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European Megalithic Culture

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Robin Barquenast
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« on: July 23, 2007, 09:37:00 pm »



Development of the European Megalithic Culture
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Robin Barquenast
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« Reply #1 on: July 23, 2007, 09:37:29 pm »

There are a number of areas in Europe with megalithic monuments from the Neolithic periods. The earliest of these constructions, found in Brittany and the Iberian Peninsula, are reckoned to date to around 4800 BC. Contrary to 19th and early 20th scholarly opinion, there never was a unified Megalithic culture. Most archaeologists today see a number of places were different types of megalithic structures were built independently of each other (Southern Spain, Portugal, Brittany, Atlantic Britain, Scandinavia and Northern Germany).

Originally consisting of fairly simple structures like Dolmens, megalithic design later includes the stone rows of Brittany and the hundreds of stone circles of the British Isles, of which Stonehenge is the most famous. Many of these constructions have been shown to have significant astronomical alignments, though the function of these still remains mysterious – a fact that has not prevented endless theorising. Whilst a number of intriguing and distinctive artistic symbols have been discovered, it is virtually certain that no proper form of writing existed.
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Robin Barquenast
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« Reply #2 on: July 23, 2007, 09:38:26 pm »



Poulnabrone dolmen, Ireland
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Robin Barquenast
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« Reply #3 on: July 23, 2007, 09:39:22 pm »

Types of megaliths

The most common type of megalithic construction in Europe is the dolmen – a chamber consisting of upright stones (orthostats) with one or more large flat capstones forming a roof. Many of these, though by no means all, contain human remains, and it is debatable whether use for burial site was their primary function. Though generally known as dolmens, many local names exist, such as anta in Portugal, stazzone in Sardinia, hunnebed in Holland, Hünengrab in Germany, dys in Denmark, and cromlech in Wales.

Another type of megalithic monument that occurs throughout the culture area is the single standing stone, or menhir. Some of these have been shown to have an astronomical function as a marker or foresight, and in some areas long and complex alignments of such stones exist – most famously at Carnac in Brittany.

In the British Isles the best-known type of megalithic construction is the stone circle, of which there are hundreds of examples, including Stonehenge and Avebury. These too display clear evidence of astronomical alignments, both solar and lunar. Stonehenge, for example, is famous for its solstice alignment (though whether this was originally intended to mark the winter solstice, rather than the summer, is open to question). Examples of stone circles, though rare, are also found in Continental Europe
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Robin Barquenast
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« Reply #4 on: July 23, 2007, 09:40:11 pm »



Cup and ring marks, England
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Robin Barquenast
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« Reply #5 on: July 23, 2007, 09:41:00 pm »

Other structures

Associated with the megalithic constructions across Europe there are often large earthworks of various designs – ditches and banks, broad terraces, circular enclosures known as henges, and frequently artificial mounds such as Silbury Hill in England and Monte d’Accoddi in Sardinia. Sometimes, as at Glastonbury Tor in England, it is theorised that a natural hill has been artificially sculpted to form a maze or spiral pattern in the turf.

Spirals were evidently an important motif for the megalith builders, and have been found carved into megalithic structures all over Europe – along with other symbols such as lozenges, eye-patterns, zigzags in various configurations, and cup and ring marks. Whilst clearly not a written script in the modern sense of the term, these symbols no doubt conveyed meaning to their creators, and are remarkably consistent across the whole of Western Europe.
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Robin Barquenast
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« Reply #6 on: July 23, 2007, 09:41:54 pm »



Carnac, Brittany
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Robin Barquenast
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« Reply #7 on: July 23, 2007, 09:42:42 pm »

Distribution and development

The distribution of megalithic constructions strongly indicates that this culture was spread by seafarers. With the earliest sites found on the Atlantic seaboards of Brittany and Portugal dating to about 4800 BC, the techniques of building and other cultural traits gradually spread to other coastal areas, thence inland via the major river systems. Archaeologists usually distinguish five geographical regions within the megalithic culture that display certain local characteristics in addition to sharing in the general continent-wide trends. These are the North West Group (north Germany, Netherlands, Poland, Sweden and Denmark), Far West Group (British Isles), Centre West Group (north-west France), South West Group (Iberia), and Mediterranean Group (Malta, Sardinia, Corsica, the Balearics, and surrounding coasts). Megalithic constructions

of a later time, are in Thrakia and Southers Russia too. As the people who created the megalithic culture have left no decipherable records, their linguistic affiliation remains completely obscure. It has recently been argued, however, that the spread of Indo-European languages in Europe coincided with the introduction of agriculture during the Neolithic period (see Anatolian hypothesis). If so, the megalith builders would have spoken an early dialect of Indo-European, some terms from which may survive in river names and other geographical features across Western Europe. The megalithic culture remained at the Neolithic stage until the so-called Bell-beaker explosion from around 2500 BC, which ushered in the Chalcolithic period – an early phase of the Bronze Age. It was this era that witnessed the full flowering of megalithic design in such areas as the British Isles with their stone circles, and Brittany with its alignments.
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Robin Barquenast
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« Reply #8 on: July 23, 2007, 09:44:09 pm »

Modern myths

Being an ancient and little-understood civilisation, the megalithic culture has attracted numerous myths over the centuries. The undoubted astronomical function of many of the structures has in recent times engendered speculation about ley-lines and mysterious earth-energies, whilst the monuments themselves have been appropriated by many different New Age groups for their own purposes. Some, such as the Rollright Stones in England, have even been purchased by Neopagans. There have also been theories connecting the megalithic culture with the legend of Atlantis.
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Robin Barquenast
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« Reply #9 on: July 23, 2007, 09:46:12 pm »

