in 18th and 19th century Historians have linked those free standing stone called “Menhir” to the Celts. 19th century also has seen the rise of nationalism in the entire Europe and in France in particular, the Celts became the original people of the land according to historians and politicians alike. They organized the rise of heroes such as Vercingetorix, the Druids, the Bards and even Joan of Arc who had been totally forgotten by that time even in Orleans had her name on statues and streets and schools. So all of the sudden those standing stone (Maen= stone in old Celtic Britton and hir=standing) started to become important to archaeologists and historians. Celts didn’t venerate stones in general. Celts were nature worshipers, springs, trees, wells and slow moving rivers they associated with the snake Goddess which the called a “Wouivre”. Back in the 19th century nearly everyone with a little education, a degree of some sort (real or made up) or simply enough money to print few business cards could call him or herself a historian or an archaeologist. Unfortunately for the most part they were mostly grave robbers who sold their loot for best offer and private museums are often better furnished than official one.
Cartoonists such as Goscinny and Uderzo have not helped, entire generation of French kids who are now in their 60’s and 70’s believe that Celts were the one who raised the stones and held ceremonies in front of them. Oddly the majority doesn’t believe in that famous magical potion distributed by Panoramix the Druids (another character in the Asterix saga) and see it as a joke. I’m not saying the Druids knew how to render a man (or a woman) invincible, but they did know about some potions that appeared dangerous enough to make Caesar decide to eliminate that cast. And his excuse for doing so, accusing Druids to use human sacrifices is laughable at best coming from a Roman. After all they didn’t mind wiping out (or nearly) entire populations who didn’t want to follow their rules? One has simply to read history books about the Roman Empire to realize it.
Did the Celts use those Menhir for real worship? Probably not, but they recognize and respected them as magical places. They probably viewed them for what they were, important symbols to those who cut them and set them up. It would be interesting to check if some “dolmen” which had been used for human sacrifices were in fact used those who set them up or the Celts, or perhaps even both. Dolmen (which mean stone table) were often set above a chamber which made archaeologists say they were burial sites although there no indication they have been used as such.
Who were those who set them up? According to modern researchers, Menhirs were carved and set up by the “Beaker people” and Dolmen were already there. If this statement could be valid for the Western Europe, and even Easter Europe, is it valid for Asia? Or Africa? There are some free standing stones there also! Did the Beaker people move that much?
Could an older culture had to installed menhirs and dolmen alie? They are often called phallic structure but until the fifth millennium before the common era (BCE) most cultures were Goddess worshipers so why would they set up phallic monuments? Could they be markers for special places? Perhaps it would be for other to find.