Europe's first megalithic monuments date back 6000 years ago

Le Peu's residents may have built memorials for the deceased.
Nergis Firtina
La Peu arcaeological site.
La Peu arcaeological site.

Ard et al.  

Archaeologists in France revealed that a 6,000-year-old settlement was home to Europe’s first megalithic monument makers.

The first known residential site belonged to some of Europe's first megalithic builders, according to Dr. Vincent Ard of the French National Center for Scientific Research and a team of experts in the Charente province.

As Arkeonews reported, neolithic builders in west-central France created a range of megalithic structures, such as mound-like barrows and "dolmens," which are single-chamber tombs supported by two or more upright megaliths. While the traces of their homes have been harder to find up until now, these stone monuments are evident and have stood the test of time.

“It has been known for a long time that the oldest European megaliths appeared on the Atlantic coast, but the habitats of their builders remained unknown,” said Dr. Vincent Ard.

Europe's first megalithic monuments date back 6000 years ago
The settlement.

Published in Antiquity on February 21, the study demonstrated that a fence enclosing a number of timber structures constructed in the fifth-millennium BC. As they concluded, these are the oldest wooden structures in the area and the first settlement that existed at the same time as the Neolithic monument builders.

On the summit of a small hill that the wall surrounded, at least three dwellings were discovered, each measuring about nearly 42.6509 feet (13 meters) long. Archaeologists used radiocarbon dating to investigate the link between two sites located in La Peu.

They protected the "living"

Le Peu's residents may have built memorials to the deceased, but they also spent a lot of time and energy safeguarding the living. The site was found to be on a promontory bordered by a marsh, according to analysis of the paleosol that was retrieved from the area. A ditch palisade wall that encircled the site strengthened these organic defenses.

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“The site reveals the existence of unique monumental architectures, probably defensive. This demonstrates a rise in Neolithic social tensions,” said Dr. Ard.

These formidable defenses might have fallen short, though, as all the structures at Le Peu appear to have burned destroyed approximately 4400 BC. That destruction, nonetheless, aided in the site's preservation.

Dr. Ard and his team are therefore optimistic that further research at Le Peu will continue to shed light on the lives of individuals whose only known contributions to human history are memorials. It already indicates the gigantic scale, unheard of in prehistoric Atlantic society, of their residential sites.

Study abstract:

The earliest monumentality in Western Europe is associated with megalithic structures, but where did the builders of these monuments live? Here, the authors focus on west-central France, one of the earliest centres of megalithic building in Atlantic Europe, commencing in the mid fifth millennium BC. They report on an enclosure at Le Peu (Charente), dated to the Middle Neolithic (c. 4400 BC), and defined by a ditch with two ‘crab claw’ entrances and a double timber palisade flanked by two timber structures—possibly defensive bastions. Inside, timber buildings—currently the earliest known in the region—were possibly home to the builders of the nearby Tusson long mounds.

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