Stone Circles… They’ve been claimed to be practically everything under the sun; temples, druidic sites, dimensional portals, rotating death ray machines… Stonehenge has even been claimed to be the Garden of Eden for heaven’s sake. You name it, it has probably been suggested to be the reason for these prehistoric monuments littering the landscape. We can never truly know their purpose for certain, only make educated guesses and assumptions or failing that come up with some bat-shit insane theory. Now this may fall into the latter category, depending on your point of view. I have no proof of it other than the tenuous connection I outline below, but it is a suggestion worth a small consideration.
I was writing another article and as part of it the World War II memorial in Washington D.C got a mention. The monument is comprised of a fountain, around which are fifty six pillars and two arches as well as a wall where there is a star for each one hundred American fatalities. The pillars are representative of the fifty US states, five US dependencies and the District of Columbia and they are supposed to commemorate the men of that state or territory who died during the war. The two arches represent the two main theatres of the war- The Atlantic/European Theatre and the Pacific theatre. The most striking thing about the memorial, for me, is the way in which it is arranged. It’s constructed as an ellipse. It is almost, but not quite, a stone circle.
Then I happened to think of the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. It isn’t quite the same thing but the main memorial is a circular structure on top of a mound surrounded by a ring of trees. But look at the picture below. Does it remind you of anything? To me it bears some incredibly striking similarities to aerial views of Stonehenge, or any other stone circle for that matter.
Ok, so these are modern thing and there’s not much chance of people six thousand years ago thinking along the same lines as people today but the similarities raise something which I think is at least worth pondering over for a minute. Imagine if we didn’t know what the memorial in DC was. Imagine if instead of being a twenty first century monument it was Neolithic or that we are looking on it from six thousand years in the future. Ignoring the fact that it actually says on the monument what it is, what would we think of it? Perhaps we would see it along the same lines as the Ring of Brodgar on Orkney or Avebury or Stonehenge. It could be strange and mysterious to us, something enigmatic and baffling. We might suggest it was a ritual site or, god forbid, something to do with druids. Would we think of it as what it is, a memorial to people who died in conflict? I don’t think we would.
Throughout all of history men have erected monuments to honour the dead, the pyramids are the most famous example, and we already have evidence supporting that Neolithic peoples were no exception. We know that they honoured the dead with great tombs such as West Kennet Longbarrow and Maes Howe in Ireland so it isn’t too impossible an idea to say that they put up other kinds memorials to the dead as well, monuments to those who died miles from home and couldn’t be brought back to be laid to rest in the family vault for example. What if this is what stone circles were? Could they be war memorials?
It seems to me all too easy to imagine that, in a similar way to the WW2 memorial in DC, each stone of a circle could represent a particular household or village or settlement who lost men in battle. They could even be representative of individual soldiers. The stones of these memorials, if they were memorials, might not even represent men at all. They could be markers of individual battles in a conflict or even separate wars. You could come up with any number of ideas for what the stones could represent.
If it were true it would mean that, given the number of stone circles that exist, Neolithic Europe was a brutal and violent place, which I don’t think there is actually any other evidence for, though I could be wrong. The idea would suggest that the people living around Salisbury Plain were particularly bloodthirsty and the existence of Avebury, which is huge, would perhaps signify either a major military catastrophe or that the place was being run by the Neolithic equivalent of Tony Blair.
Admittedly this isn’t as mad a suggestion as the rotating death ray machine or the Garden of Eden, although there’s about as much proof for those suggestions as there is for this one. Like I said at the start, this is an idea based on a tenuous connection, that a pair of recent memorials just happen to be similar to some monuments built six thousand years ago. There’s no evidence to say that stone circles were war memorials. Truth is they are more likely to be general, every day ritual sites than they are to be war memorials. They could even be the opposite for all we know. They might be victory monuments! None of them will transpire to be portals to another dimension though. That much we can say for certain.
Anyway… It was only an idea. Don’t take it too seriously.