Saturday, March 02, 2019

The Origin of Europe's Megaliths: PNAS: New Calibrated Radiocarbon Dates by Paulsson and their Interpretation

The radiocarbon dating of megalithic sites has been analyzed in a recent article published at PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America) by Bettina Schulz Paulsson titled Radiocarbon dates and Bayesian modeling support maritime diffusion model for megaliths in Europe. PNAS published ahead of print February 11, 2019 We quote "the Significance" and "the Abstract" from that article below:
"For thousands of years, prehistoric societies built monumental grave architecture and erected standing stones in the coastal regions of Europe (4500–2500 calibrated years BC). Our understanding of the rise of these megalithic societies is contentious and patchy; the origin for the emergence of megalithic architecture in various regions has been controversial and debated for over 100 y. The result presented here, based on analyses of 2,410 radiocarbon dates and highly precise chronologies for megalithic sites and related contexts, suggests maritime mobility and intercultural exchange. We argue for the transfer of the megalithic concept over sea routes emanating from northwest France, and for advanced maritime technology and seafaring in the megalithic Age.

There are two competing hypotheses for the origin of megaliths in Europe. The conventional view from the late 19th and early 20th centuries was of a single-source diffusion of megaliths in Europe from the Near East through the Mediterranean and along the Atlantic coast. Following early radiocarbon dating in the 1970s, an alternative hypothesis arose of regional independent developments in Europe. This model has dominated megalith research until today. We applied a Bayesian statistical approach to 2,410 currently available radiocarbon results from megalithic, partly premegalithic, and contemporaneous nonmegalithic contexts in Europe to resolve this long-standing debate. The radiocarbon results suggest that megalithic graves emerged within a brief time interval of 200 y to 300 y in the second half of the fifth millennium calibrated years BC in northwest France, the Mediterranean, and the Atlantic coast of Iberia. We found decisive support for the spread of megaliths along the sea route in three main phases. Thus, a maritime diffusion model is the most likely explanation of their expansion."
Paulsson's article was reported in the New York Times on February 11, 2019 by James Gorman in Ancient European Stone Monuments Said to Originate in Northwest France. It took us a few weeks to pen an appropriate review of the article, which began with our previous posting on the Abydos Boats, by our prelude to this posting in our previous posting, and will be followed by other postings and decipherments that have been long slumbering on our hard disk, awaiting the right moment, which now appears to have arrived. The reader might find it useful to read the postings in their relation to the present material.

We are pleased that Paulsson has spent so much time and effort researching megalithic sites, so that articles such as hers are to be encouraged, especially since they deal with seminal questions of the chronological dating of megalithic era construction. 

Regrettably, mainstream Archaeology and its related disciplines generally deal with megalithic evidentiary data in a very subjective way, usually one that fits prevailing schools of thought -- weak paradigms that we have found in our 40-year-long megalithic research to be largely false or misleading.

We are very sympathetic to Paulsson's approach and agree that there were likely several "waves" of maritime megalithic builders, albeit for other reasons than mainstream dogma would have us believe, and we explain that it detail below. Paulsson writes [see the blocked text]:
"The result presented here, based on analyses of 2,410 radiocarbon dates and highly precise chronologies for megalithic sites and related contexts, suggests maritime mobility and intercultural exchange. We argue for the transfer of the megalithic concept over sea routes emanating from northwest France, and for advanced maritime technology and seafaring in the megalithic Age." [emphasis added by the Ancient World Blog]
We are not against Paulsson's main conclusions in principle, but so-called "highly precise chronologies" in Archaeology have for decades left too much leeway ("wiggle room"), so that claims of preciseness in mainstream chronologies are suspect. Paulsson's article is an excellent step in the right direction, but much more needs to be done in rolling back the clock and getting a clearer, more accurate picture of the past.

Agreement with the basic conclusion that megalithic sites were initially spread by ancient seafarers does not resolve the core issue of ultimate origin, either as to geographic location or as to the purposes of megalithic construction.

Such an "original" location for the seafaring-spread of megalithic culture should be verified by in situ ancient boatbuilding and megalithic know-how evidence.  The unique Abydos Boats of Ancient Egypt are one example of this, as we think they were buried "royally" to honor the Minyans who went out "to measure" the sky of stars, as related in the Book of Enoch, Chapter 61. LXI. Angels go off to measure Paradise: the Judgement of the Righteous by the Elect One: the Praise of the Elect One and of God.

