Photographing Stone Age Sentinels to the Stars - Atlas Obscura
Join us on an Atlas Obscura Trip in 2019 »

Photographing Stone Age Sentinels to the Stars

article-imageThe Gurranes, Castletownshend, Ireland (all photographs by Barbara Yoshida, courtesy Marquand Books)

The stone megaliths dotting the planet from Stonehenge and Sweden, to Morocco and the Mediterranean, remain one of archaeology’s mysteries. Whether they had a spiritual purpose, or were a measure of distance, is often lost to the centuries of time. It’s that enigmatic element that drew American photographer Barbara Yoshida to spend 10 years traveling to 15 countries to capture the monoliths.

The images are compiled in a new monograph, out September 30 from Marquand Books, called Moon Viewing: Megaliths by Moonlightwhich also includes an essay from art critic Lucy Lippard. The night setting and moonlight were integral to Yoshida’s process as she hauled her 4x5 large format film camera to camp out alongside the massive rocks. Often it wasn’t even easy to track down where they were. As she writes:

It turned out that many of the menhirs were difficult to find and and had to be almost stumbled upon. Some of them refused to be found, even with good maps. Often local people weren’t much help, since they had lived with them for so long that they didn’t take much notice. […] My photography is a record of the journey — my experiences while I searched and while I was photographing. My main concern has been to record my subjective perceptions of these menhirs and to try to capture some of the mystery that they project. It is said that a sculptor can make stone speak. I want these stones to speak through my photographs.

While most of us know Stonehenge (including President Barack Obama who paid a surprise visit today), the density of these ancient artifacts around the world is less familiar. Below you’ll see examples from Ukraine, Italy, France, Switzerland, Israel, Armenia, and the Gambia. And contrasted in Yoshida’s photographs with the night sky, we’re reminded that while our continents have developed into modern cities, the stars and these old sentinels have long remained the same. 

Skelsky Menhir, Rodnikovskoye, The Crimea, Ukraine

S’Ortali ’e su Monte, Tortolí, Sardinia, Italy

Pennglaouic Menhir, Pont-l’Abbé, France

Menhir de Clendy, Yverdon-les-Bains, Switzerland

Tel Gezer, Gezer, Israel

Ales Stenar, Kåseberga, Sweden

Zoraz Kar, Sisian, Armenia

article-imageWassu Stones, Wassu, The Gambia

Moon Viewing: Megaliths by Moonlight by Barbara Yoshida is available September 30 from Marquand Books.