The Spectacular Ancient Megaliths of the Ural Mountains
Great attention has been paid to the variety of magnificent megalithic structures around the world. Yet very little is reported on the mysterious and impressive set of stone structures that can be found in the Ural Mountains of Russia. These megaliths are numerous and take on many different forms, including dolmens, menhirs, and a large megalithic cultic complex on Vera Island. While the structure and location of the hundreds of megalithic structures have been assessed in the detail, little is known about the origin of these megaliths and the culture that constructed them.
The Ural Mountain range runs from North to South through Western Russia. They extend across a total of 2,500 km (1,600 miles), reaching along the northern border of Kazakhstan from the Kara Sea to the Kazakh Steppe. The range further continues into Vaygach Island and the island of Novaya Zemlya. The highest peak, at approximately 1,895 meters (6,217 ft) in elevation is Mount Narodnaya. It is estimated to be approximately 250 to 300 million years old, making the Urals one of the world’s oldest extant mountain ranges. The Russians view the Urals as a "treasure box" of mineral resources, including iron, copper, gold, malachite, alexandrite, and other gems.
The Ural Mountains. Source: BigStockPhoto
In the Sverdlovsk Oblast region, in the Middle Urals, there can be found numerous dolmens. According to conventional descriptions, a dolmen is a type of single-chambered megalithic tomb; however, there is really no evidence to suggest that they were initially constructed as tombs. Rather, it seems that subsequent civilizations chose to use them for this purpose.
Dolmens are usually comprised of two or more vertical stones supporting a flat horizontal stone on top. There can be variations, ranging from relatively simple to very complex. The dolmens in the Urals are considered to be small compared to other dolmens, ranging from approximately 1.5 - 2.5 m in width and length. There is some variance in the dolmens at the Urals, with two distinct styles. The stone plate dolmens are created with a mound of stones that have an attached chamber. These usually have a square court in front, and are sometimes surrounded by smaller stones. The boulder dolmens are constructed from large boulders that form a chamber. The chamber is covered by one or more flat stones. There is some variation in structure of the boulder dolmens, but they all have two entrance points - a main entrance to the side and a smaller entrance between boulders.
The menhirs are the most typical megalith found in the Urals. A menhir is a single vertical stone. They can be found singularly, as a monolith, or in groups. The menhirs found in the Urals include monoliths and groupings, and tend to be roughly finished. All of the monoliths discovered to this point are located near either a settlement or a cemetery from the Bronze Age (3300 – 600 BC). Some of the menhir groups are in rows, 13 - 18 m long. A circular shaped structure was discovered at the village of Akhunovo in Bashkiria. Eight menhirs are formed into a circular shape that is approximately 25 m in diameter.
Menhir at Akhunovo (Wikimedia Commons)
While the dolmens and menhirs are amazing and mysterious structures themselves, the most amazing find in the Urals are the megaliths of Vera Island in Lake Turgoyak.
Dating to the Eneolithic period, these megaliths are referred to as Megalith Number 1, Megalith Number 2, Megalith Number 3, Vera Island 9, and Vera Island 4. Megalith Number 1 is the largest megalith structure on the island, standing at 16 by 9 m. It is cut into the bedrock and covered with capstones. It is oriented to the west, and includes a long entrance, a central hall, and two chambers, with a connecting corridor. It includes windows and sculptures of bulls and wolves. It is speculated the Megalith Number 1 served as a temple at some point.
Inside Megalith 1, Vera Island (Wikimedia Commons)
Megalith Number 2, pictured in the feature image, was found carved into a rocky slope with a mound structure covering it. It is oriented north and contain two chambers connected by a corridor. Megalith Number 3 is created by large boulders with a square pit cut into the center rock. It is closed off by vertical stone slabs with massive boulders as capstones. Vera Island 9 is a cultic ritual place with two menhirs, while Vera Island 4 is a cultic place surrounded by vertical stones with a small menhir in the center.
Cultic place of Vera island 4 (Wikimedia Commons)
The megaliths of the Urals are undoubtedly an impressive sight, yet strangely, virtually nothing is known about who created them, how they were built, or what purpose they were intended to serve. The megaliths stretch across an immense area of land, suggesting that they were not all created by a single group.
Megalith Number 1 on Vera Island is believed to have been a temple at some point, however, other megaliths present no obvious signs that they were used for any religious purposes. Nevertheless, it is possible that the megaliths had a common use in spite of the variances in size and shape.
It is hoped that further archaeological research may help to unravel the mysteries of these spectacular structures, as well as the civilization that created them many millennia ago.
Featured image: Megalithic structure on Vera Island (Wikipedia)
Megaliths of the Urals – Island Vera. Available from: http://www.island-vera.ru/en/megaliths.html
Ural Mountains – Wikipedia. Available from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ural_Mountains
Megaliths in the Urals – Wikipedia. Available from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Megaliths_in_the_Urals
Top 6 Natural wonders of the Ural Mountains – Russia Beyond the Headlines. Available from: http://travel.rbth.com/travel/2014/05/06/6_natural_wonders_of_the_ural_mountains
Dolmen – Wikipedia. Available from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dolmen
Menhir – Wikipedia. Available from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Menhir
By M R Reese