As a child I was not interested in history at all. What was once my least favorite class in school has now turned into a fascination. History can answer many questions we have about our past but it also leaves many questions unanswered.
One of the periods that has many unanswered questions is the Neolithic or New Stone Age. There are many questions surrounding the Neolithic period but none as interesting as the questions about the Megalithic monuments in Europe such as the stone circles found in Stonehenge and Avebury England or the menhirs and dolmens found in Carnac and Locmariaquer on the Brittany coast of France.
England is home to many prehistoric monuments but two of the more famous are found at Stonehenge and Avebury.
Avebury, the largest stone circle in England, was built around 2600 BC and contains three stone circles. While we are not sure what the original purpose of the structure was, archaeologists believe it was most likely used for some type of ceremony. Over the years, many archaeologists have suggested the ceremonies took place to make the “gods” happy. Today the site is sacred to Pagans and New Age religions who believe the stone circles offer some type of psychic power.
Also in the Wiltshire County, Stonehenge is probably the most famous prehistoric monument in the world. The standing stones of Stonehenge are arranged in circles with stones that weigh up to 400 tons. Again we are really not sure what Stonehenge’s purpose was but it is widely believed it was a type of calendar keeping track of the movements of the sun, moon and stars. As with Avebury, Stonehenge is popular with New Age religions. In fact, one New Age belief is that the stones, which came from Wales, were levitated to reach today’s location. Leave it to engineers to throw water on this belief by saying they were probably rafted on rivers and then rolled on logs.
France is also home to its fair share of prehistoric monuments dating from the Neolithic period which includes the menhirs and dolmens located along the Brittany coast in Carnac and Locmariaquer.
Carnac is home to about 2700 menhirs, dolmens and stone rows that are among the oldest found in Europe. Unlike the circles at Stonehenge, the menhirs in Carnac stand upright in a row stretching over a mile in length. Near Locmariaquer are three sites dating back 7000 years and include the Grand Menhir brise and the dolmen La Table des Marchand. A dolmen is a tomb that is made of standing stones with a stone slab for a roof. As with Stonehenge and Avebury, the purpose of these are not known but are thought to have been built for astronomic or religious purposes.
While history can tell us these monuments all date back to the Neolithic age, it hasn’t told us why or even how they were built. I don’t know if we will ever know the real answers, so for now we’ll be happy to see them and wonder about all the possible answers!