, which caused stone to be separated and shaped by vibration, and levitated into place with sound.

The Mahatma Dhut Kuhl, in his "A Treatise on Cosmic Fire," stated: "The laws governing the erection of large buildings and the handling of great weights will someday be understood in terms of sound.... They were raised through the ability of the early builders to create a vacuum through sound."

In nearby Chaldea, the ancient Magi were said to generate a similar force called, in the Aramaic, "rukha shakintu," by using rods of gold with special energising powers. Of interest in this respect is the Chaldean work, the "Sifr'ala," which dates back more than 5000 years and, though fragmentary, is a lengthy work filling almost 100 pages of English translation.

Farther to the east, in India, researcher Andrew Thomas reported that levitation is still performed to this day using chanting. In the village of Shivapur, near Poona, is a little mosque dedicated to the Sufi holy man Qamar Ali Dervish. Outside, in the courtyard of the mosque, is a stone weighing 138 pounds and during daily prayer, 11 devotees surround the stone, repeating the holy man's name. When they read a certain pitch, the 11 men are able to lift the stone by using one finger each. As soon as the chanting stops, the devotees jump back, for the stone resumes its weight and falls to the ground with a heavy thud.

As Thomas noted: "The key seems to be in the chanting, and the 11 voices must be the required formula to achieve the correct pitch that makes the boulder's vibrations change and renders it seemingly weightless or at least lighter. The name of the saint is probably unimportant; the frequency is the key factor. It is a similar principle to the one whereby a trained singer can strike and hold a note that matches a wine glass and shatters it."

A second fascinating eyewitness account of modern levitation, this one from Tibet, was reported by Swedish aircraft industrialist Henry Kjellson, who travelled through the Himalayas in the post-war era. Kjellson described how Tibetan monks hauled stones measuring one-and-one-half metres square by yak up to a plateau, and placed them in a specifically designed hole, bowl-shaped at one metre in diameter and 15 centimetres deep in the centre. The hole was situated 100 metres from a cliff wall, 400 metres high, on top of which was a building to be constructed.

Behind the hole, by 63 metres, stood 19 musicians, and behind each of them 20 priests radiating out in lines, separated from one another in groups at five degree intervals, forming a quarter circle with the hole as its focal centre. These distances appear to have been of utmost importance, for all were carefully measured by the monks using lengths of knotted leather. The musicians possessed a total of 13 drums of three different sizes, and alternating between them were six large trumpets.

On command, the drums and trumpets were sounded, and the priests chanted in unison, together forming sharp blasts of sound at a beat of two-per-minute. After four minutes, Kjellson observed that the stones placed in the target hole began to wobble, move side to side, and then as the beats of sound increased, they suddenly soared the 400 metres in a parabolic arc to the top of the cliff. In this manner, Kjellson recorded that the monks were able to move five or six blocks an hour.

Significantly, the ancient Chinese medicine men also used the element jade as a healing tool, and possessed singing stones made of flat pieces of jade, which vibrated pleasant and soothing notes when struck, calming and aiding in the recuperation of their patients. The great tone of nature the Chinese called the Kung, corresponding in our music scale to F. To the neighboring Tibetans, the notes of A, F, and G were sounds of power.

In ancient times, the Emporer would keep the peace by a very simple means. Each year he would travel with his entourage to the various provinces.

He would listen, and then carefully tune the notes of the scale.

And in that way, peace reigned for thousands of years.

- Geoffrey Keyte


dhwty's picture


Wu Mingren (‘Dhwty’) has a Bachelor of Arts in Ancient History and Archaeology. Although his primary interest is in the ancient civilizations of the Near East, he is also interested in other geographical regions, as well as other time periods.... Read More

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