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BY-NC-ND 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter Open Access September 18, 2018

The Significance of Megalithic Monuments in the Process of Place Identity Creation and in Tourism Development

Alicja Edyta Krzemińska EMAIL logo , Anna Dzikowska , Anna Danuta Zaręba , Katarzyna Rozalia Jarosz , Krzysztof Widawski and Janusz Stanisław Łach
From the journal Open Geosciences


All over the world and for thousands of years, megaliths have been significant cultural elements, as well as sacred sites and places of power. Nowadays megaliths act as a strong magnet for tourists, who appreciate their history, esoterica and magic. Some megaliths were used for astronomical observations, so vital to maintain the continuity of harvest and crop. Other megalithic constructions were erected for funerary purposes, and served as individual or collective burial chambers. Megalithic structures are usually referred to as belonging to the European Neolithic but it has to be stressed that some megalithic constructions date back to the Bronze Age, and some were also built on other continents. Megaliths are a vital element of landscape and for historical reasons they are a sui generis monument, commemorating prehistorical cultures. At the same time, along with the remaining elements of the natural and cultural environment, they create a unique image of place identity, attracting large numbers of tourists. Interestingly, despite the strong attraction exercised by megaliths, there are still many places where tourism does not develop as rapidly as might be assumed. For the above-mentioned reasons, a comparative analysis of several megalithic sites has been conducted in Poland, Sweden, Portugal and Denmark. The following elements have been analysed: the megaliths immediate surroundings, the existing and planned or under-construction tourist and communication infrastructure, as well as architectural and spatial technical solutions and development. Also the key negative and positive elements have been defined which influence the tourist potential of the places in question, and constitute the tourism attractiveness factors of a region.

1 Introduction

The presence of megaliths in cultural heritage is of great importance for most countries throughout the world. These objects exist on all continents, creating a unique network of priceless cultural geosites. Areas on which megalithic buildings are located create a uniquely mysterious aura; they intrigue, stimulate the imagination, and often evoke the feeling of communing with something supernatural. Since the dawn of time, these places have been surrounded by a specific cult, playing an important role in the development of civilization. The oldest megaliths can be found on the African continent, notably in the Sahara and the Central African Republic. They are dated to the 6th century B.C., and in Europe to the 5th century B.C. In total, throughout the world, megalithic formation developed for about 7-8 thousand years. Currently, megaliths no longer play a decisive role in beliefs, but there are exceptions: for example, for some African tribes, especially those who live in the belt south of the Sahara, they are still an important cultural element [1, 2]. Megalithic constructions are one of the most typical features of the European Neolithic; however, they functioned in the Bronze Age, being a crucial element of the landscape [3, 4, 5]. In the history of the world, the periods when megalithic structures flourished were characterized by the intensive economic, cultural and spiritual development of societies, and the creation of a specific belief system and advanced living standards. This resulted in the creation of proto-civilization on the Iberian Peninsula, and in India, in the Iron Age [1]. Similarly, in Central America, the Olmec, at the turn of the second and first century B.C. created a civilization and also, in Japan, a civilization was created in the first century A.D. [1, 6].

Megaliths are permanently present in the landscapes all over the world, and for years they have been attracting tourists with their mysterious character. However, it is worth noting that not all such areas are equally well-frequented - their popularity as tourist attractions differs. One may wonder whether tourists are attracted by the magic of megaliths themselves, because they are the main attraction, or whether the popularity of the place is determined by other factors as well, including the existing land use, tourist facilities, accompanying events, etc. Therefore, this article attempts to find the most important factors that significantly affect tourist behavior.

2 Method

In order to analyse the issue, research of two kinds was conducted. Both field work and literature and analytical studies were carried out. Literature studies consisted of analysis of 162 works that, directly or indirectly, referred to information on the structure and significance of megaliths in the development of societies and tourism. Based on this, the types of megalithic monuments, their origin, as well as their multidimensional contemporary meaning are described.

