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Cultures > Portugal

:: 1143 AD - PRESENT

Cultural Background | Surviving | Living in Community | Finding Meaning in the Cosmos

Finding Meaning in the Cosmos

Life and Death
The ancient Portuguese built many tombs and megalithic structures during the Neolithic period (from approximately 7000 BC to 2500 BC). Some of these monuments are still standing in Portugal today.

A megalithic structure is an ancient monument made of large stones. Megalith comes from Greek; "mega" means big and "lithos" means stone. Many megaliths are oriented toward the places on the horizon that the sun rises and sets during summer and winter solstices. In fact, some megaliths were built in a position that allows the rising sun to send its first rays into the depths of the chamber on the day of the winter solstice. Some also take into account the extreme paths of the moon.

Experts studying the Alentejo Tombs in southern Portugal have learned that all these tombs were built with an axis of symmetry and a special "entrance" that faces the sunrise in the east.

Researchers still do not know exactly why the Portuguese built the megaliths. Many were used for burial grounds, and others may have been built to mark certain routes or for religious purposes.

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Learn more about the sun, planets, and the constellations and how the skies influenced mythology.

Learn more about the Alentejo Tombs.

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