Is Stonehenge really a mysterious ” unsolved mystery”?
” Stonehenge, Bermuda, Savage Hiding in Shennongjia …” When reading this sentence, I believe you have already smelled a strong ” mysterious” smell. Yes, the Stonehenge site in Britain has always been dubbed as ” the world’s unsolved mystery” in many ” curious” books and periodicals. From the alien base to magic sacrifice, people like to attach the concept of attracting people’s eyes to Stonehenge and cover it with supernatural colors.
In fact, many of Stonehenge’s mysteries and stories are just the result of overpackaging. To this day, archaeologists have almost understood the age and origin of their construction.
Recently, researchers at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden published a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in (PNAS), saying that boulder sites similar to Stonehenge in Britain are actually all over Europe, and that this architectural custom is likely to have originated in France. And spread out by sea .
Stonehenge is actually everywhere
Speaking of towering megalithic buildings in prehistoric times, most people are familiar with only the famous Stonehenge site in southern England. But in fact, Stonehenge is not the only big rock in the world, and there are still many megalithic buildings similar to it in Europe. These artificial stones are considered to belong to a ” Megaliths culture”, and they are definitely the ” most fashionable” architecture in prehistoric European society.
How popular is it? Say a number and you will understand. Archaeologists have scoured all the megalithic sites in Europe and found that their number exceeds 35,000, covering more than a dozen countries such as Britain, France, Germany and Italy, and this is still a small part left over after thousands of years of wind and frost. If you lived in prehistoric times, you would probably see as many megalithic buildings as modern newsstands.
The shapes of megalithic buildings are different and have their own characteristics in each region and each era. It mainly includes stone tombs, stone sheds, stone temples and stone circles. Its main function is to serve as a memorial sign, shelter from wind and rain, or to hold various ritual activities. Stonehenge, as we know it, belongs to the category of stone circle, and its initial function may be to commemorate the dead [ 2 ].
As a cultural phenomenon, megalithic architecture can be found in different parts of Europe only in two ways: one is that prehistoric people from all over Europe invented this type of architecture alone, and the other is that it has a certain origin center and then spreads to other places.
The first possibility is very small, because it is not realistic to let different people have such tacit understanding in their hearts, and the megalithic buildings in various parts of Europe are similar in appearance and do not seem to have been invented independently. More importantly, on the same continent, the communication between prehistoric European residents is quite close, and dissemination and learning may be much easier than independent inventions.
Therefore, archaeologists speculate that European megalithic culture should have a center of origin and spread. And the problem also comes from here: curious, we want to know, who was the first to think about these boulders? Thousands of years ago, who led the architectural trend?
France may be the origin of Stonehenge
From the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century, there was a trend of thought in archaeology that the birthplace of European culture was identified as the Middle East or the Near East. Under this background, European megalithic culture is also believed to have spread from the Near East (including Turkey, Israel, Egypt and other places). However, this view lacks empirical evidence.
Israel’s Haifa region does have megalithic sites (which have now sunk to the bottom of the sea), but they are probably not the origin of European megalithic culture.
Speaking, it is a difficult problem to find the origin of megalithic culture. We can’t judge who is the real creator and who learned it later by literal meaning or subjective guess, but by time evidence. If you want to find the birthplace of European megalithic culture, the key is to find the place where megalith first appeared.
For this reason, scholars from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden collected data on the construction dates of more than 2400 megalithic buildings and drew the following picture.
In this map of Europe, the red area is the oldest and the orange area is the latest (see the scale at the bottom of the picture, and the numbers represent the year from now). It is clear at a glance that the oldest megalithic buildings in the s appeared in northwestern France, Corsica, southern France and Catalonia, Spain, as well as Sardinia, Italy. their construction years were concentrated between 6800 and 6000 years ago.
Among them, the ruins of northwest France are of particular concern. The boulders here are not only the oldest, but also show a clear history of architectural evolution. As early as 7000 years ago, there was a “pre-boulder culture” (Premagaliths) in northwest France.
At that time, a large number of people had gathered a large number of workers to build huge earth-made memorial buildings, mostly in memory of the dead. Archaeologists believe that this former boulder culture is in fact the embryonic form of boulder culture. The function and significance of the former boulder culture architecture, and even the use of a large number of labor characteristics are consistent with boulder architecture, and then the building materials from earth to stone, which was transformed into boulder architecture.
Because these former boulder cultures and their evolution only occur in northwest France, Swedish scholars combined with chronological data infer that the northwest of France is the birthplace of European boulder culture.
Navigation helped spread megalithic culture.
Although archaeologists have found the birthplace of megalithic culture, there is still a problem perplexing us. In prehistoric times, how did the custom of building megalithic buildings spread from France to Europe?
You may think that the choppy and moody sea was probably more difficult to conquer than land for prehistoric human beings, so land transmission was easier than sea transmission at that time. However, if we look back at the previous map, we will find that most of the megalithic sites are located in coastal areas, and even some of the early sites are located on isolated islands surrounded by the sea, which is not like the result of land transmission.
Especially in northern Europe, Norway, Sweden and other places are separated from the origin of megalithic culture by a sea.
Previous archaeological discoveries can also prove that as early as 1 million years ago, humans may have been trying to sail at sea [ 3 ]. However, in northern Europe 5,000 to 3,000 years ago, ” boat” is a cultural element with a very high exposure rate in the local social culture, which shows its wide application [ 4 ].
It seems that the spread of megalithic culture should be realized by sea. Stonehenge buildings like Sweden first appeared in coastal areas and then entered inland, which also supports the theory of maritime communication. At the same time, this phenomenon also shows that the Europeans at that time probably already had mature navigation technology, shipbuilding equipment and the social and economic foundation to support such activities. Prehistoric human beings were not as backward as we thought.
Even in the modern society with advanced technology, mankind still has a special obsession with megaliths. From Stonehenge in prehistoric England to obelisks in ancient Egypt, Chinese stone arches and today’s Washington Monument, no matter how the times and technology change, mankind always hopes to tell its sorrow and pride to future generations with solid boulders. This custom has lasted for thousands of years.
Therefore, Stonehenge is not a strange world unsolved mystery, nor does it have so much ” mysterious” flavor. They are just one of the many things that prehistoric humans loved.
- B. Schulz Paulsson. Radiocarbon dates and Bayesian modeling support maritime diffusion model for megaliths in Europe. PNAS, 2018.
- Pitts, Mike. Stonehenge: one of our largest excavations draws to a close. British Archaeology (102): 13, 2008.
- Robert G. Bednari k. Maritime navigation in the Lower and Middle Palaeolithic. Comptes Rendus de l’Académie des Sciences – Series IIA – Earth and Planetary Science(328):8, 1999.
- C Ballard, R Bradley, LN Myhre,et al. The ship as symbol in the prehistory of Scandinavia and Southeast Asia. World Archaeology(35):3, 2004.