Skip to content

Landscape Drawings, Sculpted Earth, and Megaliths






Cave drawings of Southern France and Northern Spain

Caves of Lascaux, France

30,000 BC to 10,000 BC


Images have been found in more than 100 caves in France, Italy, and Spain. The artists who created these cave drawings were Cro-Magnon and belonged to a society of Hunter/gatherer people.


The people interpreted the close relationship between themselves and the landscape primarily through depiction’s of animals, often times in hunting or hunted postures, on interior cave walls. Dependency on the wealth of animals, almost certainly led to a highly tuned perception of the changing of seasons with the movement of herds.


This form of art is probably closely associated with ceremony and ritual of the hunt, leading to the belief that some spiritual power was held over the animal improving the likelihood of a successful hunt.


The passage of time is purposefully expressed as shown through the overlapping nature of some images. Animals are represented in various scales relative to one another.


For color, mineral oxides and charcoal were mixed with animal fat and blown onto the limestone walls



Southern England

3100 BC


The circular composition of large and considerably different stones (within the composition), are understood to have relationships with celestial phenomenon.


One notable event associated with Stonehenge is the celebration, or at least the articulation of the lightest day of the annual cycle. Standing in the center of the circular organization on the morning of the summer solstice, one would witness the sunrise in alignment with the ‘Heel Stone’, clearly commemorating the event. Stonehenge may also have served as an astronomical observatory.


The building of Stonehenge occurred in stages. A.) The first stage of building , between 3100 BC and 2300 BC, produced the earthen ring surrounding the present day stone arrangement. One of the earliest stones to be erected was the “Heel Stone’ located at the outer edge of the circle. It is believed the intent was that a person standing precisely in the center of the circle would witness the sunrise on the summer solstice in alignment with the heel stone. Some sources cite the possibility of a second stone associated with the heel stone, which as a pair would have had the sun rise between them.


B.) The second phase, between 2300 BC and 2100 BC, involved the formation of an avenue along the alignment of the heel stone to the River Avon, and the organization of a circle of Bluestones. The bluestones weighed about five tons each and were transported from the Prescelly Mountains in Wales, some 500 kilometers (300 miles) away. The avenue may have been a processional way marking the last leg of the journey for the bluestones, from the river. The arrangement of bluestones in the circle had a designated entrance.


C.) the third phase happened in increments. Between 2100 BC and 2000 BC the bluestones were removed and the construction of another stone arrangement took place. The stones were much larger than the bluestones and brought from an area near Avebury. This arrangement included the lintels that stood about twenty feet off the ground.


Between 2000 BC and 1550 BC the bluestones became part of the composition again, within the interior of the larger stones.


Between 1550 BC and 1100 BC two rings of pits were dug with the possible intention of new stone placements.


Stone circles have provided subject matter for artistic statement and fantasy through time. A 16th century painting of Saint Genevieve, Patron Saint of Paris, watching over sheep inside a circle of stones – symbolically tying Christianity to pagan religion. A 19th century (1820) Italian engraving of a ceremony, having something to do with snake worship.


Avebury Stone Circle

Wiltshire, England

2500 BC


Avebury was stumbled upon by John Aubrey while fox hunting in 1648. It is the largest in size of all the stone circles in the British Isles. Avebury consisted of two avenues of standing stones surrounded by a henge.


The henge was comprised of a ditch that was 9 meters deep, and a chalk bank, immediately outside of the ditch, that rose to 4 meters above the surrounding landscape.


The area enclosed by the ditch is approximately 365 meters (about 400 yards). Half of a village now sits within its perimeter. Four entrances located at the cardinal points of the compass, cross the ditch to the central plateau. Two smaller stone circles were contained within the henge. The southern causeway formed a processional avenue that lead to the sanctuary on Overton Hill, 2.5 kilometers away. Another avenue extended 1.6 kilometers from the west entrance.



Carnac Stone Alignments

Brittany, France

2500 BC


Over a thousand, possibly three thousand individual stones aligned in rows extending a distance of several miles in the northeastern region of France represent one of the largest stone organizations of the period. Individual stones, called menhirs, are a local granite, placed in the ground in an upended manner. The precise purpose of the alignment is unknown. It has, however, been theorized that the organization may have ritualistic importance, possibly even the presence of sacrificial activity. Since it was so massive and could be seen from a great distance, Carnac may also be understood as a beacon, drawing one to it as a focus. Once there one may have been drawn along the linear arrangement to a destination.


