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Stone circle

This article is about ancient megalithic stone circles. For other uses, see Stone circle (disambiguation).

A stone circle is a circular alignment of standing stones. They are commonly found across Northern Europe and Great Britain, and typically date from the Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age eras, with most concentrations appearing from 3000 BC. The best known examples include those at the henge monument at Avebury, the Rollright Stones, and elements within the ring of standing stones at Stonehenge. Ancient stone circles appear throughout Europe, with many existing in the Pyrenees, on the Causse de Blandas in southern France in the Cevennes, in the Alps, and Bulgaria.

Swinside stone circle, England

Stone circles are usually grouped in terms of the shape and size of the stones, the span of their radius, and their population within the local area. Although many theories have been advanced to explain their use, usually related to providing a setting for ceremony or ritual, there is no consensus among archaeologists as to their intended function. Their construction often involved considerable communal effort, including specialist tasks such as planning, quarrying, transportation, laying the foundation trenches, and final construction.

Contents

There is growing evidence that megalithic constructions began as early as 5000 BC in northwestern France, and that the custom and techniques spread via sea routes throughout Europe and the Mediterranean region from there. The Carnac Stones in France are estimated to have been built around 4500 BC, and many of the formations include megalithic stone circles.

The earliest stone circles in England were erected 3000-2500 BC, during the Middle Neolithic (c. 3700–2500 BC). Around that time stone circles began to be built in the coastal and lowland areas towards the north of the United Kingdom. The Langdale axe industry in the Lake District appears to have been an important early centre for circle building, perhaps because of its economic power.[citation needed] Many had closely set stones, perhaps similar to the earth banks of henges; others were made from boulders placed stably on the ground rather than standing stones held erect by a foundation trench. Recent research shows that two oldest stone circles in Britain (Stenness and Callanish) were constructed to align with solar and lunar positions.

Some sites do not contain evidence of human dwelling.[citation needed] This suggests that stone circles were constructed for ceremonies. The variety of the stones excludes the possibility that they had astronomical observation purposes of any precision.[citation needed]

Sometimes a stone circle is found in association with a burial pit or burial chamber, but the great majority of these monuments have no such association.[citation needed]

Recumbent and axial stone circle

Easter Aquhorthies recumbent stone circle near Inverurie, Aberdeenshire, Scotland
Dunnideer recumbent stone circle near Insch, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

Recumbent stone circles are a variation containing a single large stone placed on its side. The stones are often ordered by height, with the tallest being the portals, with gradually reducing heights around each side of the circle, down to the recumbent stone, which is the lowest. The type is found throughout the British Isles and Brittany, with 71 examples in Scotland, and at least 20 in south-west Ireland. In the latter nation they are generally called axial stone circles, including Drombeg stone circle near Rosscarbery, County Cork.

Scottish recumbent circles are usually flanked by the two largest of the standing stones immediately on either side. These are known as 'flankers'. The stones are commonly graded in height with the lowest stones being diametrically opposite to the tall flankers. It is fairly common for the circle to contain a ring cairn and cremation remains.

Irish axial stone circles are found in Cork and Kerry counties. These do not have tall flanking stones on either side of the recumbent stone. Instead, there are two tall stones at the side of the circle opposite the recumbent stone. These are known as 'portals', as they form an entrance into the circle. Often the portals are turned so that their flat sides face each other, rather than facing into the centre of the circle.

Concentric stone circle

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A concentric stone circle is a type of prehistoric monument consisting of a circular or oval arrangement of two or more stone circles set within one another. They were in use from the late Neolithic to the end of the early Bronze Age and are found in England and Scotland.

Cobble pavements have been found in the centre of many examples. Connected features at some sites include central mounds, outlying standing stones, and avenues or circular banks on which the stones are set. Alternatively, they may be replicas of earlier timber circles rebuilt in stone, especially the examples in Wessex.

A funerary purpose is thought likely, especially by Aubrey Burl. He thinks that such sites in Cumbria are analogous to the kerbs that surround some chamber tombs. Burials have been found at all excavated concentric stone circles: both inhumations and cremations. The burnt remains have been found either within an urn or placed directly in the earth.

Further information: List of stone circles

Megalithic monuments are found in especially great number on the European Atlantic fringe and in the British Isles.