Three areas where megaliths are located were selected for the field research in Europe according to the following criteria: land-use and the existence of tourist infrastructure. A total of three sites was selected: Ales Stenar in Sweden, Lejre in Denmark and Wietrzychowice in Poland. The preliminary assessment of the three sites, considering the said criteria, differed. Since the aim of the research was to find out what factors influence the attractiveness of tourist areas where megaliths are located and why, the authors asked the question, what constitutes a greater tourist attraction, the megaliths as such, or the tourist facilities and/or land use? The research was carried out in each area during the period of the highest intensity of tourism, i.e. from the end of April to the end of September, in 2016. As a part of the research, an inventory of the existing tourist infrastructure was made and the existing land use was evaluated. Among many factors that may determine the attractiveness of this type of area, 16 were selected for further analysis (see Table 2). They were then evaluated in terms of: attractiveness, clarity/legibility (ease of perception), resources / possibilities (the number of given elements in a given area, the possibilities which they create to increase the attractiveness of the area), functionality and compliance with the needs of such facilities. An interaction matrix – the so-called Leopold’s matrix was used [7]. This facilitated the multi-criteria evaluation of the research area, allowing recording both partial assessments, and the summary assessment. A six-grade scale was applied, which assessed the impact of individual evaluation elements, from grade 0 (no impact) to grade 5 (very large impact). The final stage of the research was the analysis of the impact of existing infrastructure and land use (very strong, average and weak) on the tourism potential of megalith areas (direction of impacts: definitely negative, mainly negative, neutral, mainly positive, definitely positive) (see Table 3). In this part, all the research areas were taken into account. On the basis of the previous analyses, the key factors which should considered in the process of planning and designing attractive tourist areas with megalithic constructions were identified and grouped.

Table 1

The most important selected forms and types of megaliths in the world

NameDescriptionExampleExamples of publications

A simple, square tomb, based on the construction of vertical walls built of stone, which are covered with a stone or boulders. The whole construction is covered with earth. The building is characteristic for the European Neolithic. The name comes from Celtic words: daul, taol, dol – table and maen men – stone.Dolmen Carrich-a-Ddirra (Great Britain), dolmen de Soto (Spain), Bagneux (France), Poulnabrone Dolmen, Gaulstown Portal Tomb (Ireland), Salento (Italy), dolmen de Pedra de Arca (Galicia, Spain), Grassi in Giurdiganano (Italy), dolmen Trollasten (Sweden), dolmen in Poggendorfer Forst (Germany), dolmens from Sudakur Taluk, Yair Karnataka (India).[1,6,13,14,15,16,17]

Stone dome tomb from the Bronze Age made on the plan of the circle. It is a kind of chamber topped with a dome with a long passage leading to it.Agamemnon’s tomb (Greece), tomb of Genius and Clytemnestra in Mycenae (Greece), Treasury of Minyas in Orchomenos (Greece).[1,2,6,16]

A tall, unworked, large-sized stone block is usually placed vertically. Menhirs often reached large sizes - up to 20 m and 300 tons. The name comes from the Celtic words: mean, men – stone and hir – long, high. They can be arranged in the form of stone circles (cromlech) or in a series (alignment).Menhir in Hile, Donges (France), site with a statue Menhir in the Quartier de la Balance, Avignon (France), menhirs in Stantari, Sartène (Corsica, Italy), in the neighborhood of Sion (Switzerland), the largest merhir is probably Grand Menhir Brisé “from Locmariaquer in Brittany, menhirs from Managodanahalli (India), Donegal (Northern Ireland).[1,6,13,14,18]

A circle of vertically arranged large stones, which form a more complex megalithic group, often built around a tomb. They usually date back to the Neolithic and Bronze Age. Some cromlechs have a complicated arrangement and very large sizes. Probably they were important in astronomical observations. The name comes from the Celtic words: crom – bent, curved and lech, lech - stoneStonehenge in Great Britain, circle in Calanais on the Isle of Lewis (Scotland), Carnac (France), in Forrières (Belgium), Avebury (Wiltsshire, England), stone circles in Odry (Poland), Stone circle Lisseyviggeen, called as “Seven Sisters ”(Irlendia), circle in Avebury (England), the Machrie Moor Stone Circle, on the Isle of Arran, the Ring of Brodgar (Scotland).[1,2,6,16,18,19,20,21,22,23]

A tomb in the form of an earth embankment, a mound. It is most often circular. Built from the Neolithic to the early Middle Ages.Zeus’ mound, Olbia (Grece), mound in Sjöborg near Roeskilde (Denmark), Druid’s Hill Foxley (Wielka Brytania).[1,6,16,24,25]

Pitches under the mound, which may be covered with wood, often richly equipped, in the form of a chamber.burial mounds in Sjöborg near Roeskilde (Denmark), Monse’s Mound (Julianehøj) in Denmark, Golden Mound - Altyn-Oba (Crimea, Ukraine), Imperial Kurgan (Royal) near Kerecz (Ukraine).[1,6,25,26,27,28,29,30,31,32,33]

A vaulted tomb with a passage leading to the chamber with a Dolmen type tomb within the chamber.Tomb in Hagestad and in Owskulle and Vilhelmsberg (Sweden), tomb Grønhøj near Horsens (Denmark), tomb in Fordinton, Fourknocks, Tara and Townley Hall (Great Britain), Newgrange (Ireland).[2,7,15,16,24,33,34]

