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Archaeology

Megamonuments may have originated in France

Stonehenge, UK

Simon Wakefield/Wikimedia Commons

Stonehenge, in the south of the United Kingdom, is the most famous stone monument in Europe, composed of concentric circles of rocks up to 5 meters high that weigh as much as 50 tons each. There are about 35,000 similar sites, known as megaliths, dotted around Europe, most dating from the Neolithic period (10,000–3,000 BC). After analyzing radiocarbon dating data from 2,410 premegalithic and megalithic structures across Europe, as well as contemporary archaeological sites unrelated to these structures, archaeologist Bettina Schulz Paulsson, from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, concluded that the first structures of this type were created roughly 6,500 years ago in what is now Brittany, northwest France, before spreading to the Iberian peninsula, Corsica, and Sardinia in the Mediterranean. They then continued to spread to other parts of Portugal and Spain, as well as England, Scotland, and Ireland, before later arriving in Scandinavia (PNAS, February 11). The geographical distribution of the constructions suggests that megalithic knowledge and culture were disseminated via maritime routes.

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