Britain and Ireland

Cornish stone circle
Drombeg stone circle, County Cork, Ireland
Stone circle at the Carrigagulla complex, County Cork, Ireland

There are approximately 1,300 stone circles in Britain and Ireland. Experts disagree as to whether the construction of megaliths in England was independently developed or imported from mainland Europe.

A 2019 comprehensive radiocarbon dating study of megalithic structures across Europe and the British Isles concluded that construction techniques were spread to other communities via sea routes, starting from northwestern France. In contrast, the French archaeologist Jean-Pierre Mohen in his book Le Monde des Megalithes has written that the British Isles are

"outstanding in the abundance of standing stones, and the variety of circular architectural complexes of which they formed a part ... strikingly original, they have no equivalent elsewhere in Europe – strongly supporting the argument that the builders were independent."

Some theories suggest that invaders from Brittany may have been responsible for constructing Stonehenge

Although stone circles are widely distributed across the island, Ireland has two main concentrations: in the Cork/Kerry area and in mid-Ulster. The latter typically consist of a greater number of small stones, usually 0.3 m high, and are often found in upland areas and on sites that also contain a stone alignment. The Cork–Kerry stone circles tend to be more irregular in shape, and with larger, but fewer and more widely spaced, orthostats around the axial stone.

Continental Europe

Examples can be found throughout much of Continental Europe, from the Black Sea to Brittany. Locations in France include several in Brittany (two on the island of Er Lannic and two more suggested at Carnac), several in the south of France on the Causse de Blandas in the Cevennes, in the Pyrenees and in the Alps (e.g. the Petit Saint Bernard). One notable stone circle is in the Italian Alps. As early as 1579, scholars in Germany described large erect stone circles near Ballenstedt. In 2001 a stone circle (Beglik Tash) was discovered in Bulgaria near the Black Sea.

There are several examples in the Alentejo region of Portugal, the oldest and most complete being the Almendres Cromlech, near the regional capital of Évora and within its municipality. Remains of many others consist only of the central anta (as they are known in the Alentejo). This sometimes appears to be used as an altar but more often as a central burial structure, originally surrounded by megaliths that have only sparsely survived erosion and human activities.

These circles are also known as harrespil in the Basque country, where villagers call them mairu-baratz or jentil-baratz, meaning "pagan garden (cemetery)". They refer to mythological giants of the pre-Christian era. No example has survived in a good state of preservation, but, like the Alentejo, the Basque Country is dotted with eroded and vandalized examples of many such structures.

Horn of Africa

Ancient stone circles are found throughout the Horn of Africa. Booco in northeastern Somalia contains a number of such old structures. Small stone circles here surround two enclosed platform monuments, which are set together. The circles of stone are believed to mark associated graves.

At Emba Derho in the Ethiopian and Eritrean highlands, two kinds of megalithic circles are found. The first type consists of single stone circles, whereas the second type comprises an inner circle enclosed within a larger circle (i.e. double stone circles).

Footnotes

  1. Richards, Colin. Building the Great Stone Circles of the North. Windgather Press, 2013. pp. 3-4
  2. Paulsson, B. Schulz (February 26, 2019). "Radiocarbon dates and Bayesian modeling support maritime diffusion model for megaliths in Europe". PNAS. 116 (9): 3460–3465. doi:10.1073/pnas.1813268116. PMC6397522. PMID 30808740.
  3. Grossman, David (February 12, 2019). "Stonehenge Might Have Its Roots with Ancient Sailors from France". Popular Mechanics.
  4. Annick Jacq. "Carnac". Bretagne-celtic.com. Archived from the original on 2012-02-04. Retrieved2009-05-05.
  5. "New research reveals the 'spectacular' secrets of Britain's earliest stone circles". The Independent. August 20, 2016.
  6. "The Strange Origin of Scotland's Stone Circles". BBC. 12 October 2012.
  7. Burl, Aubrey (1995). A Guide to the Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany. Yale University Press.
  8. Welfare, Adam (2011). Great Crowns of Stone: The Recumbent Stone Circles of Scotland(PDF). Edinburgh: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. p. 271.
  9. Aubrey Burl. "The Megalith Map". Archived from the original on 2006-09-28. Retrieved2006-09-22.
  10. Burl, Aubrey (2000).The Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany. New Haven: Yale University Press. p. 5. The Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany.
  11. "France's new Stonehenge: Secrets of a neolithic time machine". The Independent. July 31, 2006.
  12. Murphy (1997), p.27
  13. "Le circuit des Mégalithes".
  14. "Lacam de Peyrarines". The Megalithic Portal.
  15. "Senescau Cromlech". The Megalithic Portal.
  16. "Cromlech - Regione Autonoma Valle d'Aosta". www.regione.vda.it.
  17. Jan Albert Bakker (2010). Megalithic Research in the Netherlands, 1547-1911: From "giant's Beds" and "pillars of Hercules" to Accurate Investigations. Sidestone Press. p. 47. ISBN 978-90-8890-034-1.
  18. "Thracian Cromlech (Stone Circle) - Staro Zhelezare, Bulgaria".
  19. Hussein Mohamed Adam (1992). Charles Lee Geshekter (ed.). The Proceedings of the First International Congress of Somali Studies – Somali Studies International Association. Scholars Press. pp. 37, 40. ISBN 0891306587. Retrieved9 November 2014.
  20. Institut für Afrikanistik und Aẗhiopistik – Universität Hamburg (2004). Aethiopica: International Journal of Ethiopian Studies. 7–8. Harrassowitz Verlag. p. 27. Retrieved1 January 2015.