The gallery grave is a variation of the dolmen. It has a very long and narrow burial chamber. Typologically, they are not uniform.Raves in Li Lolghi, Sardinia (Italy), Fjällsökla / Frändefors (Sweden), tombs in Stengade, Lindebjerg, Østegard (Denmark), tomb in Embo (Scotland, Great Britain), gallery grave in the mound - Knowe of Rowiegar (Scotland, United Kingdom).[2,7,16,24]

The grave is hewn or hollowed in rock or earth in the form of a window and lateral chamber. Other names of the rock-cut grave are: crypt grave, grave of the catacombs, niche’s grave.Tarxien grave (Malta), grave in Sant ‘Andrea Priu, Sardinia (Italy), Hypogeum in Hal Saflieni (Malta), grave in Roaïx (France).[1,6,13]

Rectangular grave built from well-matching chest-shaped stones.Grave in Srebrna (Poland), a box grave in Poniatówka (Poland), a grave in Ploura, Guidfosse (France), a grave in Carenque near Lisbon (Spain).[1,6,13,35,36,37,38]

Table 2

Assessment of the potential impact of the selected tourist infrastructure elements in: Ales Stenar (Sweden), Lejre (Denmark) and Wietrzychowice (Poland) in relation to the indicators of the evaluation criterion – Leopold matrix

Table 3

Analysis of information from the Ales Stenar, Lejre and Wietrzychowice websites

Name of the site
Ales StenarLejreMegaliths Kujawskie Cultural Park in Wietrzychowice
Positive elements included on the websites of the studied areas

  1. The information is given in three languages: Swedish, English and German.

  2. Detailed information about megaliths, the history of their creation, destination, etc. The site provides a lot of interesting facts.

  3. The text is written in clear, understandable language.

  4. Additional information on the astronomical significance of the megaliths from the site.

  1. The information is given in two languages: Danish and English

  2. A huge amount of data on megaliths, associated facilities and land-use.

  3. Additional information on the availability of educational facilities and events related to education.

  4. The text is written in clear, understandable language.

  5. Comprehensive information about the accommodation and catering facilities.

  6. Research in this area has been described.

  7. Added photos and short films show land development and educational base as well as the megaliths.

  8. The site is easy to use, navigating through subpages in the intuitive way.

  1. A situational map of the area with marked tombs has been given

Negative elements included on the websites of the studied areas

  1. Insufficient information on tourist routes and infrastructure availability.

  2. Lack of information on accommodation and catering services.

  3. Lack of information on ticket prices, availability of car parks, and facilities for the disabled.

  4. Not enough pictures of the site and the tourist and accompanying infrastructure.

  5. Lack of a dedicated telephone application which might be helpful during the exploration of the area.

  6. No possibility of a ‘virtual walk’ around the area.

  1. Lack of a dedicated telephone application that facilitates visiting this area.

  1. Most subpages are under reconstruction and unavailable.

  2. website is not functional.

  3. Insufficient information for tourists.

  4. the information is only in Polish.

  5. Lack of a dedicated telephone application which might be helpful during the exploration of the area.

  6. Lack of information on accommodation and catering services.

  7. Lack of information on car parks and access.

  8. Lack of information on improvements and facilities for the disabled.

  9. No photographic documentation.

FacebookThere is a FB page for Ales Stenar: The information on it is incomplete and very poor.No official Facebook page dedicated to the megaliths of Lejre. Additional information, i.e. short descriptions and photos, as well as short videos, can only be found on private websites.There is no official Facebook page for the Cultural Park in Wietrzychowice. Additional information on the subject, such as photos or short descriptions, can only be found on private websites.

3 Megalithic monuments – heritage of ancestors

Megaliths are large stones or large stone blocks or structures made of such stone structures and systems. The denomination comes from two Greek words: “megas” – big and “logos” – stone [1, 8]. Interestingly, in all areas megaliths exhibit similar features, such as: form, shapes, the ideology conditioning their use, as well as architectural layouts, therefore not every single stone is a megalith. Megalithic buildings are found all over the world from Africa to Asia, Europe, America, Australia and Oceania. In Europe, the highest concentration of megaliths is observed in the western, northern and south-western regions. In countries in the south of Europe they are relatively rare, but they are abundant on Mediterranean islands (e.g. in Malta). There are several theories concerning the origin of megaliths; however, an important question in these theories is whether they were created independently of each other, on different continents, or, whether they come from a single centre. Most researchers believe that the cradle of megalithic culture in general was Sahara and Central Africa, from where it spread to other continents [1, 2, 6]. Among the megalithic monuments the following, among others, can be distinguished: chamber tombs, corridor tombs, gallery tombs, tholoi tombs, stone box graves, rock – cut tombs, transept graves, barrow graves, long barrows, circles, menhirs, menhirs statuary, covered alleys, stone houses and megalithic forts (Table 1) [1, 9, 10, 11, 12].