The Book of Enoch was historically -- and erroneously -- left out of the Bible. We say erroneously, because ten fragments of the Book of Enoch were found in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Here is what the Book of Enoch tells us about the northward bound "angels [of the sky, viz. winds]" (i.e. surely sailing vessels) who went out to measure "Paradise" (i.e. heaven) via cords:
"1. And in those days, I saw long cords given to those Angels and they acquired wings for themselves, and flew, and went towards the north.

2. And I asked the Angel, saying: “Why did these take the long cords, and go?” And he said to me: “They went so that they may measure.”

3. And the Angel who went with me, said to me: “These will bring the measurements of the righteous, and the ropes of the righteous, to the righteous, that they may rely on the name of the Lord of Spirits for ever and ever."

4. The chosen will begin to dwell with the chosen, and these measurements will be given to faith, and will strengthen righteousness.

5. And these measurements will reveal all the secrets of the depths of the Earth, and those who were destroyed by the desert, and those who were devoured by the fish of the sea, and by animals, that they may return and rely on the Day of the Chosen One. For no one will be destroyed in front of the Lord of Spirits, and no one can be destroyed."
We suggest that these were hermetic measurements, "as above, so below", applying the readily visible plan of the stars of heaven to a measured map of the earth, and related to astronomically visible changes in the seasonal position of the stars as caused by Precession of the Equinoxes.

Can we tell when such measurements were anciently made?

Paulsson's article relies on so-called calibrated radiocarbon dating ("cal BC"), which starts out with the measurement of C14 in biological specimens. Since C14 is created by cosmic radiation and varies from year to year, straight radiocarbon dating of ancient specimens is not "highly precise". Rather, science tries to "calibrate" the C14 radiocarbon data with dendrochronologically  (tree-ring) derived more exact "calendar dates". A date that integrates the abbreviation "cal BC" gives the number of calibrated years "before Christ". It is better than straight BC, but not perfect.

The most understandable explanation we have found online about radiocarbon calibration is by David Thulman, an environmental attorney with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, who writes at the pages of the Florida Museum of Natural History about radiocarbon dating calibration as follows:
"As Mary Hudson explained in her Aucilla River Times article two years ago, C14 is created by cosmic radiation in the upper atmosphere. That radiation fluctuates year to year and therefore so does the creation of C14 . That means if [a tree] branch grew at a time when relatively lower levels of C14 were in the atmosphere, it would have less C14 when it died and would show an older apparent age than it should. Conversely, if it grew at a time of abundant C14 it would appear younger than it should. This differential C14 concentration may give [a tree] branch a younger C14 age than another branch that died hundreds of years after our branch, making comparison of the two samples misleading.

The only way to resolve this uncertainty is to calibrate the C14 dates with calendar dates. This calibration has been done by compiling a dendrochronological (tree-ring) record and painstakingly figuring the C14 age of these tree rings. This tree-ring record now extends back about 11,500 years, and by comparing the calendar age of the tree rings with their radiocarbon age, calibration curves have been created to produce a calendar date for a corresponding C14 date. The differential production of C14 produces “wiggles” in the calibration curves, and these wiggles can result in a single radiocarbon age corresponding to more than one calendar age.
Carbon 14 dating has revolutionized archaeology by providing a method for dating events and allowing the comparison of events where previously their relative ages could only be indirectly inferred. However, it should be used with caution. Hopefully, even with its limitations, it will help us better understand the relation of our sites to the broader context of Paleoindian archaeology." [emphasis and block texts added]
There are thus no really "highly precise chronologies" yet available based on radiocarbon dating. Too much subjective input goes into interpretation of the data. Indeed, dates continue to be given in plus/minus year notation, leaving a lot of room for differences of opinion and varied interpretations.

Moreover, when megaliths of stone are chronologically dated, calibrated radiocarbon dating relies on INDIRECT evidence obtained from nearby biological environments, e.g. wood ashes from neighboring ancient hearths, which provide data that reflect fragile constructs perhaps best be described as "educated approximations". For example, wood ashes from a prehistoric nearby campfire may have been made by the megalith builders in their era, or not at all by them, but by other folks -- even in a different unrelated era. You can't just assume that the ancient hearth ash that you have found stems from the megalith makers.

