This ancient megalith crowns a chalk hill in southeast England. Archaeologists believe the stalwart structure once marked the entrance to a tomb.
The early Neolithic period was a time of great social and cultural change in Great Britain and Europe in general, as agriculture was adopted as the primary source of sustenance and people began creating permanent settlements. Raising stone megalithic structures and building earthen mounds became a widespread phenomenon, with these constructs being used as tombs and occasionally serving ritualistic or territorial purposes.
Kit’s Coty is believed to have been constructed around 4000 BC and was originally part of a long barrow burial mound. However, over the course of thousands of years, the surrounding fields—including the burial mound—were severely damaged by ploughings and other agricultural activities.
For years, the stone structure was viewed as a mere local curiosity. It was even erroneously associated with the Celts. But the Victorian era heralded in a new appreciation for the ancient past, and with it, a growing desire to decipher the meaning of the mysterious megaliths that dot the British landscape.
Victorian archeologist Augustus Pitt Rivers documented the site in the 1870s, and it was later studied by the famous archeologist Flinders Petrie, who had an enduring fascination with the Kentish megaliths long before he became associated with his discoveries in Egypt.
The site is also notable for being among the first archeological ruins in the United Kingdom to be granted official government protection. In 1885, the iron railings that now enclose the stones were added to protect them from vandalism.