Sources

Further reading

Wikimedia Commons has media related toStone circles.

Stone circle
Stone circle Language Watch Edit This article is about ancient megalithic stone circles For other uses see Stone circle disambiguation A stone circle is a circular alignment of standing stones They are commonly found across Northern Europe and Great Britain and typically date from the Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age eras with most concentrations appearing from 3000 BC The best known examples include those at the henge monument at Avebury the Rollright Stones and elements within the ring of standing stones at Stonehenge Ancient stone circles appear throughout Europe with many existing in the Pyrenees on the Causse de Blandas in southern France in the Cevennes in the Alps and Bulgaria Swinside stone circle England Bryn Cader Faner North Wales Stone circles are usually grouped in terms of the shape and size of the stones the span of their radius and their population within the local area Although many theories have been advanced to explain their use usually related to providing a setting for ceremony or ritual there is no consensus among archaeologists as to their intended function Their construction often involved considerable communal effort including specialist tasks such as planning quarrying transportation laying the foundation trenches and final construction 1 Contents 1 Dates and archaeology 2 Variants 2 1 Recumbent and axial stone circle 2 2 Concentric stone circle 3 Distribution 3 1 Britain and Ireland 3 2 Continental Europe 3 3 Horn of Africa 4 References 4 1 Footnotes 4 2 Sources 4 3 Further reading 5 External linksDates and archaeology EditThere is growing evidence that megalithic constructions began as early as 5000 BC in northwestern France 2 and that the custom and techniques spread via sea routes throughout Europe and the Mediterranean region from there 2 3 The Carnac Stones in France are estimated to have been built around 4500 BC 4 and many of the formations include megalithic stone circles The earliest stone circles in England were erected 3000 2500 BC 5 during the Middle Neolithic c 3700 2500 BC Around that time stone circles began to be built in the coastal and lowland areas towards the north of the United Kingdom The Langdale axe industry in the Lake District appears to have been an important early centre for circle building perhaps because of its economic power citation needed Many had closely set stones perhaps similar to the earth banks of henges others were made from boulders placed stably on the ground rather than standing stones held erect by a foundation trench Recent research shows that two oldest stone circles in Britain Stenness and Callanish were constructed to align with solar and lunar positions 5 6 Some sites do not contain evidence of human dwelling citation needed This suggests that stone circles were constructed for ceremonies The variety of the stones excludes the possibility that they had astronomical observation purposes of any precision citation needed Sometimes a stone circle is found in association with a burial pit or burial chamber but the great majority of these monuments have no such association citation needed Variants EditRecumbent and axial stone circle Edit Easter Aquhorthies recumbent stone circle near Inverurie Aberdeenshire Scotland Dunnideer recumbent stone circle near Insch Aberdeenshire Scotland Main articles Recumbent stone circle and Axial stone circle Recumbent stone circles are a variation containing a single large stone placed on its side The stones are often ordered by height with the tallest being the portals with gradually reducing heights around each side of the circle down to the recumbent stone which is the lowest 7 The type is found throughout the British Isles and Brittany with 71 examples in Scotland 8 and at least 20 in south west Ireland In the latter nation they are generally called axial stone circles including Drombeg stone circle near Rosscarbery County Cork Scottish recumbent circles are usually flanked by the two largest of the standing stones immediately on either side These are known as flankers The stones are commonly graded in height with the lowest stones being diametrically opposite to the tall flankers It is fairly common for the circle to contain a ring cairn and cremation remains Irish axial stone circles are found in Cork and Kerry counties These do not have tall flanking stones on either side of