We analyzed Paulsson's cal BC dates using regional location-specific averages of the maximum and minimum date extremes, which reduces the magnitude of the size of the dating spread. This method in fact leads to geographically proximate dates that appear to be virtually contemporaneous in time, as we have already shown in our prelude posting.

Paulsson's article also -- if unavoidably for a mainstream academic -- integrates mainstream archaeologcial megalithic conclusions of fact that beg the main questions of the nature and meaning of ancient megaliths and megalithic sites.

Mainstream Archaeology assumes (and thus begs the question):
(1) that megaliths and megalithic sites mark ancient tombs, even though ancient remains found at megalithic sites may simply be sacrificial or similar ritual interments at the time of construction and/or may stem from later burials by people who did not build the megalithic sites. That large stones were used for tombs in ancient times, which can not really be doubted, is no proof that true "megalithic sites", stone circles and the like, were of a funerary nature;
(2) that megaliths were "spread" over time by so-called "cultural diffusion", rather than being built in relatively concurrent eras of construction for a common purpose having nothing to do with cultural technology transfer as such.

As we have long alleged, it is our opinion -- and it is an alternative explanation that must be examined by serious researchers -- that megalithic sites were never originally tombs as such, nor were they "spread" by "cultural diffusion" in the sense of the general geographic spread of pottery.

Rather, we allege that megalithic sites were intentionally erected in a massive more-or-less immovable magnitude of scale at fixed locations and more-or-less concurrent times, to act as landmarks sited by astronomy and to function for calendric calculation and recordation of important astronomical parameters, especially Precession of the Equinoxes based on the Earth's  "Axial Precession".

Most prehistoric megalithic sites -- in our opinion -- serve to landmark astronomical viz. calendric eras or locations. That is why the ancients undertook the otherwise unnecessary and logistically difficult transport of gigantic multi-ton megaliths over immense distances, for ultimate more-or-less "immovable" placement at previously selected "sites", where "standing stones", stone circles, dolmens, tumuli, and similar were "sited" by astronomy and left for posterity as geographic landmarks, territorial border stones and calendric calculating markers.

Apparent "differences" in the age of similarly dated megalithic sites may thus be more a function of the vagaries of calibrated radiocarbon dating, rather than an indicator of any great actual difference in the age of construction of the sites. That is why our "averaging" method for the dates leads to a closer confluence of dates in selected geographic regions

Similarly, we allege that any new later "wave" of megalithic construction is separated by hundreds of years from the previous wave of construction and reflects changes in the astronomical landscape as caused by precession of the equinoxes, as caused by the cycle of the wobble of the earth in its rotation.

One such main cycle that we see in the megalithic data is ca. 1440 years (= 20 cycles of 72 years) which is close to the Dynastic Egyptian "Sothic Cycle" of 1460 years, which the Egyptians allegedly tied to their observations of the position of the star Sirius in the sky. However, the Sothic Year need not be seen as unique to Sirius. The entire heaven of stars for any given day of the year returns to the same position on the same day of the year in approximately 1440 viz. 1460 years, depending on the calendration used. Moderns place one full round of precession at 25920 years, whereas the ancients seem to have used a figure of 25800 years.
Precession moves star positions 1 degree every 72 years. This apparent movement of the stars over long periods of time permits star-based calendration. Hence, 360 such periods of 72 years equals 25920 years, the anciently calculated period of one full round of precession of the stars in the sky, which is visible as the gradual and constant change of the position of the Celestial North Pole Star. 12960 years ago (i.e. one half of the full precessional "round" of 25920 years), the celestial North Pole Star was located near Vega in Lyra. To obtain knowledge of such phenomena, prehistoric stargazers must already have been watching the stars for many millennia prior to the megalithic era. For details, see Jim Wakefield and Precession of the Equinox.

We think the ancients used precessionally-based "star" knowledge to keep track of time in the stars over longer eras, and we have previously tried to explain how this was done in the case of Pharaoh Khasekhemwy (Chasechemui) at our posting on Khasekhemwy and Pharaonic Calendar Reform in 2638 BC, where we claim that a 120-day calendric reform was made in the 480th year after 479 elapsed years of dynastic pharaonic Egypt (the elapsed years are represented as vanquished enemies at the foot of Khasekhemy's statue) -- based on a then posited starting date of 3117 BC, i.e. ca. 240 years after 3360 BC.

