Why are standing stones built in the west?
Just as different peoples live across Europe today, so were different parts of Europe settled by different peoples in the stone age.
The tribes or family groups who settled north-western Europe at the end of the last ice age are credited with building the standing stones and stone circles we know today.
Standing stones and stone circles are most commonly found in England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland and north-western France, all in north-western Europe. But that doesn't mean it's the only place they were built. Stones are also known from Italy, so I like to believe that we simply haven't found all of them.
The other option is, of course, that peoples in central, northern and eastern Europe had other ways to worship, record and predict events. And that building in stone is something that's simply unique to the people who moved to live in northern France and the British Isles.
Building stone circles such as Stonehenge
, or Avebury
, took not just a huge commitment, but also enormous amounts of time and resources.
We're not precisely sure which purpose the stones served, though there are plenty of ideas around. But one thing is certain: erecting the stones and stone circles was of great importance to the people of north-western Europe.
The people would have to be able to produce enough surplus food to support the builders throughout the year, so they would only have tried such a big building project for an important reason and once they were well established in their country.
So why were the stones built? We really don't know, but some interpretations are very creative. Were the stones landing platforms for alien space craft? Were they giant calendars used by priests to establish the new year and fix the beginnings of the seasons? Were they pathways into the next life? Or were they places of worship?
Nobody knows for certain. But the stones have intrigued us for centuries and will continue to do so for many centuries to come.