Was Stonehenge built by seafarers? Map shows how monolith monuments were spread across Europe by SAILORS and the first one was erected in Brittany 6,500 years ago
- The first monument was erected in northwest France in 4,500 BC, study finds
- Then the tradition, practice and popularity for similar monuments spread
- Monuments appeared at coastal regions on Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts
- Sailors are thought to have taken the trend around Europe over 2,000 years as they used their budding sea routes
Stonehenge is one of many megalithic monuments from prehistory dotted around Europe and scientists have now discovered the art form of giant rocks was a popular trend that started 6,500 years ago in France.
The knowledge and expertise to create these monuments was then spread around Europe by sailors over the following millennia.
Similar monuments to the original appeared in coastal regions around the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts via sailors on large ships using emerging sea routes.
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The first monolith was found in Brittany dating back as far as 4,794 BC and other early monuments (red) were found in northwest France, the Channel Islands, Catalonia, southwestern France, Corsica, and Sardinia from a similar time period. The trend spread to the UK and the rest of Spain’s Atlantic coast (orange) before reaching Scandinavia a 1,000 years later (yellow) and then eventually conquering the Mediterranean around 1,500 BC (blue)
Stonehenge (pictured) is one of many megalithic monuments from prehistory dotted around Europe and scientists have now discovered it was a popular trend that started 6,500 years ago in France
‘They were moving over the seaway, taking long distance journeys along the coasts,’ Dr Schulz Paulsson, one of the study’s co-authors from the University of Gothenburg, told New Scientist.
This fits with other research she has carried out on megalithic art in Brittany, which shows engravings of many boats, some large enough for a crew of 12.
Previous theories have suggested two explanations for how numerous megalith monuments have been found around Europe.
The first is that they started somewhere and then were carried to different areas and cultures via sea, and the other states the became popular independently over time.
The latest study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found the former to be correct.
Northwest France is the only one which exhibits monumental earthen constructions before the megaliths (pictured). The Passy graves in the Paris Basin have no megalithic chamber yet, but are impressive labour-intensive structures with a length of up to 280 m
Dolmen de las Ruines in Catalonia (pictured) is one of many monuments in Europe. More than 2,000 huge stones were analysed and dated and statistical analyses enabled them to map out when and where the monuments appeared
‘They were moving over the seaway, taking long distance journeys along the coasts,’ Dr Schulz Paulsson, one of the study’s co-authors from the University of Gothenburg, says
Haväng dolmen, Sweden. Strikingly, the architectonic concepts of megaliths are similar or even identical all over Europe. They became popular and later appeared in coastal regions around the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts and travelled there via frequented sea routes
More than 2,000 huge stones were analysed and dated and statistical analyses enabled them to map out when and where the monuments appeared.
This also shed light on how early sea-faring communities conquered the water and provided a far earlier estimate of when man took the the seas.
‘They were moving over the seaway, taking long distance journeys along the coasts,’ says Dr Schulz Paulsson.
Her previous research looked into megalithic art in Brittany found these early populations had the ability to house 12 seamen.
It was previously thought that large cargo ships capable of traversing significant distance were only created in the Bronze Age, approximately 2,000 years later.
WHO BUILT STONEHENGE?
Stonehenge was built thousands of years before machinery was invented.
The heavy rocks weigh upwards of several tonnes each.
Some of the stones are believed to have originated from a quarry in Wales, some 140 miles (225km) away from the Wiltshire monument.
To do this would have required a high degree of ingenuity, and experts believe the ancient engineers used a pulley system over a shifting conveyor-belt of logs.
Historians now think that the ring of stones was built in several different stages, with the first completed around 5,000 years ago by Neolithic Britons who used primitive tools, possibly made from deer antlers.
Modern scientists now widely believe that Stonehenge was created by several different tribes over time.
After the Neolithic Britons – likely natives of the British Isles – started the construction, it was continued centuries later by their descendants.
Over time, the descendants developed a more communal way of life and better tools which helped in the erection of the stones.
Bones, tools and other artefacts found on the site seem to support this hypothesis.