Megalithism was associated primarily with the religion of the Great Mother and the cult of ancestors. This cult was present among most tribes and peoples from all continents. One of the most important elements of this religious concept was to maintain communication with the spirits of ancestors, who were identified as intermediaries and representatives with their contacts with the gods, as well as with members of their community. The dead were present in the entire life of the people of that time and stayed in specially made corridor tombs and in the tholoi in the burial mound. The symbolism of these tombs refers to the womb of the Great Mother, where the deceased after laying in the tomb awaits rebirth in her womb [6, 39, 40]. The megalithic tombs and graves were places of both individual and collective burial. An example of collective burial is the cemetery at Los Millares in Spain. The site includes a settlement, and the cemetery, which consists of a collective burial mound and about 100 tombs, ‘tholos tombs’, where the remains of about 1500-2000 people were discovered. In the graves, not only families, but also members of a given tribe or a given community were buried. There are also tombs of the elite. Many additional artifacts were discovered in tombs, such as clay pots, stoneware, ornaments, hatchets, etc. [1, 6, 39, 41, 42]. The following example of such tombs can be listed: the tholos “Cuevera del Romeral” in Antequera in Spain or the tholos Praia das Maçãs in Portugal. Equally interesting elite tombs were discovered in Great Britain and Ireland, with stones covered with signs and various symbols (e.g. Newgrange, Knowth, Slieve in County Meath in Ireland, Clynnog in Caernarvonshire, Wales [2, 43]. There was also a significant number of skeletons in these graves, while sometimes the body of a person important to the local society was buried in a separate chamber, and ordinary members of the clan/community in simple box graves. In Poland, in the mounds of funnel beaker cultures and globular amphora culture, there were people accompanying the priest, who were to serve him in the underworld and therefore their burial was more modest. There were also skeletons of people who were probably sacrificed [1, 6, 10]. The aim of the memory cult of the ancestors was to give a guarantee to the deceased’s soul that they would experience eternal life. Many elements characteristic for shamanic religions, including the shamanic posthumous initiation, can be found.

4 Religion and spirituality versus megaliths

Celestial bodies were an important element in the megalithic religion, especially the Sun and the Moon. Entrances to megalithic buildings, ceremonial centres and especially tombs, were oriented towards the rising sun, so that life would wake up again every day [14, 23, 44, 45]. Orienting the megaliths towards the west is very rare (for example in Balnauaran of Clava and in Gussage St. Michael in England). Among the complexes of megalithic monuments, huge, almost spectacular objects can be found that were associated with astronomical orientation, such as Stonehenge in England, or Callanish on the Isle of Lewis in the Hebrides – they are considered to be sui generis calendar computers, allowing the prediction of solar and lunar eclipses [23]. Their true purpose is not known. They could have been used either for ritual practices, representing “cosmic centres” or in agriculture, as a calendar of when to sow, plant and harvest [1, 6].

Numerology was also an important element, as can be observed in the characteristic number of stones, menhirs, and all kinds of stones forming megalithic structures. The number of entrances, chambers, symbols drawn on stones and walls, all had significance – everything was reflected in numbers. The number 56 had a special meaning and the numbers 12 and 7 were greatly symbolic, the number seven being one of the oldest symbolic numbers, a representation of the total, perfect cycle. It is a holy number, associated with cosmology, fate, creation, and perfection. For the Pythagoreans it was magical, because as a sum of three and four, it bonded heaven and earth – hence it was used as a symbol of creation. The ideas of good luck, happiness and wisdom, security and stability are associated with seven. It can be found in almost all religions and mythologies of the world. However, it is unknown what the number seven specifically symbolized in megalithic circles. The number 12 has multiple meanings. It is equated with perfection, harmony, power, for example cosmological – 12 months in a year, 12 hours of day (brightness), 12 hours of night (darkness), 12 aeons in gnosis, etc. Twelve is the product of the four sides of the world multiplied by the three dimensions of space. This number is also linked with the basic organization of societies (e.g. the 12 apostles, the 12 tribes of Israel). Counting systems were based on 12, e.g. the Sumerian-Babylonian. However, the most interesting is the symbolism of the numbers 4 and 5. Four symbolizes the Earth, Mankind, and the material world, reason, spatial order, balance, concentration, but also symmetrical gates, the four directions of the world. Five is the sacral element, situated in the centre of the world and a sacred element [1, 6, 46]. Taking the above information into account, it can be safely stated that megalithic buildings conceal multifaceted layers of undiscovered secrets.

