Vandalism and rubbish deposition at megaliths

Many megaliths have, in the course of their life-histories, at some stage or other been vandalised or rubbish has been deposited right on or all around them. This often amounted to a complete desecration of the grave and destruction of the entire monument. Such destructive practices often started in connection with stone-robbery from megaliths and/or the dumping of stones, which had been collected on adjacent fields, on megaliths. Both practices changed the character of the monument drastically: their aura being destroyed, megaliths became 'natural' rubbish piles where often all sorts of debris and 'useless' things accumulated over the years. This can be seen as another particular physical use of ancient monuments.

Complaints by antiquarians, archaeologists and others about vandalism and rubbish being dropped at archaeological monuments by visiting clubs, school classes, and tourist groups go back a long time (see e.g. Beltz 1930). In recent times, people seemed to be especially keen to remove as souvenirs (?) some of the Zwischenmauerwerk, the dry-stone walls in between the big orthostats in the chamber.

Examples for recently documented vandalism or rubbish deposition at megaliths are

It could be said that vandalism at ancient monuments is based on particular meanings of them. These meanings are often 'negative' in the sense that they constitute reactions to certain people's 'positive' appreciations. Vandalism and rubbish deposition can express the rejection of both monument preservation and associated meanings such as particular collective identities, political legitimation attempts, cosmologies, or ideas of cultural progress or nostalgia.

But what some may call 'vandalism' may also be positive 'tags' that express aspects of the identity, politics and aestethic preference of groups of youngsters. Damaging and breaking things may even bestow upon the person doing it some kind of social prestige or power (Hoffman 1999: 119).


Beltz, Robert (1930) Zum Steintanz von Boitin. Rostocker Anzeiger no. 280, 30.11.1930, 6.Beiblatt.

Hoffman, Christopher R. (1999) Intentional Damage as Technological Agency: Breaking Metals in Late Prehistoric Mallorca, Spain. In: M-A. Dobres and C. R. Hoffman (eds) The Social Dynamics of Technology, pp. 103–123. Washington and London: Smithsonian Institution Press.

© Cornelius Holtorf