"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.
Tom Schumacher from Huntington Beach, CA on January 14, 2014:
Pretty amazing achievements considering the historical dates of when these stone formations where created. It does beg the question how many people where involved, how long it took, and how many injuries and deaths were attributed to the efforts. Voted up!
Ted from The World on January 13, 2014:
Have been to a few of these..Woodhenge is hilariously underwhelming..and the Stonehenge you see today is a Victorian interpretation as many of the stones were laying flat.. Just look at Constables paintings and it's very different.. Nice bit of research though.
Donna Campbell Smith from Central North Carolina on January 13, 2014:
I didn't know there were others besides Stonehenge. Very interesting.
Martin VK from Copenhagen, Denmark on January 13, 2014:
Thank you for this. I would really love to visit some of these places.
Suzette Walker from Taos, NM on January 13, 2014:
This is a fascinating, informative and interesting hub. I have heard of these different places in the British Isles and they are mysterious. It seems humans thousands of years ago knew much about science, the soltice, and how the light came and went when shining on these stones. Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge with us! That these mysteries still remain teaches us that we still don't know it all.
Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on January 13, 2014:
I've been watching some History Channel programs on these sites in addition to Stonehenge. Just amazing! Cannot even imagine how these were even constructed. They'd be a challenge with even today's power equipment. Congrats on a very interesting Hub of the Day!
CMHypno from Other Side of the Sun on January 13, 2014:
Interesting hub and thanks for the information. There are many theories as to why Stonehenge was erected, and the one I find the most intriguing is that it was an ancient healing centre. Many temples and sacred sites in the ancient world were also place people came for healing as well as to worship.
Skyler DeCristoforo from Olympia, WA on January 13, 2014:
These are absolutely incredible. Something that i would defiantly love to see in person. It really makes me wonder where these stone structures came from.
CJ Baker from Parts Unknown on January 13, 2014:
Congrats on the well deserved HOTD! A very informative read.
Paradise7 from Upstate New York on January 13, 2014:
Fascinating! To think of such major undertakings built 5,000 years ago and still extant today! We can only look in wonder and awe. I've read a bit on Stonehenge--one thing that wasn't mentioned here was an idea that the Druids used it for some of their rites. I don't know if Stonehenge might actually pre-date the Druids?
Ben Blackwell on January 13, 2014:
This is pretty interesting. Thinking about places like these give a certain feeling. Have you ever been to a place like Chichen Itza, or even a place like an old cemetery? Even though the former has many tourists, there is still a feeling of timelessness and solitude near and in such places.
Rasimo on January 13, 2014:
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“I know this goes without saying, but Stonehenge really was the most incredible accomplishment. It took five hundred men just to pull each sarsen, plus a hundred more to dash around positioning the rollers. Just think about it for a minute. Can you imagine trying to talk six hundred people into helping you drag a fifty-ton stone eighteen miles across the countryside and muscle it into an upright position, and then saying, 'Right, lads! Another twenty like that, plus some lintels and maybe a couple of dozen nice bluestones from Wales, and we can party!' Whoever was the person behind Stonehenge was one dickens of a motivator, I'll tell you that.”
― Bill Bryson, Notes from a Small Island
Donna Herron from USA on January 13, 2014:
I've always wanted to visit Stonehenge and see some other sites. Thanks for the additional information and photos. Very interesting. Congrats on your HOTD!
FlourishAnyway from USA on January 13, 2014:
This is a great hub. I enjoyed learning about these sites and have been lucky enough to visit Stonehenge and some megalithic sites in Ireland & Northern Ireland. Congratulations on HOTD! Voted up and more, plus pinning.
Joan Veronica Robertson from Concepcion, Chile on January 13, 2014:
Fantastic! I had read about them all but this Hub put it all together for me and the video is sensational! I love these topics and have read and written a lot about stone installations in South America (not megaliths though)
Carlo Giovannetti from Puerto Rico on January 13, 2014:
Interesting. I've always been curious about Stonehenge and similar sites. Voted Up and Interesting.
And congrats on HOTD!
Linda Bilyeu from Orlando, FL on January 13, 2014:
WTG Georgie with your HOTD!
cfin from The World we live in on January 13, 2014:
Glad to see this as hub of the day. Great work well done.
just helen from Dartmoor UK on January 13, 2014:
We live on Dartmoor where there are literally thousands of ancient relics, not only stone circles and rows, but whole bronze age villages!
But I have a theory about Stonehenge - it is an 18th century fake!!
Amanda Littlejohn on January 13, 2014:
Oh, that's a lovely hub and right up my street!
I've been to most of those sites - apart from the one in Portugal. My husband was a keen amateur historian and would-be archaeologist (although he worked in mental health) and we spent many happy times going to places like this. I can't match his encyclopaedic knowledge, alas, but I still enjoy reading about these things.
Great hub, nicely written and all. Thank you!
Georgie Lowery (author) from North Florida on January 11, 2013:
You could be right on the aliens thing. I believe that we will never have all the answers, anyway.
I had to look up the definition of Henge. You'd think I would have already done it for this Hub... LOL.
Thank you for the comments! :)
Rhys Baker from Peterborough, UK on January 11, 2013:
I love the fact that Stonehenge is not, in fact, an example of a henge!
Eric Dockett from USA on January 10, 2013:
Aliens. Whenever there isn't a clear reason for ancient people doing something amazing, I blame aliens. On the other hand, you'd think that beings who travel in spaceships over countless light years would have something better to teach us than interesting ways to stack rocks.
Seriously, though, this was a great hub, and I too learned I a thing or two.
cfin from The World we live in on January 10, 2013:
Very true Georgie. I actually have a hub on it because I am so interested in it. Also check out the hill of Tara :) But newgrange is just amazing. It lines up with the sun exactly at the brightests time of the year. It is older than the pyramids of Giza and a lot older than stone henge. It is also the oldest roofed structure in europe.
Georgie Lowery (author) from North Florida on January 10, 2013:
I don't know if lack of marketing is necessarily a bad thing. Some of these places are suffering because of the amount of traffic and what pretty much amounts to disrespectful tourists. I will check out the others, though. I love learning new things, even if they're really old. :)
cfin from The World we live in on January 10, 2013:
Check out Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth. I am of the opinion that they were probably built by the same pre celtic inhabitants of the region. There are many more tombs like newgrange that are much more extravagant than stonehenge. sadly, they are not marketed as well.
Georgie Lowery (author) from North Florida on January 10, 2013:
I'm one of those weird people that likes old stuff better than new stuff. I'm fascinated with history, especially pre-history. I'm glad you liked the Hub. :)
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on January 10, 2013:
I had no idea that all of these existed....I knew of Stonehenge of course, but you just educated the teacher. Well done Georgie!