Timeline

•   Circa 4800 BC: Constructions in Brittany (Barnenez) and Iberia (Évora and Mourdo). Emergence of the Neolithic period, the age of agriculture.
•   Circa 4000 BC: Constructions in Brittany (Carnac), Iberia (Lisbon), France (central and southern), Corsica, England and Wales.
•   Circa 3700 BC: Constructions in Ireland (Knockiveagh and elsewhere).
•   Circa 3600 BC: Constructions in England (Maumbury Rings and Godmanchester), and Malta (Ġgantija and Mnajdra temples).
•   Circa 3500 BC: Constructions in Iberia (Málaga and Guadiana), Ireland (south-west), France (Arles and the north), Sardinia, Sicily, Malta (and elsewhere in the Mediterranean), Belgium (north-east) and Germany (central and south-west).
•   Circa 3400 BC: Constructions in Ireland (Newgrange), Holland (north-east), Germany (northern) Sweden and Denmark.
•   Circa 3200 BC: Constructions in Malta (Ħaġar Qim and Tarxien temples)
•   Circa 3000 BC: Constructions in France (Saumer, Dordogne, Languedoc, Biscay, and the Mediterranean coast), Iberia (Los Millares), Sicily, Belgium (Ardennes), and Orkney, as well as the first henges (circular earthworks) in Britain.
•   Circa 2800 BC: Climax of the megalithic Funnel-beaker Culture in Denmark, and the construction of the henge at Stonehenge.
•   Circa 2500 BC: Constructions in Brittany (Le Menec, Kermario and elsewhere), Italy (Otranto), Sardinia, and Scotland (north-east), plus the climax of the megalithic Bell-beaker Culture in Iberia, Germany, Ireland, and Britain (stone circle at Stonehenge). With the bell-beakers the Neolithic period gave way to the Chalcolithic, the age of copper.
•   Circa 2400 BC: The megalithic Bell-beaker Culture was dominant in Britain, and hundreds of smaller stone circles were built in the British Isles at this time.
•   Circa 2000 BC: Constructions in Brittany (Er Grah), Italy (Bari), Sardinia (northern), and Scotland (Callanish).
•   Circa 1800 BC: Constructions in Italy (Giovinazzo).
•   Circa 1500 BC: Constructions in Iberia (Alter Pedroso and Medons da Mourela).
•   Circa 1400 BC: Non-megalithic Burial of the Egtved Girl in Denmark, whose body is today one of the most well-preserved examples of its kind.
•   Circa 1200 BC: Last vestiges of the megalithic tradition in the Mediterranean and elsewhere come to an end during the general population upheaval known to ancient history as the Invasions of the Sea Peoples.
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Robin Barquenast
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« Reply #10 on: July 23, 2007, 10:18:53 pm »

Nine Ladies

Nine Ladies ( 53°10′5″N, 1°37′44″W) is a Bronze Age stone circle located on Stanton Moor, Derbyshire, England. Part of the Peak District National Park, the site is owned by English Heritage and is often visited by tourists and hill walkers. Druids and pagans occasionally celebrate summer solstice there.

There are nine surviving stones in the circle, but excavations have shown that there were once at least ten and possibly eleven. The small "King Stone" lies forty metres from the circle and is clearly visible from it.


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Robin Barquenast
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« Reply #11 on: July 23, 2007, 10:19:47 pm »



The Nine Ladies stone circle
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Robin Barquenast
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« Reply #12 on: July 23, 2007, 10:21:26 pm »



The hillside
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Robin Barquenast
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« Reply #13 on: July 23, 2007, 10:22:28 pm »

Successful campaign to protect it

The site has been the focus of a long-running environmental protest.

In 1999 Stancliffe Stone Ltd submitted a planning application re-open two dormant quarries (Endcliffe and Lees Cross) on the wooded hillside beside Stanton Moor. The proposed quarry was only 200 m from Nine Ladies, on land owned by Haddon Hall estate and leased to Stancliffe stone.

A local protest group SLAG (Stanton Lees Action Group) was set up to oppose the quarry. The group was joined by environmental protestors who set up a long-running and controversial protest camp and they built many tree houses which are hard to evict. They defied a court eviction order in February 2004, and continue to remain there.

In 2004 a High Court classified the two quarries as dormant. This decision was appealed and the court of appeal was upheld in June 2005. This means that the quarries cannot re-open until the Peak District National Park Authority agrees on a set of working conditions for them.
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« Reply #14 on: July 23, 2007, 10:24:48 pm »

The Bridestones

The Bridestones consist of a chambered cairn, built in the Neolithic Stone Age, near Congleton, Cheshire, United Kingdom. In 1764, the cairn was 100 metres long and 11 metres wide; it contained three separate compartments, of which only one remains today. The remaining compartment is 6 metres long by 2.7 metres wide, and consists of vertical stone slabs, divided by a now-broken cross slab. The cairn originally had a stone circle surrounding it, with four portal stones; two of these portal stones still remain.

The site is protected as a monument of national importance, according to the Ancient Monuments Acts 1913-1953.

The origin of the cairn's name is unclear. Once legend says that a recently married couple were murdered at the location, and the stones were laid around their grave. Another possibility is that they are named for Brigantia. Alternatively, the Old English word for "birds" was "briddes"; the stones in their original form could have resembled birds, giving rise to "Briddes stones".
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