A monolith is a geological feature consisting of a single massive stone or rock, such as some mountains, or a single large piece of rock placed as, or within, a monument or building. Erosion usually exposes the geological formations, which are often made of very hard and solid metamorphic or igneous rock.
In architecture, the term has considerable overlap with megalith, which is normally used for prehistory, and may be used in the contexts ofrock-cut architecture that remains attached to solid rock, as in monolithic church, or for exceptionally large stones such as obelisks, statues, monolithic columns or large architraves, that may have been moved a considerable distance after quarrying. It may also be used of large glacial erratics moved by natural forces.
A monument is a type of structure that was explicitly created to commemorate a person or important event, or which has become important to a social group as a part of their remembrance of historic times or cultural heritage, or as an example of historic architecture. The term 'monument' is often applied to buildings or structures that are considered examples of important architectural and/or cultural heritage
Structures created for others purposes that have been made notable by their age, size or historic significance may also be regarded as monuments. This can happen because of great age and size, as in the case of the Great Wall of China, or because an event of great importance occurred there such as the village of Oradour-sur-Glane in France. Many countries use Ancient monument or similar terms for the official designation of protected structures or archeological sites which may originally have been ordinary domestic houses or other buildings.
Monuments are also often designed to convey historical or political information. They can be used to reinforce the primacy of contemporary political power, such as the column of Trajan or the numerous statues of Lenin in the Soviet Union. They can be used to educate the populace about important events or figures from the past, such as in the renaming of the old General Post Office Building in New York City to the James A. Farley Building (James Farley Post Office), after former Postmaster General James Farley.
The social meanings of monuments are rarely fixed and certain and are frequently 'contested' by different social groups. As an example: whilst the former East German socialist state may have seen the Berlin Wall as a means of 'protection' from the ideological impurity of the west, dissidents and others would often argue that it was symbolic of the inherent repression and paranoia of that state. This contention of meaning is a central theme of modern 'post processual' archaeological discourse.
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