Otherworldly Photos of Mysterious Megalithic Stones

The Photo Blog
June 29 2014 11:00 AM

Otherworldly Photos of Mysterious Megalithic Stones

Calanais Stone Alignment, Isle of Lewis, Scotland, 2005.

Barbara Yoshida

Stonehenge may be the most famous prehistoric monument, but it’s by no means the only one. In 2003, photographer Barbara Yoshida was on a trip to Scotland when she photographed the Ring of Brodgar, a circle of standing stones in the Orkney Islands. She spent the next 10 years photographing lesser-known and rarely photographed megalithic stones in more than 15 countries and on three continents. Her photographs will soon be published in the book, Moon Viewing: Megaliths by Moonlight. “I’m drawn to places that are spiritual and have a depth of mystery, that have a sense of timelessness and history. These stones were obviously set up for ritualistic purposes, and people have continued to interact with them over thousands of years and invested them with meaning and resonance,” Yoshida said. “They have enormous power and a presence that you can feel when you're among them. We may not know much about the cultures that erected them, but this mystery is what draws me to them. I wanted to record my subjective perceptions and capture some of that mystery.”

Grandson Menhir
Grandson Menhir, Grandson, Switzerland, 2005.

Barbara Yoshida

M’Soura, Asilah, Morocco, 2012.

Barbara Yoshida

Yoshida_The Gurranes72
The Gurranes, Castletownshend, Ireland, 2005.

Barbara Yoshida

Calanais Stone Alignment, Isle of Lewis, Scotland, 2005.

Barbara Yoshida

Yoshida_S'Ortali 'e su Monte72
S’Ortali ’e su Monte, Tortolì, Sardinia, Italy, 2013.

Barbara Yoshida

When Yoshida first began looking into megalithic stones, she found many books on sites in Western Europe. Upon further research, she discovered that there are stones all over the world. Not all of the stones are well documented though, so Yoshida’s travels were frequently a quest into the unknown, requiring expeditions into small villages without maps, and, sometimes, looking for stones based on as little as a tourist’s photograph or word of mouth. Today, many of the stones have been damaged or repurposed. Some have been forgotten, while others have purposely untouched due to superstition. “It was very difficult to tell in advance how photographable they'd be. Would they be freestanding? Would they be next to a house or have trees in the way? Would I find them at all? I might travel thousands of miles and find there wasn't enough light to shoot,” she said.

It’s not clear exactly how old many of the megaliths are, or for what purpose they were used. Some seem to have served as astrological observatories, others as sites of burial. “I wanted to draw attention to the fact that Neolithic people were not primitive. The more we learn about them, the more skilled, sophisticated, and knowledgeable they appear,” she said.


Yoshida photographed using a 4-by-5 camera, shooting long exposures by the light of the moon from evening until dawn. “My photographs represent time graphically by the use of the star trails. It's a visual record of how the Earth moved, reinforcing the nation that the stones are a connection between earth and sky,” she said. “We're not often aware of how much the Earth is turning. It's a humbling experience to be out at night and realize how small we are on the surface of the earth and how vast the Earth is.”

Moon Viewing: Megaliths by Moonlight will be published by Marquand Books in August.

Cromlech dos Almendres, Évora, Portugal, 2004.

Barbara Yoshida

Yoshida_Pennglaouic Menhir72
Pennglaouic Menhir, Pont-l’Abbé, France, 2004.

Barbara Yoshida

Yoshida_Wassu Stones72
Wassu Stones, Wassu, The Gambia, 2010.

Barbara Yoshida

Yoshida_Gezer Stone Row72
Tel Gezer Stones, Gezer, Israel, 2013.

Barbara Yoshida

Yoshida_Ales Stenar Stone Ship72
Ales Stenar Stone Ship, Kåseberga, Sweden, 2005.

Barbara Yoshida

Jordan G. Teicher writes about photography for Slates Behold blog. Follow him on Twitter.



Crying Rape

False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

No, New York Times, Shonda Rhimes Is Not an “Angry Black Woman” 

Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 1:39 PM Shonda Rhimes Is Not an “Angry Black Woman,” New York Times. Neither Are Her Characters.

The Music Industry Is Ignoring Some of the Best Black Women Singing R&B

How Will You Carry Around Your Huge New iPhone? Apple Pants!

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.


The Other Huxtable Effect

Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.

Lifetime Didn’t Find the Steubenville Rape Case Dramatic Enough. So They Added a Little Self-Immolation.

Why Men Can Never Remember Anything

The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Why Men Can Never Remember Anything
  News & Politics
Sept. 19 2014 6:22 PM Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 
Sept. 19 2014 3:24 PM Why Innovators Hate MBAs
Inside Higher Ed
Sept. 19 2014 1:34 PM Empty Seats, Fewer Donors? College football isn’t attracting the audience it used to.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 4:48 PM You Should Be Listening to Sbtrkt
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 5:03 PM White House Chief Information Officer Will Run U.S. Ebola Response
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 19 2014 5:09 PM Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?   A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.