the recumbent stone Instead there are two tall stones at the side of the circle opposite the recumbent stone These are known as portals as they form an entrance into the circle Often the portals are turned so that their flat sides face each other rather than facing into the centre of the circle Concentric stone circle Edit This section does not cite any sources Please help improve this section by adding citations to reliable sources Unsourced material may be challenged and removed August 2011 Learn how and when to remove this template message A concentric stone circle is a type of prehistoric monument consisting of a circular or oval arrangement of two or more stone circles set within one another They were in use from the late Neolithic to the end of the early Bronze Age and are found in England and Scotland Cobble pavements have been found in the centre of many examples Connected features at some sites include central mounds outlying standing stones and avenues or circular banks on which the stones are set Alternatively they may be replicas of earlier timber circles rebuilt in stone especially the examples in Wessex A funerary purpose is thought likely especially by Aubrey Burl He thinks that such sites in Cumbria are analogous to the kerbs that surround some chamber tombs Burials have been found at all excavated concentric stone circles both inhumations and cremations The burnt remains have been found either within an urn or placed directly in the earth Distribution EditFurther information List of stone circles Megalithic monuments are found in especially great number on the European Atlantic fringe and in the British Isles 9 Britain and Ireland Edit Cornish stone circle Drombeg stone circle County Cork Ireland Stone circle at the Carrigagulla complex County Cork Ireland There are approximately 1 300 stone circles in Britain and Ireland 10 Experts disagree as to whether the construction of megaliths in England was independently developed or imported from mainland Europe A 2019 comprehensive radiocarbon dating study of megalithic structures across Europe and the British Isles concluded that construction techniques were spread to other communities via sea routes starting from northwestern France 3 2 In contrast the French archaeologist Jean Pierre Mohen in his book Le Monde des Megalithes has written that the British Isles are outstanding in the abundance of standing stones and the variety of circular architectural complexes of which they formed a part strikingly original they have no equivalent elsewhere in Europe strongly supporting the argument that the builders were independent Some theories suggest that invaders from Brittany may have been responsible for constructing Stonehenge 11 Although stone circles are widely distributed across the island Ireland has two main concentrations in the Cork Kerry area and in mid Ulster The latter typically consist of a greater number of small stones usually 0 3 m high and are often found in upland areas and on sites that also contain a stone alignment The Cork Kerry stone circles tend to be more irregular in shape and with larger but fewer and more widely spaced orthostats around the axial stone 12 Continental Europe Edit Examples can be found throughout much of Continental Europe from the Black Sea to Brittany Locations in France include several in Brittany two on the island of Er Lannic and two more suggested at Carnac several in the south of France on the Causse de Blandas 13 14 in the Cevennes in the Pyrenees 15 and in the Alps e g the Petit Saint Bernard One notable stone circle is in the Italian Alps 16 As early as 1579 scholars in Germany described large erect stone circles near Ballenstedt 17 In 2001 a stone circle Beglik Tash was discovered in Bulgaria near the Black Sea There are several examples in the Alentejo region of Portugal the oldest and most complete being the Almendres Cromlech near the regional capital of Evora and within its municipality Remains of many others consist only of the central anta as they are known in the Alentejo This sometimes appears to be used as an altar but more often as a central burial structure originally surrounded by megaliths that have only sparsely survived erosion and human activities 18 These circles are also known as harrespil in the Basque country where villagers call them mairu baratz or jentil baratz meaning pagan garden cemetery They refer to mythological giants of the pre Christian era No example has