CHAPTER 12

THE STONE CIVILIZATION

How is it that the very earliest constructions we have found in the ancient past used the largest blocks of stone, and as time went by humans came to use smaller and less substantial building materials? Said to pre-date the Egyptian pyramids is Stonehenge in England (discussed in my The Mysterious Cursus, chapter 4). There, the larger 'sarsen stones' each weighing about 25 tons, and capped with sarsen lintels each weighing about 7 tons, it's said were brought from the Marlborough Downs about 20 miles to the north of the Stonehenge site. The huge inner 'sarsen trilithons,' five pairs, had two great uprights, each weighing up to 45 tons with every pair capped by a massive lintel, and these also were somehow transported to the site. The smaller 'bluestones' came from the Prescelly mountains in Wales, and the 16 ft long sarsen 'altar' stone came from the shores of Milford Haven in Pembrokeshire, about 150 miles west in a straight line, (although a direct line by land was not feasible because of intervening rivers and bays). Some 25 miles north of the 'sarsen altar' stone original location appears to have been where the 'bluestones' came from. This site also was about 150 miles from Stonehenge by a direct line. All these stones and lintels were carefully dressed and secured with mortice and tenon jointing. It is apparent that whoever built Stonehenge was not concerned with logistical problems in transporting any amount of heavy material from a substantial distance, and chose what was best suited to the construction regardless of its original location. None of this fits with what our present day scholars tell us about the people who they say created this edifice: hunter-gatherers, herders, or early farmers. I submit there were skilled engineers and architects behind this project and many other massive constructions in the Stonehenge area. These professionals may have caused local inhabitants to do the labouring for them, but the purpose and use of the projects was not for the benefit of herders or farmers. Where we have a surviving written language we can prove this. The Egyptian pyramids were not built for the use of the general Egyptian population.

This same contemptuous disregard for distance is evident in the construction and siting of 'Le Grand Menhir Brisé' in what is now Brittany in north-west France. Weighing more than 300 tons it apparently came from about 50 miles away, (see my The Obelisk, chapter 9). Also in Brittany there are standing stones in rows stretching for about 2 miles ranging from short at one end to progressively taller at the other. In my Eden: Fact or Fantasy? we found 'standing stones' at Edirne, in Turkey, a few miles north-west of Istanbul. At Aksum, now in present day Ethiopia, in East Africa, is the largest known obelisk in the world, estimated to weigh about 500 tons. I discussed the origin and use of obelisks in my The Obelisk.

At Roknia in present day Algeria, north Africa, not far from the coast opposite the island of Sardinia, there are said by one authority to be about 1000 dolmens, and a site on the Web claims there are about 3000 dolmens in the general area. Here's a dolmen at Kilclooney, County Donegal in Ireland. You can't be more than about ten miles from the ocean anywhere in Donegal, which is at the northwestern tip of Ireland, protruding into the Atlantic:



This dolmen is not, I suggest, as primitive as it might appear at first glance. It's stood there for 4,500 years or so, which is more than we can say will happen to any of our Western civilization constructions. The builders seem to have had no problem getting the underside of the 'cap' or top stone parallel to the ground, and level. The top, sides, and underside all seem to have been properly dressed to remove bumps or irregularities. The only final adjustment was to trim the size of the smaller stone placed on the embedded stone at the left of the construction. This was done to make the base line horizontal. At the right it seems there was an intentional representation of some creature head, neck, eye and mouth. Being so close to the ocean some marine creature may have been intended. As the earth has been dug away to reveal the stone structure we have to imagine how it was originally, with only the capstone exposed, the rest being merely structural support. Apparently there are more than 150 dolmens still existing in Ireland.

The use of huge stones, called 'megaliths' (which means the same using two words from ancient Greek) dates from about 6500 years ago in Brittany, and dolmens, menhirs (single standing stones), long barrows, and constructions like Stonehenge and Callenish, were built during the next two thousand years in what is now the United Kingdom, Portugal, southern Spain, Scandinavia, the Shetland Islands, parts of Italy, Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily, Malta, and as mentioned previously, in Algeria, Ethiopia, and Turkey.