Megaliths are the basis of many legends which for centuries have been etched into the subconscious of ordinary people and of entire nations. One of the legends concerns megalithic builders who were giants resting in tombs. Hence, many megaliths bear names such as: the bed of giants, the grave of the giant, the caves of the giants, the gargoyle of the giants, the mountain of the giants. Of course, in the myths there are also dwarves, trolls, elves, gnomes, inhabiting places where megaliths stood. And in folk legends there are also fairies and witches living underground. The elements listed above can be found especially in the legends of Ireland, India and the Caucasus [1, 10]. Especially in Ireland, these legends still live their own lives, and thanks to the human imagination they are a constant element influencing the creation of the identity of a place. It is worth noting that, over the years, these legends have evolved and nowadays they are not applications of the megalithic originals. Their significance could have changed significantly after the introduction Christianity in these areas. Christianity had a very negative attitude towards Megalithism, which was associated with the devil’s impure powers. Another aspect was belief in the supernatural power of megaliths. Over the years, inspired by the aura of mystery originating in Paganism, people believed in various, most amazing powers. It was believed for example, that some megaliths live and move, or rotate on specific days throughout the year, or even that they have ability to sing. Menhirs were supposed to have great power. After being pulverized they were often used as a medicine for “everything”. There was also the belief that megaliths have the power to remove infertility, bind couples, or ensure marital fidelity. So-called “Stones of love” or “Stones of marriage” were of particular importance. Sexual intercourse often took place within close proximity of them, with the aim of strengthening a relationship or to give offspring to infertile couples. Marriages were also made there and oaths were taken [1, 10, 25]. Of course, megalithic areas were conducive to divination and all magical rituals. A special magical power was attributed to the so-called holey stones, where, according to a belief, if a child stretched through a hole in a stone he or she would be healthy and strong throughout their life. The “Odin Stone” from Stennes on the Orkney Islands in Scotland is an example [47, 48].

The specific aura which spread over megalith areas meant that even after the passing of their heyday, megalithic buildings had other interesting functions. They were chosen as the sites of assemblies or courts (especially in Scandinavia), as well as places of the election of kings. Also fairs, feasts and occasional festivals were organized at these sites. The power of these beliefs to this day still has a huge impact on the megalithic areas and adjacent zones. Nowadays, with the revival of pagan beliefs and druidism, there has been an increased return of people to these areas and the willingness to stay there more often. Thus their importance in shaping and creating the identity of a place has been growing year by year, which is reflected in the number of tourists.

5 Ales Stenar (Sweden), Lejre (Denmark), Wietrzychowice (Poland) – examples of megalithic tourist routes in Europe

Many megaliths have survived for hundreds of years thanks to beliefs, legends and archaeologists who maintain their good condition. For centuries they have been a key element of religious practices. Currently, they form part of many tourist routes, as an inherent tourist attractor. Megaliths in Europe create a common cultural heritage that should be protected, and tourism in these areas should be sustainable. The “Megalithic Routes” Project meets this challenge. It aims to connect the oldest monuments of Europe with cultural routes, promoting the unity of European heritage. The Cultural Route of the Council of Europe, (whose official website is located at promotes tourism and the historical, educational and cultural values of megalithic areas. As has already been emphasized above in the Methodology section, the objects selected for research (Figure 2) are an important element in the cultural heritage chain of Europe. A short description of each is presented below, as they important elements of Europe’s cultural heritage.

Figure 1 Distribution of chosen megaliths in Europe
Figure 1

Distribution of chosen megaliths in Europe

Figure 2 The state of spatial and tourism land use of Ales Stenar (Sweden), Lejre (Denmark) and Wietrzychowice (Poland) with their location on the territory of Europe
Figure 2

The state of spatial and tourism land use of Ales Stenar (Sweden), Lejre (Denmark) and Wietrzychowice (Poland) with their location on the territory of Europe

Ales Stenar, located near the town of Kåseberga in Sweden, is a megalithic formation. Its name has a symbolic meaning; the words “Ale” and “Ales” in the ancient Norse language mean a sanctuary or a ridge. The formation is located on a flat elevation at 37 m.a.s.l., about 500 m from the seafront promenade [49]. The whole structure symbolically “opens” onto a narrow stony sea beach. The formation consists of 59 standing stones (weighing approximately 500-1800 kg), arranged in the shape of a boat which symbolically was supposed to transport the dead across to the afterlife. The stone circle was laid around 1,400 years ago. It was located at a burial site, which is dated to around 5500 years [52, 53]. In total, the circle has a length of about 67 m and a width of 19 m. The largest stones – about 3.5 m high, are located on the tops of the formation (the “bow” and “stern”), and indicate the sunrise on the summer solstice, and sunset during the winter solstice [16, 23, 52]. According to legend, it was the resting place of the mythical King Ale the Strong (a figure from Swedish myth) or another, less known, king of the Vikings. The stone circle was erected to commemorate his extraordinary achievements [49].

