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                                  Ancient African Megaliths Part 2

                                            Junious Ricardo Stanton


In recent weeks I’ve shared some little known accomplishments of African people: boat building, seafaring and last week the astronomical and ceremonial megaliths in South Africa and the Nubian Desert. This information sheds light on the variety of African genius, innovation creativity and achievement.

This week I’ll share two more ancient megalithic sites. The word megalithic describes structures made of large stones without the use of mortar or concrete, representing definite periods of prehistory. Europeans always point to Stonehenge in Britain as an example of a megalith but rarely mention the African megaliths that are thousands of years older then Stonehenge.

 Two examples are the Senegambian Circles on the border of Senegal and Gambia and the Tiya Megaliths in central Ethiopia. The Senegambian Circles are in West Africa located on the border between Senegal and Gambia is an ancient burial ground and ceremonial center. The Senegambia Circles date back to around the third century B.C.

“As ancient monuments go, the stone circles of Senegal and Gambia may not be in the same league as the Great Pyramids, Stonehenge or the Easter Island statues. Yet, they represent a remarkable cultural and architectural achievement of pre-historic western Africa. Located in an area 100 km wide and 350 km within Senegal and Gambia are 1053 stone circles consisting of no less than 28,930 monoliths around 2m in height and weighing more than 7 tons each. The stone circles seem to have had a funerary purpose. Recent excavations suggest that the stones date back from the 3rd century B.C. to 16th century A.D., reflecting a tradition that endured for almost two millennia. The stone circles of Senegambia are just one of the three trans-border World Heritage properties on the Dark Continent. It required some geological knowledge to identify the best laterite rocks from the nearby quarries and carve out the monoliths in cylindrical or polygonal pillars. The stones had to be extracted in singular pieces, which required tremendous skill. Having accomplished this, the stones were transported and erected in the various complexes along the River Gambia. This required a strong social order able to mobilize the hundreds of laborers required for the erection of each circle, much like in ancient Egypt. As the name suggests, the Stone Circles of Senegambia are located between the River Senegal and the River Gambia in West Africa. Around 1 km to the east of the Sine Ngayene complex in Senegal lies the quarry from which many of the megaliths were removed and processed.” Stone Circles of Senegambia

            The megaliths at Senegambia have been designated by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a World Heritage site because they recognize the significance of the culture that produced these megaliths.

While the megaliths at Tiya are not as old as Adam’s Calendar, Nabta Playa or the Senegambian Circles they represent the use of large stones that have been carved and inscribed with symbols that so far archeologists and linguists have not been able to decode or decipher. Researchers postulate the figures were erected and carved somewhere between the tenth and fifteenth centuries of the Common Era. 

 In an academic thesis for a Masters Degree in Tourism Development and Management on the importance of the Tiya site by Helebo Elias, he writes “Tiya distinguishes with standing stelae, which are supposed to be grave markers. Circles of smaller stones mark the graves. Archaeologists dug up many skeletons, which could be dated to 1200-1400 A.D. (Gurage Zone culture and Tourism,2017). Among the 36 currently standing stelae, 32 of them are decorated. A sword design is frequent among the stelae. Inscribed under UNESCO world heritage list in 1980. Since 1980, the outstanding universal value of the Tiya megalithic site has been recognized as a World Heritage Site (WHS) under the UNESCO World Heritage Convention. Tiya qualifies for inclusion on the world Heritage List under Criterion I as the stelae with their enigmatic configurations are unique as ‘a masterpiece of human creative genius.’ In addition, they are highly representative of an expression of the Ethiopian Megalithic period which clearly qualifies them to be included under Criterion IV (Be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural, or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage (b) in human history.” 

Both the Senegambian Circles and Tiya have been designated by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as World Heritage sites. The Senegambian Circles and Tiya sites are similar to many African monuments in that they are ceremonial funerary sites used to mark the burial places of leaders and common folks.

The other similarity is they are made from huge stones often weighing several tons that were dug and transported to specific sites and crafted using tools to form precise shapes, engravings or symbols. All this requires a set of values based upon beliefs and notions about life and death, technological and manual skill to dig, transport, and shape and erect the megaliths and monuments. We are talking about the fundamentals of advanced civilizations.

We know Africans explored and settled the continent of Africa but also the whole globe and they carried their values, cosmology and ingenuity with them wherever they went. We know ancient Africans were sky gazers and astronomers who mapped the stars. Many African cultures such as the Dogan either claim they came from other planets or that the beings who gave them their knowledge came from the stars.

Africans invented and created rituals, ceremonies, rites of passage and cosmologies that connected themselves with the universe and the CREATOR (Ubuntu “I am because we are, we are because I am” is a universal African philosophy) so it is not surprising they would create monuments to mark what they saw in the sky and incorporated what they saw in the heavens and believed about its origin with their personal lives and environment on earth. The ancient admonition “As above so below” originated in Africa. The origins of cosmology, religion, ethics, morality and philosophy were in Africa!

As I have said so many times, Africans are an ancient and ingenious people. But we must also realize our genius is not just about the material world it is also higher abstract thinking that included ethics, spirituality, relationships with the universe, nature, the social collective and each other e.g. Ubuntu, Maat and Hermetism. We ought to celebrate and honor our ancestors and ourselves every day!!



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