Marking space as a boundary, not as enclosure or for protection is also a possible explanation. Free movement through and around the stones occurs, not allowing the composition to act as a wall. The huge alignments, according to another theory, may represent individual soldiers commemorating some great battle. Other theories tie the stone alignments to the stars, the planets, the zodiac, and the thirty year cycle of the Druid people.

Ohio Serpent Mound and other Native American Mounds and Drawings

Southern Ohio (serpent mound)

200 BC (serpent mound)


Possibly the work of the Adena Hopewell people. This large earthen snake would extend to more than 1250 feet (1254 feet) if it were stretched out. The Ohio Serpent mound does not contain any human bones or artifacts, whereas many other mounds of the region are burial sites. The symbology of the snake may make reference to life cycles. Snakes shed their skin and this particular snake seems to be consuming an egg like shape, new beginnings of sorts. Ritual beliefs probably initiated the idea.


The Hopewell culture extended far beyond the Ohio Valley. Mound City Earthworks, a Hopewell burial complex dating to earlier than 400 AD, contains marine shells and sharks teeth from Florida, stone remnants from Virginia, and articles from as far as North Dakota.


Other images probably made by Ancestors of the Mojave in southern California date from about 890 AD. These at Blythe probably refer to some tribal mythology. The other image is of a rattlesnake near Parker, Arizona.


Nazca Lines

Near Cuzco, Peru

200 BC – 700 AD


Lines and figures appear in an area of over 300 square miles. The formation of the images happens when the top layer of gravel is removed exposing the soil surface which is much lighter in color. Images on the Nazca plain fall into two primary categories; one being lines, ray centers, and geometric forms; and the second being animal figures, called geoglyphs.


Straight lines cross the plain sometimes combined with geometric forms including trapezoids, spirals and rings. Some of the longer lines extend for many miles. Places where many lines converge are called ray centers, and often occur on rock outcrops or hills.


The lines may have been directional pathways or sight lines leading to important destinations or sacred mountains. It is thought that collectively the lines create a huge astronomical calendar, referencing events like the summer and winter solstice, and constellation alignments. Farmers would benefit from crucial information about the coming of seasons, and the timing of events and ceremonies within the society could be consistent.


Many animal figures happen to be evident. In most cases only from the air are they perceptible, they are to large to be understood when standing on the ground. Animal images are single line drawings with no overlapping lines. One could walk the lines from beginning to end without crossing any lines of the figure, a ceremonial procession that would have related to the animals ritualistic significance.


The monkey combines a line with the animal. The line is in the direction of the rising of the Big Dipper on December 21, beginning of rain. The monkey is also connected with the season that brings rain, and also appears on pottery.


An additional notable symbol is the Trident. The Trident is thought to be a navigational symbol making reference to the Southern Cross. It measures 600 feet by 200 feet and can be seen from 15 miles at sea on a clear day.


White Horse of Uffington

Berkshire, England

100 AD


Topsoil and grass were removed to expose the chalk sub surface leaving the image of this horse on the hillside.


Celtic in origin, it measures 365 feet from head to tail. The shape of the horse is similar to those found on Celtic metal work and coins. The White Horse of Uffington might be thought of as a territorial symbol marking the space of a local tribe. It may also have been a calling to the Celtic Goddess Epona.


Stone Statues of Easter IslandSouth Pacific

713 AD


Dutch explorers found the island in 1722 on Easter Sunday, giving it the name we know it by today. Some statues rose to a height of 33 feet above the ground, weighed as much as 89 tons, and occasionally wore red top knots weighing up to 10 tons. The statues were carved from a stone called Tufa in an extinct volcanic crater. It is thought to have taken approximately a year to carve one average size figure from the stone.


Some of the statues were stood on platforms, a task that would have taken a dozen or so men about 3 weeks to complete. From a horizontal position the figure would be raised in small increments using poles as levers and filling the space with small stones until it reached a vertical position. The lifestyle of the people responsible for the stone faces was particularly hard on the landscape of the island. Many trees were cut down and used as rollers to transport the stones from the crater to their intended location. The abuse may have led to the decline of the culture.


The meaning of the sculpted figures is uncertain. Some sources suggest the figures are calling to the sea gods in hope of fishing success. Clues to this may be represented by the foundations of homes shaped in the form of boats, and carvings on some of the statues.


Here an image can be seen that appears to be a boat, possibly fishing for turtles.


Other sources refer to funeral platforms and ceremonial activities that suggest ancestor worship.

Leave a Comment

Contact CSU Equal Opportunity Privacy Statement Disclaimer

2018 Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado 80523 USA