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Dolmen Sites and the Enigmatic Megalithic Age

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JuMong View Drop Down

Joined: 08-Jul-2006
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  Quote JuMong Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Dolmen Sites and the Enigmatic Megalithic Age
    Posted: 18-Feb-2007 at 00:11
I think earliest Megalithism is from SW Iberia (southern Portugal), dating apparently to c. 4800 BCE. Now and then I see the same date for earliest French Megalithism (Brittany and nearby regions) but the more serious stuff I've read puts it acually c. 3800 BCE, one thousands year later (still the earliest outside of the nuclear Portuguese area). This French/Breton Megalithism also has some peculiarities not shared by the rest of Atlantic groups that rather follow the Portuguese model. It seems more "aristocratic" somehow.

The southern and central Portuguese region had recieved Neolithic tech (agriculture, pottery) only some two centuries before from nearby Andalusia, though it seems largely a local developement, being earliest Megalithism surely a byproduct of neolithization.

In the 4th milennium BCE Megaithism expands first by Atlantic Europe, whose peoples directly linked to Paleolithic ones, from Portugal to Southern Sweden. It's been speculated that cod-fishing activities may have helped this expansion, though probably the picture was complex.

In the 3rd milennium BCE (when ancient Egypt arises, to give a reference) the cultural landscape of Europe was pretty revolted with the arrival of the first Indo-Europeans (Kurgan peoples) and Megalithism found also its way into non-Atlantic non-IE peoples of the Mediterranean and Central Europe. It is then when the first known civilizations (cities) of Western Europe arise in Portugal and Southern Spain. These civilizations had commercial contacts from the Baltic to Africa, as its attested by their imports (sadly North African archaeology is kind of under-developed for this period).

C. 2400 BCE the Rhin stands as approximate border between IEs and Western Europeans. And would stay that way till c. 1300 BCE.

Already in the 2nd milennium BC, Megalithism starts receeding. The customs of individual burial (typical of IEs, specially) gain ground in some areas (parts of France and Mediterranean Iberia, in this case with clear Mycenaean influence) but remains strong in Atlantic Iberia and Britain.

Nevertheless by c. 1300 BCE (another very revolted period) the Iberian civilizations fall (totally or partly) and Celtic (IE) presence is clearly seen west of the Rhin. We can take this date as the line that marks the end of Western Megalithism, though it's possible that it still survived in some areas.


But then we have a second wave of Megalithism rather unexplained: since approximately this date, we see the Megalithic pehnomenon with its trilithes (dolmens), standing stones (menhirs) and stone rings (cromlechs) appear in Asia. First in places such as the Caucasus, later as far as India and Korea.

My personal impression is that some "religious" offshots of this Megalithism (that was strong in many Mediterranean regions) could have made their way, locally modified, to the East. But the pattern is not fully clear.

One thing seems certain Megalithism and Indo-European presence seem incompatible: it flourishes instead among peoples that were maybe in the border with with IEs, like Caucasians or Dravidians. In this sense I speculate it may have been adopted, among other reasons, because its "cult to the ancestors" may have given these peoples an element of identity against the pressure by the Indo-Europeans roaming from the steppes.

I wonder also if this expansion may have had any connection with the extension of Astrology and that of the svastika, symbol that (against the common perception) is most frequent among non-Indo-European cultures or lately indo-Europenized peoples. Still the connection is at least tenuous.


So yes, it's possible that the concept of Megalithism originated in Portugal and expanded from there, though beyond the Euro-Mediterranean area this link is diffuse, uncertain - yet the pattern is so strikingly simmilar that the link must at least be suspected.
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