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Why did Neolithic monuments cease?

At the end of the Neolithic period there seems to have been a rapid cultural discontinuity over just several centuries; after which the dolmens and passage graves and stone circles ceased to be built. What happened?

Ronald Hutton suggests that what happened is what historians call a "systems collapse", where for various reasons, the entire cultural and religious matrix of a society breaks down. He suggests two possible reasons, both of which could have contributed to this.

Around 1800 BC, Europe and the British Islands began to face an ecological disaster, with a marked deterioration in the climate. The weather became steadily cooler and wetter until 700 BC, and did not really begin to recover until around 500 BC. Arable land used by farming communities was progressively lost to heath, heath, bog, moor, and marsh. This could have meant a failure in crops, and a corresponding failure in belief in the tribal gods to provide good weather.

Another factor was that during the period 1200-1000 BC, there is increasing evidence of tribal invasions; migratory invaders using different weaponry, and with a different culture, moving into Europe. Were these the Celts? It is, for the moment, too early to say, the record is too fragmentary and confused.



The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles; Their Nature and Legacy by Ronald Hutton, 1991.