Megaliths Started in France, Say Archaeologists

ROCK ON Huge stone structures found throughout Europe spread out in three waves starting as early as 6,800 years ago, a new study finds. This stone grave on Sardinia in Italy dates to around 5,000 years ago.(Credit: Sciencenews.org).

I read this article, and all I could think about was the potential for historical-fantasy novels on the line of Jean Auel or Michael and Kathleen Gear: The Megalith Mission. Or something like that!

The earliest megaliths were built in what’s now northwestern France as early as around 6,800 years ago, says archaeologist Bettina Schulz Paulsson of the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. Knowledge of these stone constructions then spread by sea to societies along Europe’s Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts, she contends in a study posted online the week of February 11 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“European megaliths were products of mobile, long-distance sea travelers,” Schulz Paulsson says.

Around 35,000 megalithic graves, standing stones, stone circles and stone buildings or temples still exist, many located near coastlines. Radiocarbon dating has suggested that these structures were built between roughly 6,500 and 4,500 years ago.

Scholars a century ago thought that megaliths originated in the Near East or the Mediterranean area and spread elsewhere via sea trading or land migrations by believers in a megalithic religion. But as absolute dates for archaeological sites began to emerge in the 1970s, several researchers argued that megaliths emerged independently among a handful of European farming communities.

5 thoughts on “Megaliths Started in France, Say Archaeologists

  1. I’m trying to puzzle out (as I have for most of my life) cultural appropriation/poaching/appreciation/homage in the ancient world.

    Did ancient argonauts evangelize megalithic monuments and practices?

    Were these notions and structures and experiences so powerfully convincing that they survived the exigencies of cultural contact again and again over thousands of years?

    Despite my science fiction fandom, I’m not enthusiastic about things like Bell Beaker time traders (a la Andre Norton). One thing that I do think mattered–even though as a postmodern person I find it challenging–has to do with changes and accomplishments proceeding over a time span of thousands of years. A megalithic monument here, a stone or wood or earthwork circle there,an enhanced set of perceptions and skills and effects of, say, Earth energies on this ancient culture, that one, and the other…at a gradual pace.

    • A relatively brief search online revealed this intriguing report from DigVentures :

      Why This 8,000 Year-Old Piece Of Wood Is Blowing Archaeologists’ Minds

      2 June, 2016
      by Maiya Pina-Dacier

      At an underwater site off the Isle of Wight, archaeologists discovered indications that people were making sizable oak planks. Planks that could have, among other things, been used to construct plank-sided boats.

  2. I can’t fathom that the ancient did any type of “cultural appropriation”. Human groups borrow from each other. More likely, one group saw what another group was doing and then decided, “Hey! We can do that! Maybe even do one better!” (competition y’know?)

    But as far as megalithic monuments starting in France, how do they deal with Gopeke Teple which allegedly is 11,500 years old? That’s 4,700 years older than the megalithic monuments discussed in that article. Further, the sophistication of Gopeke Teple far exceeds the ones in NW Europe.

    • My reference to cultural appropriation/homage was simply intended to suggest that we don’t know how the megalithic monuments spread over such a large area of Europe. Did those ancient argonauts promote them, casually mention them, or, maybe, sort of keep them away from the other cultures they contacted? So the other cultures kind of swiped them.

      What I have gathered about this article about spreading by mariners vs. other interpretations is that for some time, scholars thought that megalithic monuments was a notion that arose in the Middle East (perhaps with structures like Gopeke Tepli.)

      What I mostly try to safeguard myself against, when puzzling over interpreting the ancient world, is holding too strongly that everything must have a single point/place/culture of origin. Maybe, over thousands of years, different cultures came up with similar ideas and understandings and structures…

      • “Maybe, over thousands of years, different cultures came up with similar ideas and understandings and structures…”
        That’s an archeological/anthropological concept called “independent origination” (if my memory of my 1960s Anthro courses is right! ::smile::)

        Probably it’s a case of both “borrowing” ideas from neighbors and independent origination. An example of the latter is the step pyramids of Egypt and the step pyramids of Central America. (No. “Atlantians” didn’t give them the idea either. )

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