Lejre is located about 12 km from Roskilde on the island of Zealand in eastern Denmark. There is a group of megalithic monuments in the town of Lejre as well as others only a short distance from it. The whole area is connected with Viking culture. Characteristic Viking burials can be found there, consisting of large stones arranged in the shape of a boat and, in the middle of the “boat”, the deceased was buried. In Gammel Lejre, lying on the south east of the village of Roskilde, at least six such burials have been discovered, three of which are built of stones. The largest of them is 83 m long. They are aligned from the south-east to the north-west [54]. In the vicinity of the Lejre River, near the stone ships there is a prince’s barrow, Grydehøj, dated to around the 6th century A.D. The style of burial and presence of certain artifacts, including the presence of gold threads in fabrics, indicate the very high social status of the deceased. The original height of the building was 4-5 m, and the diameter 37 m. A very interesting and awe-inspiring area are the so called ‘centres of Power’. These are two burial mounds, Ravnshøj and Hyldehøj, which so far have not been excavated and therefore cannot be dated precisely. These burial mounds, visible from many kilometers away, dominate the landscape. However, they are not currently accessible to the public – nor is the unexcavated Mysselhøj funerary mound. An important tourist attractor in this area is the mound which according to legend contained the remains of Harald Hildetand, the last descendant of the royal family of Lejre Scyld. The mound has the shape of a long and narrow barrow, and is dated to around 3500 B.C. The surroundings of Lejre are famous for archaeological excavations. Settlements from the 6th-11th century were discovered there, among others. In the middle of the village a local museum was set up, where tourists can visit a homestead built in 1700. However, the place that attracts the most visitors is the historical research centre Sagnlandet Lejre (Historisk Arkæologisk Forsknings). The entire centre covers the area of 43 ha, and provides excellent facilities for archaeological tourism in the area [54].

In a forested area about 1km from the village of Wietrzychowice in central Poland in the Kuyavian-Pomeranian voivodship, are megalithic buildings commonly called the Polish or Kuyavian pyramids, which are 5500 years old (3500 B.C). This is a cemetery from the funnel-beaker culture period, where human skeletons were found. It consists of five megalithic monuments – kuyavian tombs. They have a trapezoid-triangular, markedly elongated form, reaching 116 m. The fronts of the tombs are directed to the south and reach a height of about 2 m. The whole structure is stabilized from the outside by stone boulders. In the middle of the front wall there is a gap in the boulders, which is the entrance to the burial chamber. Traces of cannibalistic feasts were discovered there [1, 6, 56, 57, 58, 59]. Due to its uniqueness, the area is potentially a crucial cultural element for the region, which can contribute to the development of archaeological tourism in the region [56, 60]. In 1968, an Archaeological Reserve was established in Wietrzychowice, and in 2006 the Wietrzychowice Cultural Park, with an area of 37.65 ha was set up. In the Kuyavian-Pomeranian voivodship program of Heritage and Cultural Landscape Protection for the years 2000-2012, the Wietrzychowice Cultural Park was added to the list of Monuments of History [61].

6 Results and discussion

There is no doubt about the value of the archaeological heritage of the megalithic sites selected for this analysis. However, not all of the discussed areas are equally visited by tourists. Despite the undoubted attractors in the form of megaliths, the development of archaeological tourism in these areas is also conditioned by other factors, including: adequate infrastructure, the accessibility of the area, catering and transport infrastructure, as well as cyclical accompanying events and –a necessity these days– a properly designed website. A comparative analysis was therefore carried out using a sophisticated method, based on selected elements describing the functionality of the areas in terms of their attractiveness, conditioning the development of archaeological tourism (Table 2).

The comparison of the research objects revealed a significant diversity in terms of the quality of the tourism base of the discussed areas, their legibility, resources, functionality and attractiveness. Lejre in Denmark, annually visited by approximately 60,000 tourists received the highest grades for almost every element (Table 2) [54]. In the authors’opinion, model infrastructural solutions were introduced there. Also the teaching and historical research centre is very well organized. The visitors have the unique opportunity to encounter “living archeology”. Tourists are encouraged to do experiments themselves e.g. to mill grain for flour, which stimulates the children’s curiosity and gives them a lot of fun. The program is prepared for various age groups. The attractiveness of this type of solution is huge and in fact operates as a magnet for visitors – especially families with children. Neither in Ales Stenar nor Wietrzychowice is there a museum, but, in the planning documents for Wietrzychowice, the Museum of the funnel-beaker culture is to be established in Kuyavia, in the years 2018-2020 [61]. It should also be mentioned that in 2014 a thematic exhibition on megaliths was held at the Municipal and Communal Cultural Centre in Izbica Kujawska, entitled “80 years of archaeological research in the area of the Wietrzychowice Culture Park”. The exhibition was visited by around 3,000 people during the first three months [62]. In Kåseberga, near Ales Stenar, there is a museum and most of the information which can be found there regards the town of Kåseberga, not the megaliths in Ales Stenar. Organised, preferably cyclically-themed, accompanying events, festivals and educational workshops are an important attractor in this type of area for tourists of diversified age groups.

