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23 August 2010
Megalithic monuments were built within short periods of time

Was tomb building a fad during the Mesolithic? Radiocarbon dating of stone implements and organic material found in the mounded burial sites in France, Scandinavia, and Iberia indicates that construction was clustered over a few hundred years around 6000 years BCE. The theory was published in the European Journal of Archaeology by Chris Scarre of Durham University (UK)
     "It trivializes the tombs to call it a fad, but building such structures seems to have become a fashion where great numbers were built and then there was a cessation for centuries," Scarre says, in an interview. "Improved dating of materials such as birch bark, bone and stone left in the tombs now reveals the clustered construction times of the mounds," he added.
     Since archaeologists use dating techniques on materials found within the tombs and not the tombs themselves, this is indirect evidence for when construction actually occurred. But Scarre makes the argument that sporadic building of the monuments is supported by the data.
     In Britain the mounds are known as 'barrows'. They are also called 'passage tombs' because of the passageways created by the intersecting corbel stones that support the roof.
     If Scarre is correct, his conclusions may significantly change theories about burial practices at the time. "One big implication is the realization that the people buried in this fashion represent only a small fraction of the people who were alive then," Scarre says. "Until the Roman era, thoughtful burial of the dead may have been a rare thing in this part of Europe."

Source: USA Today (11 August 2010)

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