These events can be summarised as follows:
The Chronology chart below shows correspondences in between different cultures in relation to time and the climatic conditions. To the right is a diagram of the Marlborough Downs landscape pattern, with the enigmatic association to the cross-section of the Great Pyramid of Egypt. Click on the picture for an enlarged version of the diagram.
Because the twin circle pattern of the Marlborough Downs is linked to a number of significant megalithic monuments in this area, we can infer that it was one and the same cultural impulse that created both. From the radio carbon dating of monuments such as Avebury, the Sanctuary and Silbury Hill we might conclude that was conceived somewhere close to 3000 BCE. Substantial evidence is presented in The Keys to the Temple that indicates the crucial importance of Silbury Hill and the Sanctuary to the design of the twin circle matrix. Silbury Hill has been dated to 2750 BCE, whilst the Sanctuary is a little earlier around 2900 BCE. Allowing time for the conception of the project to come into fruition 3000 BCE is a reasonable assessment for the beginning of the initial survey work. This is now further coroborated through astronomical evaluation. (St Michael alignment)
As already indicated this time span coincided with the cultural shift at the start of the third millennium BCEE, which saw the first stages of construction of some of the most significant megalithic sites in Britain stretching from the Stenness Stones of Orkneys in the far north of Scotland to Stonehenge on the plains of Wiltshire in Southern England, a distance of just under 840 kilometres. All the evidence indicates that the landscape surveying and planning envisaged in the setting out of the Marlborough Downs pattern was part of that same movement.
We next need to consider whether this was a spontaneous evolution of ideas from within the native stock of these islands or whether the impulse was inspired from elsewhere.
Climatic changes - The Piora Oscillation
We are now living in a relatively warm period following the retreat of the last Ice Age which finished around 15000 BCE. This date is only approximate for the retreat of the glaciers did not happen over night and there were certainly minor variations during the following few thousand years with the most rapid warming taking place between 8000 BCE to 5000 BCE. By this latter date the climate had settled down into what is known as the 'Atlantic' period. In Europe and North America the climate was from 1° C - 3° C warmer than today.
Writing in the Journal of Quarternary Research in 1974 W. Wendland and R. Bryson pointed out, from extensive analysis, that five major post-glacial epochs of environmental change, coincided with five major epochs of cultural change. There is clearly a link between these two phenomena. Around 3000 BCE there was a sudden climatic shift which coincided with the founding of Dynastic Egypt and the commencement of the open circle stone monuments in Britain. Prior to that date Egypt experienced a much wetter climate than today. For example in the millennium before 3000 BCE the level of lake Chad in the Sahara desert was 30 to 40 metres higher than its present level, indicating a much higher annual rainfall for the whole area during that time.
It is the erosion effects of rain from this period that has given rise to the idea that the Sphinx must have been completed during this earlier wetter phase. Since 3000 BCE there has not been sufficient precipitation to account for the extensive water erosion found in the excavated area surrounding the Sphinx. This is still a very controversial subject for Egyptologists are reluctant to accept that the Sphinx could have been carved before the start of Dynastic Egypt. Conversely the limestone outer casings of the pyramids, such as remain, do not show any significant water erosion which supports the orthodox dating of these monuments.
The climatic change around 3000 BCE was marked, in the Alps, by an advance of the glaciers. This became known as the Piora Oscillation after Val Piora where the first evidence was discovered, through pollen analysis which indicated a fluctuating cold episode. As Professor Lamb says in his book 'Climate, History and the Modern World':
There is evidence from as far away as Australia that dramatic climatic upheavals occurred around the same time supporting the concept of a major world-wide shift in climate. This wobble lasted for about a hundred years before settling down to what is known as the 'sub-Boreal' epoch which lasted until about 1000 BCE.