Taking into account these criteria, the Lejre research centre is best prepared to serve tourists. Visitors, besides megaliths, can also visit the very well-appointed research centre, with reconstructed houses and infrastructure of the village. A well-equipped educational base as well as educational trails for both school trips and families with children increases the site’s attractiveness. In addition, the accommodation base is well developed and there is a number of souvenir shops and very good service guides – including students and scientists. In this respect, Ales Stenar and Wietrzychowice are much poorer equipped and have fewer facilities, mainly due to the poorly organised educational base, and, in the case of Wietrzychowice, lack of accommodation and catering facilities. It is also worth paying attention to the accessibility of the area for people with disabilities. In the case of Ales Stenar, problems start after leaving the car park and passing a short section with an asphalt road, leading to a path that is not adapted to wheelchairs. In Wietrzychowice the situation is slightly better due to the flat area. However, there are no such difficulties on the territory of Lejre.

Transport infrastructure leaves sometimes much to be desired – especially in the case of Wietrzychowice, with a certain difficulty in terms of orientation. It is not always easy to get to the facility. Car parks are an indispensable element of the tourist infrastructure in facilities of various types. The on-site verification carried out in the course of this research proved that car parks are available at all three sites under consideration, and there were also places for the disabled. Another issue is their location, which is not always favorable for rapid pedestrians movement from the car park. The correct marking of artifacts and identification of routes in such areas is also of great importance. The authors found that the best-marked trails were in Lejre, where not only were they very attractively made, but also logically, functionally, legibly and appropriately located. Their potential has been fully exploited here, and the impact on tourists is very high. In the case of Ales Stenar and Wietrzychowice, the potential of proper route marking has not been fully utilized (Table 2). Also the quality and quantity of information on information boards at the megaliths at the three sites differs. It should be added that the information boards were very well prepared, both in terms of content, and in terms of way they were prepared technically, which made them an additional attractor on the tourist trail.

Nowadays, a critical informational as well as marketing element is a properly edited dedicated website, containing all necessary information, not only about the attractor (in this case, megaliths), but also about the existing tourist base. The official websites of the described sites,,, (Table 3) were evaluated, and the website of Lejre had the highest rating, with Ales Stenar having the second rating. It is worth noting that the opportunities currently offered by new technologies have not been fully exploited, e.g. a virtual walk around the site. After the analysis of the website content regarding the tourist information and land-use, Lejre and, to some extent, Ales Stenar were the highest rated website. It is worth mentioning that additional information on Ales Stenar can be found on the official website of Kåseberga, but it is not complete and, unfortunately, is only in Danish, therefore the group of people able to use the information is limited. The Wietrzychowice website has many drawbacks, and the key one is that most of the subpages are under construction. Nowadays, a key element is the virtual walk around the area, which gives an opportunity to discover different sites thanks to modern technologies. This is also of great importance for people with disabilities. Interestingly, virtually none of the areas described has a properly made page on Facebook. Only Ales Stenar has one, but the information is laconic, poor and there is no formal message encouraging tourists to visit (Table 3).

According to the results of the qualitative analysis, as presented in Table 3, tourist infrastructure is a crucial element affecting the functionality and use of this type of space in terms of tourism. The direction and strength of impacts of both infrastructure and existing land use, as well as the specific “attracting power” of the main attractor – megaliths, have to be considered (Table 3). Megalithic buildings have different shapes, spatial layouts, different sizes, etc. and they are not always understandable to the average tourist. Therefore a lack of clear information on a tourist trail and difficult access, which prevents exploration of the area, can be considered as a major problem. The appropriate display of megalithic buildings and the way they are embedded in the surrounding landscape also play a significant role. Transport infrastructure, accessibility of the area and facilities for disabled people, as well as the catering and accommodation facilities have a significant impact, both positive and negative depending on the situation, on the areas in question. Also the atmosphere of mystery, mysticism, legends, and awareness of local residents regarding the history of megaliths has without doubt a positive effect on the development of tourism in this type of area. Table 4 presents, in a synthetic way, the key factors common for megalithic areas. They influence, positively and negatively, development possibilities in areas of this character.

