Stonehenge and Other Amazing Unexplained Megalithic Sites
"The possession of knowledge does not kill the sense of wonder and mystery.”
- Anaïs Nin Cuban-French author 1903-1977
It stands to reason that we as a species will never know absolutely everything there is to know. Though modern technology is breaking new ground every day, there are mysteries that we still can't answer and likely never will. Some of those mysteries are ancient structures that people left behind thousands of years ago. The most well-known of these is, of course, Stonehenge.
Built beginning in about 3100 BC and continuing for about another 1500 years, Stonehenge is a massive alignment of carved rock located in Wiltshire County, England. Like the ancient pyramids of Egypt, no one is really certain how Stonehenge was built. We also have no concrete idea of why it was constructed, because the civilization that built it left no written records. We do know it was used for burials, most notably a boy that was apparently raised in the Mediterranean and man, called the Amesbury Archer, who was from Germany.
Theories abound as to why Stonehenge was built, however. More popular ones include a connection with King Arthur and Merlin, as well as a possible Pagan place of worship, or sacrifice. Whatever the reasons, those cold stones are not giving up any answers.
There are quite a few lesser known sites that, like Stonehenge, cannot be fully explained.
The Carnac Stones
The Carnac Stones, which can be found in Brittany, France near the village of Carnac, are a collection of roughly hewn stones that were assembled possibly as early as 4500 BC, though most date from around 3300 BC. There are three main concentrations of stones that make up the group, and they may have been connected at some point, however some of the rocks have been moved over the centuries.
The Carnac Stones do contain what are called dolmens and are essentially graves, but researchers do not believe that the primary purpose of the site was funerary. There are indications that some of the stones may have purposes that include solstice or sunset alignments.
Preservation of the sites has been controversial and some of the stones have deteriorated fairly quickly in recent years. France has actually introduced grazing sheep in some of these protected areas to keep down specific weeds.
The Callanish Stones are in the Outer Hebrides, off the coast of Scotland. Though some construction may date from as early as 3000 BC, scientists mostly agree that the majority of the site was begun around 2900 BC to 2600 BC.
Though there is evidence of human remains interred at the site, the primary use for the Callanish stones, like the Carnac Stones, was likely not that of a cemetery, especially in light of evidence that the burial mound was a later addition to the stone circle, after its completion.
Some scientists believe that the stones made some kind of early and very roughly accurate calendar and may have also been associated with the summer solstice. The locals, however, have their own legend. Some tell tales of giants on the island who, in refusing to convert to Christianity, were turned to stone by Saint Ciarán and still stand today in warning to others.
Avebury Henge, located near the village of Avebury in Wiltshire County, England, is actually a part of a huge collection of megalithic monuments, which includes West Kennet Long Barrow (a large, long burial mound surrounded with huge stones) and Silbury Hill, which, added in with the others, may have had some religious or ritualistic significance. It is also very close to Stonehenge, the driving distance is less than forty miles.
Avebury Henge's construction may have begun as early as 2600 BC and is comprised of three separate but distinctly related stone circles - two smaller circles contained by a larger one. Over the centuries, some of the stones belonging to Avebury Henge have either been moved or destroyed intentionally, although we can now make a virtual map of where they all once stood and some of the site has been reconstructed.
Avebury Henge is not only the largest still standing stone circle of its type and age in Europe but it is also still used as a site of religious significance by local pagans, though we will likely never know what its original use was.
The Almendres Cromlech, near Nossa Senhora de Guadalupe, Portugal, is another circle of prehistoric stones. Construction began at this site as early as 6000 BC, making it one of the oldest Neolithic (New Stone Age, from 10,200 BC to 200 BC) sites ever discovered.
Consisting now of about 95 large stones, called monoliths, this site saw at least four different and major construction periods that changed the face and shape of the monument. Some of the monoliths do have traces of carvings on them, and some believe the site may have had astrological significance.
One of the primary differences between the Almendres Cromlech and other megalithic sites is the Almendres Menhir. This solitary monolith stands about thirteen feet high and, although distinctly separate from the Cromlech complex, it does align roughly with it at the winter solstice.