Stone circles are mystical and mysterious – the perfect setting for a story. In The Moon Stealers and the Quest for the Silver Bough I use a stone circle as the location for an ancient portal that connects to another world.
While archaeologists have been able to discover what many ancient structures were used for, there is still a mystery surrounding the creation of ‘stone circles.’ These monuments consist of standing stones arranged in a circle, and have been found in many parts of the world including: The Middle East, The Americas and Europe. Many of them were constructed during the late Neolithic (Stone Age) and early Bronze Age. Even though there is no evidence that dictates the exact reason for their construction, many researchers believe they may have been used as burial grounds, religious monuments or places to view the heavens.
Stonehenge is one of the most well-known, and investigated, stone circles. Located in Wiltshire, England it is made up of a ring of massive standing stones believed to be constructed between 3000BC and 2000BC. The stones are set within earthworks in the midst of the most dense complex of Neolithic monuments that has been unearthed in England, which includes several hundred burial mounds. There are also bones that were found at the site and have been dated between 3000BC and 2500BC. Even though the culture that produced Stonehenge left no written records, these findings indicate that it may have been used as a burial ground or a place where people would shelter during the winter months. Other speculations include its use as a healing circle, or that it was created by supernatural methods due to the size of the stones and the difficulty that they would have had to be moved with.
Scotland also has various stone circles across its landscape, including the Stenness and Callanish, which are two of the oldest ones found in the UK. Their construction has been estimated at about 5000 years ago. Some of the stones used for the circles’ weigh in excess of 10 tonnes, making it difficult to imagine how the circles were constructed. Their purpose and the reason why they were built at specific locations also remain a mystery. One group of researchers have suggested that their placement was influenced by cosmic forces. Their geometric accuracy indicates that they may have been ideal places from which to watch the heavenly bodies. Many ancient cultures relied on observations of the sun, the moon and the stars, to guide them in daily life.
As the mystery continues, there were also many stone circles built in the Middle East. 11 ‘Big Circles,’ found in Jordan have recently been photographed from the air. They have low walls, just a few feet high, with no spaces between the stones indicating that people would have had to go over the walls to get inside. Archaeologists have not been able to date their construction precisely, but believe that their origin is at least 2000 years ago. These circles could have been constructed easily with very little planning, because of their height. One of the circles contains three cairns on its edges that may have been used for burials, but their purpose remains unknown.