Table 4

Directions and strength of the impact of existing infrastructure and land use on the development of tourism in the megalithic areas Ales Stenar, Lejre and Wietrzychowice

Impact directionImpact strength
Very strongModerateWeak
Definitely negative

  1. Complete lack of information on megalithic buildings.

  2. Lack of adequate accessibility for people with disabilities.

  3. Organisational chaos manifested in the layout of communication and tourist infrastructure.

  4. Total lack of tourist trail marking.

  5. Lack of any sanitation facilities.

  1. Poor condition of megalithic buildings.

  2. There are no educational trails and paths.

  3. Incorrect or partial marking of trails.

  4. Lack or wrong location of car parks.

  5. There is no information about archaeological objects in several languages.

  1. Too much isolation of megalithic buildings from the main routes.

  2. Lack or incorrect marking of entry to the area and car park.

Mainly negative

  1. Lack of possibility to enter tombs and other megalithic buildings.

  2. Excessive saturation of additional attractions in the area which are not thematically related to megalithic buildings (f e.g. amusement parks, amusement parks, etc.).

  3. No catering facilities.

  4. No dedicated website.

  1. Entrance fees to the area.

  2. Additional fees for visiting attractions, museum entrance, etc.

  3. lack of extensive and comprehensive descriptions of megaliths at facilities.

  1. Lack of accommodation facilities in areas with megaliths or in their vicinity.

  2. Lack of possibility to get to the objects by car.


  1. Guide services

  1. Lack of a well-organised educational base.

Mainly positive

  1. Underlining the religious meaning of megaliths for a given community.

  2. Explaining the symbolism of megalithic buildings.

  3. Coupling various areas with megaliths in the cultural heritage routes.

  4. Information boards in several languages.

  5. Visualizations, depicting the life of residents and their relationship with megaliths (e.g. shamanic, burial rites, etc.).

  1. Supporting legends and creating an atmosphere of mystery and magic related to megalithic constructions

  2. Opportunity to participate in craft workshops (weaving, agricultural, etc.) promoting culture from the period of origin and use of megaliths.

  3. The possibility of obtaining badges afer the completion of a given route.

  4. Sale of souvenirs.

  1. Awareness of residents regarding cultural and historical significance and mystical megaliths in a given area.

  2. Appropriate display of megaliths in the landscape.

Definitely positive

  1. Megalithic buildings kept in very good condition.

  2. An attractive message, related to legends of megalithic buildings.

  3. Clear and functional communication system.

  4. Appropriate availability of the area for people with disabilities.

  5. Cyclical theme events, festivals, exhibitions, etc..

  6. An extensive website with information on the history and cultural heritage of megalithic buildings and tourist facilities.

  1. Supporting old cultural and shamanic customs related to megaliths in a given area.

  2. Proper location of car parks.

  3. Creating additional attractions for visitors closely related to megalithic culture e.g reconstruction of villages, farms of former inhabitants of these areas).

  1. Possibility to organise reconstruction groups and creating a “living history” of the place.

  2. Fanpage on Facebook.

As the result of the analysis, the elements of both infrastructure and land use were distinguished and grouped in terms of the strength of their impact. This resulted in the creation of a universal set of factors which should be considered in the process of tourist land use planning in the vicinity of megalithic buildings. The authors, after having conducted a careful analysis of both the land use and tourist infrastructure of Ales Stenar, Lejre and Wietrzychowice, raise the question whether, in these areas of cultural and tourist significance, a template or modus operandi should be established when defining the direction in which tourist land use planning should develop.

7 Conclusion

Archaeological excavations, megalithic areas, artifacts dating back thousands of years – all attract tourists and provide a base on which to create tourist trails with the aim of promoting historical and cultural heritage [63]. Megaliths’ mysteriousness, mysticism, their legends and the historical awareness of local residents can positively influence tourism development. Megalithic formations are of different shapes, spatial layout or size and create significant landmarks which attract tourists, but lack of proper information and the poor technical state of the objects can create obstacles on a tourist trail. The way in which objects are displayed and embedded into the landscape are of great significance. It should be noted that transport infrastructure, accessibility, accommodation and catering facilities as well as facilities for the disabled can have a positive or negative impact on the tourist development of a given area. They constitute important elements which should be considered in properly designed tourist and land infrastructure. The newest technology can be used in megalithic formations areas in order to activate them, such as for example “megalithic smart parks”, enabling people to visit the areas in question with the appropriate telephone application or to visit them in virtual reality. Nowadays archaeological tourism is becoming more and more popular and because of this it is possible to create new tourist products that improve the cultural awareness not only of visitors, but also of local communities or entire nations, and by doing so enhance knowledge of the historical heritage and place identity of megalithic areas.


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Received: 2018-02-28
Accepted: 2018-06-22
Published Online: 2018-09-18

© 2018 Alicja Edyta Krzemińska et al., published by De Gruyter

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 License.

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