I have just been watching the first episode of Sacred Wonders of Britain, and learned that the individual stones of the Standing Stones of Stenness are all very individual. Different sizes and shapes, but importantly quarried from individual places. It suggests that each village or family brought their own stone to the party. And that’s the earliest known stone circle…
Often rituals start out as having a functional meaning, and end up as just a representation. Perhaps stone circles began as a giant handshake of sweat and effort, and I can’t think of a better symbol of peace. If my forefather’s family or tribe put in thousands of hours of sweat labour to help create a monument of cooperation, who am I to to disrespect it with a minor disagreement. We still say today, written in stone, and I feel stone circles were originally a peace pact, a contract in stone.
With time the stone circle would have become more symbolic, and less actual. It perhaps became a symbol of a fraternity, even if all the stones came from the same quarry. The important aspect is that each stake-holding group took part in the build. This idea could even explain the pyramids of Egypt.
So it is possible that the celestial alignments of stone circles were secondary to the pact – someone suggested that all the effort could be used to create an extra, beneficial dimension to the circle.
I still can’t help but think that the driving force was the Mysterious Elders – who had an ulterior motive for uniting the locals.
It makes sense that funerary practices are associated with ancient circles, barrows and henges - the sites themselves represent the deeds of the forefathers set in stone. It is fitting to inter your loved ones in the same location.
So here is the hypothesis: megalithic structures are an embodiment of a peace pact between local groups. This idea is more feasible when you learn that the demise of megaliths coincides with the demise of peace.
Generalising in a major way, pre-2000 BC there was peace pretty much everywhere (there is only one known war before 2670 B.C.), and then with new technology wars became commonplace. Pre-300o megaliths were a major part of society, because they represented peace. But when weapons became easy to acquire, the ugly sides of humanity were launched. And megalithic structures faded away.
And of course Carnac - Local myth states that a Roman legion was on the march when the wizard Merlin turned them into stone. (Source: Ancient Mysteries). Sounds like an ideal representation of peace, when you consider that inactivity is hard to symbolise.