Our research suggests that the astronomical time formula used by the ancients involved 54 such cycles of 480 years viz. 108 such cycles of 240 years  = 25920 years. The elapse of 480 years (rather than the use of e.g. 360 years) was arguably used by the Pharaohs because, just as we modernly insert a leap year every four years, the elapse of 480 years corresponded to a "leap year" correction of 120 calendric days, i.e. 4 months of 30 days in the annual Egyptian Civil Calender. The early Pharaonic Egyptians used a calendar of only 3 seasons at that time -- seasons that were guided by the flooding of the Nile -- so that 480 years was an ideal period for calendric reform, corresponding to an adjustment of 120 days in the 3-season civil calender -- thus once more bringing actual seasons and the civil calender into proper astronomical and seasonal sync.

Let us now ask a question about the calibrated radiocarbon dating of the megalithic data that Paulsson has published. Was calendar reform at the root of the megalithic era's astronomical measurement of the 480-year cycle (or in some cases perhaps a 240-year cycle) based on axial precession in the stars? Is that what is shown in Paulsson's data?

Let us start -- for the sake of argument -- with a starting calendar date of 4320 BC which is 3 x 1440 years (some will claim we should use 1460 years) of stars returning exactly to the same position in the sky on the same calendric date.

Let us assume that such a starting date (here idealized, for it could be another similar date such as 4380 BC, i.e. 3 x 1460 years) marked the beginning of megalithic site construction in Europe -- stone circles, standing stones, dolmens, tumuli, cairns, megaliths and more, most of which -- in our opinion -- were built for purposes of  star-based calendration and recordation and (ultimately) for Earth-based land survey in the hermetic tradition, i.e. "as above, so below". The Sky was not only being stargazed for purposes of calendration but also was a ready, always present heavenly map that could easily be used to mirror-map the Earth. The megaliths thus also marked territorial human borders
This posting is continued in the next posting due to the several images, at

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Sky Earth Native America

Sky Earth Native America 1:
American Indian Rock Art Petroglyphs Pictographs
Cave Paintings Earthworks & Mounds as Land Survey & Astronomy
Volume 1, Edition 2, 266 pages, by Andis Kaulins.

  • Sky Earth Native America 2:
    American Indian Rock Art Petroglyphs Pictographs
    Cave Paintings Earthworks & Mounds as Land Survey & Astronomy
    Volume 2, Edition 2, 262 pages, by Andis Kaulins.

  • Both volumes have the same cover except for the labels "Volume 1" viz. "Volume 2".
    The image on the cover was created using public domain space photos of Earth from NASA.


    Both book volumes contain the following basic book description:
    "Alice Cunningham Fletcher observed in her 1902 publication in the American Anthropologist
    that there is ample evidence that some ancient cultures in Native America, e.g. the Pawnee in Nebraska,
    geographically located their villages according to patterns seen in stars of the heavens.
    See Alice C. Fletcher, Star Cult Among the Pawnee--A Preliminary Report,
    American Anthropologist, 4, 730-736, 1902.
    Ralph N. Buckstaff wrote:
    "These Indians recognized the constellations as we do, also the important stars,
    drawing them according to their magnitude.
    The groups were placed with a great deal of thought and care and show long study.
    ... They were keen observers....
    The Pawnee Indians must have had a knowledge of astronomy comparable to that of the early white men."
    See Ralph N. Buckstaff, Stars and Constellations of a Pawnee Sky Map,
    American Anthropologist, Vol. 29, Nr. 2, April-June 1927, pp. 279-285, 1927.
    In our book, we take these observations one level further
    and show that megalithic sites and petroglyphic rock carving and pictographic rock art in Native America,
    together with mounds and earthworks, were made to represent territorial geographic landmarks
    placed according to the stars of the sky using the ready map of the starry sky
    in the hermetic tradition, "as above, so below".
    That mirror image of the heavens on terrestrial land is the "Sky Earth" of Native America,
    whose "rock stars" are the real stars of the heavens, "immortalized" by rock art petroglyphs, pictographs,
    cave paintings, earthworks and mounds of various kinds (stone, earth, shells) on our Earth.
    These landmarks were placed systematically in North America, Central America (Meso-America) and South America
    and can to a large degree be reconstructed as the Sky Earth of Native America."

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