Is a region in France the origin of Europe’s ancient standing stones?

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The uncertainty of science: New research suggests that the European ancient standing stones, such as Stonehenge, might all trace their origin from a region in France.

The very earliest megaliths, she found, come from northwestern France, including the famous Carnac stones, a dense collection of rows of standing stones, mounds, and covered stone tombs called dolmens. These date to about 4700 B.C.E., when the region was inhabited by hunter-gatherers. Engravings on standing stones from the region depict sperm whales and other sea life, which suggests the precocious masons may also have been mariners, Schulz Paulsson says.

Northwestern France is also the only megalithic region that also features gravesites with complex earthen tombs that date to about 5000 B.C.E., which she says is evidence of an “evolution of megaliths” in the region. That means megalith building likely originated there and spread outward, she reports today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

By about 4300 B.C.E., megaliths had spread to coastal sites in southern France, the Mediterranean, and on the Atlantic coast of the Iberian Peninsula. Over the next few thousand years, the structures continued to pop up around Europe’s coasts in three distinct phases. Stonehenge is thought to have been erected around 2400 B.C.E., but other megaliths in the British Isles go back to about 4000 B.C.E. The abrupt emergence of specific megalithic styles like narrow stone-lined tombs at coastal sites, but rarely inland, suggests these ideas were being spread by prehistoric sailors. If so, it would push back the emergence of advanced seafaring in Europe by about 2000 years, Schulz Paulsson says.

What this research also suggests is that the belief system that prompted the construction of these megaliths also spread in this manner, and for a while at least dominated the early tribal cultures of Europe.



  • Ryan Lawson

    I’ve spent an enormous amount of time studying the Atlantic Megalithic Culture over the past 10 years. There is a clear link to maritime travel even way back in the beginning of the Neolithic. The best I have been able to piece the story together it appears to begin in southern Iberia around like 6000BC where basic farming and megalithic building seems to come out of nowhere (as though they sailed in from somewhere else, maybe even Anatolia!). Over time the culture spreads northwards to Brittany and Ireland. Then it spreads to England and Denmark. They also likely went up the major rivers of France and Germany to some degree. Brittany would for a time be the epicenter of the culture because it was the very center of the maritime trade (and may very well have been the source of the fabled Tin Islands of antiquity). A lot of astronomy is incorporated into the ruins there (check out the Gran Menhir Brise!) and this makes sense for Atlantic mariners. Eventually Brittany declines and there is a shift in prominence to England and the area around Stonehenge.

    Even though Druids are associated with Celts, given that their supposed center of power was the Island of Anglesey (Mona?) off of Wales, I tend to believe that the Druids did originate out of the Megalithic culture. Merlin (an amalgam character) is said to have traveled to Brittany to commune with other Druids. What we generally regard as Atlantic Celtic culture is a combination of the original Megalithic Culture and the Bronze Age “Celtic” peoples coming down from the Alps.

    The Romans, during Caesar, would encounter the Veneti tribe in Brittany. They were the hub of maritime trade for Northern Europe. Caesar said their ships and sailing skills were superior to those of the Romans. The ship descriptions sound as if they were clearly designed for deep sea voyages in the Atlantic. I suspect the Veneti are the final culmination of the Atlantic Megalithic Culture’s maritime traditions. The Veneti are also the Welsh Gwinnet and likely related to the Vistula Veneti and maybe even by some odd luck, the Venetians of Italy (having come from the Atlantic, up the major rivers to the interior and crossing over the final distance by land). The Romans tried to destroy the Veneti and the survivors scattered in all directions. After the fall of Rome hundreds of years later the Welsh Veneti would return to resettle Brittany, their ancient ancestral land.

  • Captain Emeritus

    Wasn’t Carnac the Magnificent also from northwest France?

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