Stonehenge, other ancient rock structures may trace their origins to monuments like this

Science | AAAS | 2/11/2019 | Staff
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Stonehenge may be the most famous example, but tens of thousands of other ancient sites featuring massive, curiously arranged rocks dot Europe. A new study suggests these megaliths weren’t created independently but instead can be traced back to a single hunter-gatherer culture that started nearly 7000 years ago in what is today the Brittany region of northwestern France. The findings also indicate societies at the time were better boaters than typically believed, spreading their culture by sea.

“This demonstrates absolutely that Brittany is the origin of the European megalithic phenomenon,” says Michael Parker Pearson, an archaeologist and Stonehenge specialist at University College London.

Origins - Megalith - Builders - Bettina - Schulz

The origins of the megalith builders have haunted Bettina Schulz Paulsson since she excavated her first megalithic monument in Portugal nearly 20 years ago. Early on, most anthropologists thought megaliths originated in the Near East or the Mediterranean, whereas many modern thinkers back the idea they were invented independently in five or six different regions around Europe. The major hurdle, she says, has been sorting through the mountains of archaeological data to find reliable dates for the 35,000 sites, including carved standing stones, tombs, and temples.

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“Everyone told me, ‘You’re crazy, it can’t be done,’” says Schulz Paulsson, a prehistoric archaeologist at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden and the study’s sole author. “But I decided to do it anyway.”

Sift - Radiocarbon - Data - Ancient - Europe

What she did was sift through radiocarbon dating data from 2410 ancient sites across Europe to reconstruct a prehistoric archaeological timeline. The radiocarbon dates came mostly from human remains buried within the sites. The study looked not just at megaliths, but also at so-called premegalithic graves that featured elaborate, earthen tombs but no huge stones. Schulz Paulsson also factored in information on the sites’ architecture, tool use,...
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