survived in a good state of preservation but like the Alentejo the Basque Country is dotted with eroded and vandalized examples of many such structures Horn of Africa Edit Ancient stone circles are found throughout the Horn of Africa Booco in northeastern Somalia contains a number of such old structures Small stone circles here surround two enclosed platform monuments which are set together The circles of stone are believed to mark associated graves 19 At Emba Derho in the Ethiopian and Eritrean highlands two kinds of megalithic circles are found The first type consists of single stone circles whereas the second type comprises an inner circle enclosed within a larger circle i e double stone circles 20 References EditFootnotes Edit Richards Colin Building the Great Stone Circles of the North Windgather Press 2013 pp 3 4 a b c Paulsson B Schulz February 26 2019 Radiocarbon dates and Bayesian modeling support maritime diffusion model for megaliths in Europe PNAS 116 9 3460 3465 doi 10 1073 pnas 1813268116 PMC 6397522 PMID 30808740 a b Grossman David February 12 2019 Stonehenge Might Have Its Roots with Ancient Sailors from France Popular Mechanics Annick Jacq Carnac Bretagne celtic com Archived from the original on 2012 02 04 Retrieved 2009 05 05 a b New research reveals the spectacular secrets of Britain s earliest stone circles The Independent August 20 2016 The Strange Origin of Scotland s Stone Circles BBC 12 October 2012 Burl Aubrey 1995 A Guide to the Stone Circles of Britain Ireland and Brittany Yale University Press Welfare Adam 2011 Great Crowns of Stone The Recumbent Stone Circles of Scotland PDF Edinburgh Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland p 271 Aubrey Burl The Megalith Map Archived from the original on 2006 09 28 Retrieved 2006 09 22 Burl Aubrey 2000 The Stone Circles of Britain Ireland and Brittany New Haven Yale University Press p 5 The Stone Circles of Britain Ireland and Brittany France s new Stonehenge Secrets of a neolithic time machine The Independent July 31 2006 Murphy 1997 p 27 Le circuit des Megalithes Lacam de Peyrarines The Megalithic Portal Senescau Cromlech The Megalithic Portal Cromlech Regione Autonoma Valle d Aosta www regione vda it Jan Albert Bakker 2010 Megalithic Research in the Netherlands 1547 1911 From giant s Beds and pillars of Hercules to Accurate Investigations Sidestone Press p 47 ISBN 978 90 8890 034 1 Thracian Cromlech Stone Circle Staro Zhelezare Bulgaria Hussein Mohamed Adam 1992 Charles Lee Geshekter ed The Proceedings of the First International Congress of Somali Studies Somali Studies International Association Scholars Press pp 37 40 ISBN 0891306587 Retrieved 9 November 2014 Institut fur Afrikanistik und Aẗhiopistik Universitat Hamburg 2004 Aethiopica International Journal of Ethiopian Studies 7 8 Harrassowitz Verlag p 27 Retrieved 1 January 2015 Sources Edit Burl Aubrey 2000 The Stone Circles of Britain Ireland and Brittany New Haven and London Yale University Press ISBN 978 0 300 08347 7 Bradley Richard 1998 The Significance of Monuments On the Shaping of Human Experience in Neolithic and Bronze Age Europe London Routledge ISBN 978 0 415 15204 4 Childe V Gordon 1947 Prehistoric Communities of the British Isles second edition Glasgow and London Gilmour amp Dean Ltd Murphy Cornelius 1997 The Prehistoric Archaeology of the Beara Peninsula Co Cork Department of Archaeology University College Cork Thomas Julian 1999 Understanding the Neolithic London Routledge ISBN 978 0 415 20767 6 Further reading Edit Joanne Parker ed 2009 Written On Stone The Cultural Reception of British Prehistoric Monuments Cambridge Scholars ISBN 978 1 4438 1338 9 Ronald E Hicks 1981 Henges and stone circles ritual and archaeoastronomy archaeological research in Ireland and Great Britain External links EditWikimedia Commons has media related to Stone circles Wikisource has the text of The New Student s Reference Work article Stone Circles Beagmore Stone Circles Sperrin Mountains Ireland Cairnpapple West Lothian Scotland Dark Isle Stone Circles and Cairns of Scotland Interactive map of megalithic monuments in Europe The Megalith Map Pretanic World Megaliths and Monuments Stone circles of The Gambia Shap stone circles and standing stones Comprehensive Database of Archaeological Site Reports in Japan Retrieved from https en wikipedia org w index php title Stone circle amp oldid 1053523188, wikipedia, wiki, book,

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