The truth is that we just don't know what was going on in the Stone Civilization, and such obvious mis-statements as to attribute all this work to farmers, hunter gatherers, herders, and fishermen just will not do. In subsequent world history there is no evidence whatever of these categories of human beings constructing major edifices of any kind. Whoever was responsible for and whoever made use of these henges, barrows, dolmens, and standing stones in arrays, for whatever purpose, had no problem moving the massive raw material over significant distances, and was equally at home on land or sea, as many islands are involved in the work and form part of the culture. For example, in Malta by about 4500 years ago a complex of huge stone 'temples' or megalithic buildings had been constructed. There are semi-circular rooms walled with stone slabs, professionally dressed and skilfully fitted together. I can tell you from personal experience that working in building construction with curves is quite difficult. There are at Malta carved stone benches laid on cement floors. The walls were plastered and had designs painted on them. Secret chambers were set into them. All this using huge blocks of stone.

Here are the plan views of some megaliths in Denmark, at Mols, Slots Bjerby, Stenstrup, Alsberg, and chambers in long mounds at Sonderholm and Gunderslevholm:



Here's a map showing some major megalithic constructions; #1 from Groningen in Holland, and #2-5 on the map from Germany. Also shown are plan style details, #2-4 from Holland (Schoonord, Havelte, Emmen), and #5-7 from Germany (Altendorf, Hiddingsen and Fritzlar):



Along the western coast of France, facing the Atlantic, there are some huge megaliths. At Tusson in Charente, there is a group of mounds, including three which are enormous. Le Gros Dognon is 50 m (492 ft) long. Another is La Motte-de-Puitaillé at Assais (Deux-Sèvres) which is 140 m (459 ft) long with a mound of three interpenetrating parts, surrounded by a wall, and 12 m (39 ft) high. Here's a schematic reconstruction of a so called 'passage grave' with a corbelled passage, Les Cous at Bazoges-en-Pareds (Vendèe), also in France:



We can understand the use of the term megalithic with one 'Angevin,' France, megalith at Bagneux, near Saumur. It stands in a courtyard where a 20th c. café used it as a dance hall. Its interior dimensions are 4.25m (14 ft) wide at the entrance, 5.4 m (18 ft) at the far end, and 17.3 m (58 ft) long, The slabs in this case came from several kilometres away. If it was originally enclosed in a mound it must have been an impressive sight.

There are many megaliths in southern Spain, near Seville, Cordova, Almeria and Cartagena.

Now let's look at this megalith, a dolmen in north-east China, said to be at Chou-Chou Che:



There are also megaliths at Satotabaru, Nagasaki, Japan, and in North and South Korea.

Back in the eastern Mediterranean area, there are many megalithic sites known as tholos (Greek for 'dome'); in Crete, continental Greece, the Cyclades, Euboia, the Ionian islands, and in Asia Minor. Here's a reconstruction of a typical tholos megalith:



And here's a map of the Red Sea area showing Ethiopia (and Aksum spelled Axoum), with some megalithic sites, including dolmens, marked on the map:



There are so-called 'chamber tombs' looking quite like the megalith we saw in China, but these are in the Near East at Ala-Safat, in Jordan. Moving further east, to the Caucasus, we find there are many more megalithic sites, one type of dolmen, the most widespread, is a rectangular shape whose vertical sections as well as the roof and often the base, each seem to be made of one monolithic slab, similar to the Chinese example we've seen. Many are in the Pchada valley.

In India, among the Khassia mountains, an area between the Assam valley and the plains of Sylhet, there are reported to be some flat megalithic constructions, for example, one 30 ft 10 inches by 10 ft and about 1 ft thick. There's another, 30 ft by 13 ft and 1 ft thick. 'They are frequently raised some height from the ground, and supported on massive monoliths or pillars.' In Tibet, near lake Pang-gong at Do-ring there are said to be alignments of standing stones in 18 parallel rows, ending in two concentric semi-circles of standing stones. At the centre is an 'altar made of three blocks.' There is a similar construction at Carnac, France, and at Mohamdid-al-Hamli in the Arab republic of Yemen.

There is apparently at least one 'chamber tomb' with a 'porthole slab' in Pakistan. Finally, in a totally different part of the world, here's a map of Meso-America showing the San Augustin area of Colombia, where there are more megaliths:



Here is one shown in reconstruction, plan, and elevation:



These Colombian megaliths are said to be much younger, between 4000 and 2600 years old. Even with those more recent dates, it's remarkable that most of the habitable world seems to have joined in what I have suggested we should call the Stone Civilization. How did newly established farmers and herders communicate this culture and its techniques so far apart, over land and sea? Before we discuss that, we should look more closely at the Carnac area in France, where it's said there are over 10,000 megalithic sites with some dating to 6500 years ago, and that we'll do in the next chapter.

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