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In the Footsteps of the Dodman - Surveying Techniques in the Neolithic.

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3100 BCE - What on Earth Was Happening?

This article explores some of the significant disparate events that were happening on the Earth around 3100 BCE +/- 100 years, which was a period of great change in human development. It considers what might be the causes and whether there could be any connection between the peoples who were affected, which links cultures across the British Isles to the Iberian Peninsula and also further east to Ancient Egypt and beyond.

Something quite extraordinary was happening on the planet five thousand one hundred years ago, which has implications for understanding the 'Landscape Circle Patterns' on the Marlborough Downs..

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.

Fig. 1 Comparative Chronology Chart
(To see enlarged version please click chart)

Fig. 2 A diagram of the twin circle pattern of the Marlborough Downs showing an association to the cross-section of the the Great Pyramid of Egypt. Click diagram for an enlarged version.

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
The study of the earth's climate over the past hundred thousand years is a fascinating subject drawing from many diverse scientific disciplines. Clearly no past meteorological weather charts are available so it is impossible to be completely certain about the climate of any one area or time. The various methods show overlaps and inevitably the shift from one climatic period to another is assimilated at different speeds depending upon the aspect being considered. The picture is built like a jig-saw from archaeology, radio carbon dating, geology, pollen analysis, tree ring dating, ocean sediment, lake sediment, ice cores, isotope measurements, insect fauna and so on. All these elements are woven together into a pattern which gives an idea of the different climatic influences.

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':

 The duration of this colder episode seems to have been quite short, at the most four centuries, but traces of it or parallel vegetation changes extend to Alaska and the upper forest limits in the Columbian Andes and on the mountains of Kenya. There was evidently some disturbance of the global regime. Moreover it marked the end of the most stable warm climate of post-glacial times...referred to... as the 'Atlantic' climate period.

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:

Various peoples at various times have had legends of a Golden Age in some earlier time. The notion occurs in the literature of classical Greece and Rome and other peoples. Often it refers to an idealised state or society but occasionally there are references to a lost landscape, the best known being the Garden of Eden. It may be that these myths enshrine some of the changes with which this book is concerned. The times of highest civilisation and their decline were, of course, not generally synchronous in different regions. But there does seems to have been a very wide-ranging reduction of occupation of the north African and Arabian desert lands around 3000 BCE.

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 years between 3250 and 2650 BCE constitute a 'Dark Age' in the prehistory of southern Britain, an obscure time from which little has survived... The evidence obtained from articles that can be securely dated by the Carbon-14 process graphically illustrates this decline... the evidence of steadily growing activity in southern and eastern England from the earliest Neolithic onwards, around 4450BCE, then suddenly declines between 3100 BCE and 2850 BCE, before recovering its steady rise as population and output began once again to increase.

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?

 Graph of radio carbon dating

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.

Mayan Calendar
Before concluding this section something needs to be said about the Mayan Calendar. The Mayan peoples, whose origins can be traced back to around 2000 BCE and who riched a peak between 250 CE and 900 CE, created a very sophisticated calendar system based on a number of interweaving cycles. The starting date for this calendar can be very accurately calculated as August 11, 3114 BCE, which falls very neatly into the timeframes of the widespread changes indicated above and was claimed by the Maya to be their creation day. What is curious is why they choose this date, which clearly falls outside of the known development stages of the Maya by at least a thousand years? It is possibly based on an older, now lost, tradition that reaches back to that period. What is even more enigmatic is that the Maya themselves, through their mythology referenced principally in the Popul Vuh, suggest that this starting date coincided with a deluge cataclysm that wiped out nearly all people..

The Challenge of the Marlborough Circles
The great monuments in Wiltshire, Stonehenge, Avebury and Silbury Hiil, all started within a relatively short period of each other and suggest a clarity of concepts unlike anything that had gone before. Nor was Wiltshire alone in this. Sites as far apart as Newgrange in Ireland, Castlerigg in Cumbria and the Stenness Stones in the Orkneys carry the same cultural stamp. The skill displayed in building techniques of these monuments, often aligned to significant astronomical events, is of a very high order that does not have any obvious precedents within the UK, at least not obviously from the long barrow developments that these monuments replaced. The existence of the Marlborough Downs landscape circles poses an additional challenge for it suggests a connection to one of the most famous of all ancient cultures, that of Dynastic Egypt.

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.

There is good circumstantial evidence to support the following ideas:

  • At the very least there was a communciation of ideas between Britain and Egypt that had its origins to events around 3100 BCE.
  • This date coincided with a climatic disruption of sufficient intensity to cause the decline in the population of the indigenous Neolithic peoples in Britain and elsewhere, yet paradoxically gave spur to starting building some of the most signifcant ancient monuments of the British Isles
  • The design of the Great Pyramid and the inherent geometry of the Marlborough Downs landscape pattern show a high level of sophisticated geometry, which does not appear to have emerged gradually from the earlier Neolithic period.
  • This suggests that the cultural home for these ideas lay outside of the British Isles, however where this might be does not offer any obvious solution.

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

Useful Links follow on articles giving more details of other landscape patterns.
Twin circles of the Marlborough Downs explores sacred patterns of Wiltshire
Marlborough Downs Sites a tour of the sites that make up the twin circle pattern
The Cotswold Circle an article on a similar sized circle that over-lights the Cotswold area
The Hidden Geometry of Avebury a look at the hidden geometry of Avebury
Silbury Hill and the Sanctuary an article on significance of Silbury Hill and the Sanctuary
The Keys to the Temple information on the book The Keys to the Temple by David Furlong

For further information please write to: David Furlong Myrtles, Como Road, Malvern Worcs WR14 2TH
Tel: +44 (0)1684-569105 or Mobile: + 44 (0)777-978-9047
Email: David Furlong

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
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The Keys to the Temple - book

The book The Keys To The Temple from which the article is taken. Click the image for further details.

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