This perturbation was picked up in the analysis of bristle-cone pine tree-rings made famous for their recalibration of radio carbon dates. Summing up the climate of this period, Professor Lamb says:
Lamb may well have added that Britain witnessed something similar around that period. As well as coinciding with new developments in the British megalithic structures - the ceasing of the building of long barrows and the start of the setting out of stone circles - this period saw important changes in agriculture. Up to the end of the fourth millennium BCE the upland areas of the chalk downs had been cleared of trees and the land cultivated, but this process suddenly reversed and the natural vegetation started to return. From 3200 -2970BCE, there was a marked decline in human activity, as shown in a dramatic decline in artefacts radio-carbon dated to that period. This suggest that some calamity had overtaken the people around that time. There is also evidence of a move away from crop gathering to animal husbandry. As Aubrey Burl, author of 'Prehistoric Avebury', says:
The cause of this sudden change is uncertain, although it is most likely connected to the climatic cooling seen in the Alps and elsewhere. But, paradoxically despite the drop in population this phase also saw the start of some of the most impressive monuments in the whole of Europe. So what is the connection?
From the early part of the twentieth century until relatively recent times it was thought that the development impulse, which had fathered the cultural changes in Britain, had arisen from a diffusion of ideas stemming from the Middle East and Mediterranean cultures. This view changed with the recalibration of radio carbon dates which arose when tree ring analysis pushed back the chronology for the dating of British monuments to a period before the equivalent developments in Crete and elsewhere in the Mediterranean basin. No obvious source for these new ideas could be found and so there was a move away from the diffusionist concepts to considering them part of an indigenous development within Britain.
The Challenge of the Marlborough Circles
All of the evidence points to a diffusion of ideas that spread rapidly through many cultures, in a relatively short space of time. Perhaps our modern technological age, with instantaneous communciation, had a primative ancient equivalent. What is intersting here, with the placement of the many different sites is that this would seem to be a seabourne communication system, or at the very least coastal, as so many sites have ready access to the sea or in the case of Britain, to be found predominantly on the western side of the country.
From other studies it is clear that many of the these British monuments would appear to also be part of larger landscape patterning. I am aware of at least one other landscape circle of identical size to the two that overlight the Marlborough Downs. It can be found in the Cotswold area in England and contains on its circumference, amongst other sites, the Rollright stone circle. It is important to establish the validity of the Marlborough Downs pattern in its own right, but information on the Cotswold landscape circle can be found on this web site. I am all too aware of how easy it is to see patterns where they do not exist, at least as consciously created forms. Yet I am sure also that in time other landscape circles will emerge.
An analysis of the location all circular monuments - stone circles, henges and round barrows - shows them heavily weighted in the western half of the country declining drastically in numbers as one moves towards the east. The one exception is Aberdeenshire, on the eastern coast of Scotland, which originally held one of the most extensive concentrations of stone circles in the whole of the British Isles.
Access to island sites like Callanish in the Outer Hebrides could only have been from the sea. It is this sea borne link stretching down from the north of Scotland to Ireland and thence to the western seaboard of France and the Iberian Peninsular that culturally unifies these widely dispersed sites. The great question that needs to be addressed is what was the impulse that lead to this major expansion of significant megalithic sites and where did this impulse come from?
This same time-frame also saw the start of Dynastic Egypt with its sudden acceleration to a sophisticated cosmology, a written language and refined artistic skills. This eventually lead within a few hundred years to the building of the most famous monument in the world the Great Pyramid of Egypt. That the evidence of the patterns on the Marlborough Downs suggests a similar geometric design, is to say the least, intriguing. It implies that there must have either been a common source of knowledge that linked these two cultures or that they were indirect communication together.
The problem that now confronts us is discovering the origin of cultural invasion for no evidence has emerged of their home?
This article is based upon the book The Keys to the Temple
follow on articles giving more details of other landscape
David has been working as a healer, therapist and researcher for more than 40 years. He is the author of six books including The Healer Within and Working With Earth Energies
The definitive book on Working
With Earth Energies.
The book The Keys To The Temple from which the article is taken. Click the image for further details.
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